Thinking about exams in Sweden.

As I literally finished my statistics and research methods exam about an hour ago, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write the structure of the Swedish exam system and some tips I’ve picked up.

One step at a time…

At my university (Karolinska Institutet) exams only occur at the end of a particular course. So you’ll generally spend between 3-8 weeks studying a particular module or course and then have the exam in the last week to complete it. Personally this works really well for me, I like to treat each exam as a hurdle and once I’ve jumped it you can move onto the next, without stressing too much about other courses you need to study for. However, this does mean you can have a bunch of exams in a short space of time depending on the length of separate courses. Today was my second exam in 5 weeks and I have the next one in 3 weeks time.

Every university has different exam schedule – for example, your programme may have an ‘exam period’ every two months where multiple courses are examined. You may want to bare this in mind when thinking about applying to different courses and institutions within Sweden – how does this suit your learning style?

Do you like learning lots of different subjects at once?

Or would you rather concentrate on one thing at a time?

Do you mind having lots of exams spaced throughout the year?

If at first you don’t succeed…

Try, try, try, try, try again. Yes, in Sweden you get 6 (yes, SIX) attempts to pass an exam – 3 each academic year. This does take the pressure off somewhat but often a first time failure means you won’t be able to graduate with distinction. Plus, you’ll have to retake the exam later in the year when you may have forgotten certain details from the course.

There are some variations to the repeated attempts rule, so check with each programme, but generally its pretty lenient compared to most international education systems.

Questions, credits and grades…

Essentially every course will be slightly different to the last. Exams generally range from 2-5 hours, papers can be constructed of open questions and multiple choice questions. Most Swedish schools use different styles of examination to test varying aspects of a course. For example, you may have an open book take home exam, online exams, oral exams and written exams all mixed within the same programme. Its just useful to bare in mind when applying – how will I be examined? And will it suit my revision strategy?

So far my exams have been a mix of open written questions and multiple choice questions. Within each course as well we have compulsory group workshops or assignments to complete with minimum ‘pass’.

Sweden uses the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) so each course is allocated a number of credits depending on its detail, duration and intensity. Dena has written a great guide regarding the differences in grading here.


Written by Alex

06 Nov 2015