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Why France’s March baccalauréat exams are being put back this year

Exams scheduled for mid-March have been postponed to May, and several special measures have been introduced to support pupil preparations

The baccalauréat exams which were due to take place in March have been put back to May due to Covid Pic: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

French baccalauréat exams for certain specialisms which were due to take place in March have been postponed to May 11-13, the education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has announced. 

The written exams form part of the baccalauréat général and the baccalauréat technologique, and were originally scheduled for March 14-16.

Pupils will be tested on the exact same topics that were planned for the original March dates, so they will have more time to prepare. 

The exams will be adapted so that pupils have a choice of questions or exercises “so that each pupil can go for their strong points,” Mr Blanquer said.

School timetables will also be organised so that the two days preceding the exams [all classes] are dedicated to the subject in question.

Finally, attestation de niveau de langue language proficiency exams will be cancelled this year. 

These exams are designed to situate a pupil’s modern language skills in relation to the European grading system CEFR before they enter higher education.

Teaching unions had called for the immediate postponement of the March exams as part of the demands detailed during the three days of strike action carried out this month. 

Read more: FFP2 masks, more supply teachers: new measures for schools announced

Read more: French school strike: renewed action taking place January 20

“Considering the numerous and successive absences caused by Covid, pupils are finding themselves in widely differing situations in terms of preparation,” the education ministry stated. 

“The health crisis has meant that the situation can vary from one place to the next, for example in the overseas departments, but also in certain metropolitan regions where we have observed some difficulties or pupil absences, even now, in connection to Omicron.

“To maintain the tests at the same March dates would have led to a lack of equality between candidates.”

Mr Blanquer also said that by delaying the March exams he hopes to maintain “the quality of the qualification.

“The new baccalauréat is 60% final exams, 40% continuous assessment, and for me it is very important that that proportion is respected this year,” he added. In 2021, the first year that the new baccalauréat system had been in place, exams had been cancelled in favour of continuous assessment. 

Further changes to pupil assessments 

Some baccalauréat exams normally take place in March so that their results can be used to inform pupil applications in the Parcoursup higher education portal. 

Now that these tests have been postponed, their results will be replaced by the pupil’s average grades achieved in Première (generally for 16 to 17-year-olds) and their first two terms of Terminale (the final year of lycée). 

The other baccalauréat exams, which always take place in June and/or July, will take place on their original scheduled dates. 

However, physical education grading may be spread over two exams rather than three because of “the effect of the health situation on the availability of equipment and on pupil preparation.”

The assessments linked to the baccalauréat professionnel specialism will continue as planned, but work experience periods will be shortened to two weeks to allow pupils time to revise.

Finally, the education minister also announced that pupils in Première will have fewer texts to prepare for their French oral exams: 16 for the baccalauréat général and nine for the baccalauréat technologique. 

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