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By- Claudia Quesito

Gli esami non finiscono mai (exams never end), goes an old saying. True or not, there are several kinds of assessments that Italian kids have to go through during their school years.

In Italy, school is compulsory for ten years. Children go to school when they turn 6, and after five years of scuola elementare and three of scuola media, they can pick a liceo or an istituto tecnico or professionale to complete their curriculum.

No tests or quizzes are given for admission at any schools, either public or private. From scuola elementare on, however, children get used to being called out “by surprise” in front of the whole class to write some math formulas on the blackboard, to summarize a history chapter, or to give a summary of a short passage. And then there are written tests, or compositions to be written in class, that will be graded by the teacher.

Until 2004, children also had to take gli esami di quinta elementare (both written and oral) at the end of the cycle. At the scuola media, there are written tests and interrogazioni (oral exams) for virtually every subject. Students are therefore used to being called up to stand in front of their classmates and to being interrogati (questioned) by their professors.

During the third and last year of scuola media, students need to pass the Prove nazionali INVALSI (a set of standardized written tests) in order to be admitted to the esami finali, which consists of three written exams (Italian, math, and a foreign language), plus the presentation of a tesina (literally, a “little dissertation”) on a self-selected topic, plus the dreaded prova orale (oral test) on all subjects.

The same mix of written tests, compositions, and oral exams goes on in high school until the very last examination: the esame di maturità. Virtually every student will tell you something funny, scary, improbable, or unique about their maturità. And then, if they go to college, there will be still more written tests and more oral exams. We said that, right? Gli esami non finiscono mai…

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