Daunting, reliable, important or “trivial nitpicking?” Upper secondary students’ expectations and experiences of the English test in the Matriculation Examination


  • Pirjo Pollari


The Matriculation Examination, the school-leaving exam taken towards the end of upper secondary education, is the only high-stakes examination in the Finnish school system. As the exam may have a strong impact on the students’ further education opportunities, it evokes various feelings and thoughts in students. Yet, there is little research on these reactions. This article, based on a mixed-methods approach, sheds light on students’ expectation and experiences of the English test in the Matriculation Examination. A total of 142 second- and third-year students from one upper secondary school shared their views on the possible washback effect and test anxiety caused by the exam. Also, the students expressed their ideas and experiences of the validity, reliability and fairness of the test. Although the test did not seem to cause excessive washback, it caused significant stress and anxiety. Furthermore, students seemed rather critical of its validity and reliability.