Study in Germany

What Is the German Abitur?

What Is the German Abitur?



The Abitur is a qualification awarded by college-preparatory schools in Germany. It is obtained by students who successfully pass their final exams at the end of their secondary education. Similar to A-levels, the Matura, and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, the Abitur is considered a level 4 qualification in the European Qualifications Framework.

The Abitur is the main requirement for admission to universities and other higher education institutions in Germany. It is recognized internationally and is equivalent to a high school diploma in other countries. The Abitur qualification is regarded as an important step towards pursuing higher education or entering certain professions.

Abitur Structure

The Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife, also known as the German Abitur, is a qualification awarded in grade 12 or 13 after completing upper secondary schooling and passing the final examination (Abiturprüfung).

To pass the Abitur, students must study subjects from three main areas throughout their school years:

  1. Languages, Literature, and Arts.
  2. Social Sciences.
  3. Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Technology.

Students are tested in these topics:

Program Test Format
First Advanced Course Written
Second Advanced Course Written
Third Advanced Course Oral
Basic Course Oral
Basic Course Oral, presentation, or BLL, meaning “Exceptional learning achievement”, a 20-page paper or success in a recognized competition.

Depending on the laws in force in some areas, a fifth subject may be tested orally or in writing, or specific accomplishments, such as a year paper or project outcomes, may be included in the Abitur examination.

Students must take at least two intensive courses (Leistungskurse), one being German or a foreign language, mathematics, or natural science. Other subjects are considered basic courses (Grundkurse).

It's worth noting that two states, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, have eliminated the distinction between intensive and basic courses. In these states, all Abitur subjects are taught at the same level.


To obtain the German Abitur, several criteria must be met. Here's a breakdown of the requirements:

  • Scoring. The Abitur is graded on a scale from 1 to 6, with 1 being the highest. To succeed, students need a minimum score of 300 points. Each semester of a subject studied in the final two years can earn up to 15 points, while advanced courses count for double the points. The final exams have the highest weight, four times more than regular semesters.
  • Passing Score. A composite score of at least 50% is typically needed to pass the Abitur. If students score below this threshold, they fail and won't be awarded an Abitur.
  • Additional Requirements. In addition to scoring, students must fulfill certain additional requirements. This includes taking mandatory courses in specific subject areas and meeting a maximum limit on failing grades in core disciplines.
  • Exclusion of Courses. Suppose a student has completed more courses than required. In that case, they can exclude some courses from their composite score calculation.
  • Grade Distribution. Attaining the highest grade of 1.0 is quite rare, with only 0.2% to 3% of students achieving this top score. Even among the elite group of Abitur applicants, grades between 1.0 and 1.9 are obtained by 12% to 30% of students.


In Germany, a 6-point grading scale is commonly used to assess the performance of schoolchildren, typically up to grade 10. However, grades are converted into numbers or points in the upper secondary level (grades 11-13), known as Oberstufe. This conversion is done to calculate the average grade for the Abitur qualification. The conversion process may vary depending on the educational institution or state regulations.

Upper Secondary Level Grades Abitur Average
1+ 15 points
1 14 points
1- 13 points
2+ 12 points
2 11 points
2- 10 points
3+ 9 points
3 8 points
3- 7 points
4+ 6 points
4 5 points
4- 4 points
5+ 3 points
5 2 points
Up to 5- 1 points
6 0 points

In the German Abitur, subject grades are represented on a scale of 0 to 15 points. However, a six-point scale is used for the overall Abitur grade, expressed to one decimal place. For example, a grade of 2.3.

It's important to note that even if a student receives a perfect score of 15 points in every subject, the final Abitur grade is rounded down to 1.0.

When using the points system, a grade of 4 (equivalent to 5 points) is the minimum passing grade for subjects, while 4- (equivalent to 4 points) is the highest failing grade.

International Abitur

Schools outside of Germany that have received accreditation from the German government can offer the International Abitur.

Here's an overview of how the International Abitur is conducted:

  1. Exam Subjects: The International Abitur consists of five exams, including three written and two oral exams. The written exams cover subjects such as European history, German literature, economics, mathematics, and natural science.
  2. Timing of Written Exams: In their senior year (grade 12), all students take written exams in three subjects, including German. These exams usually take place in February.
  3. Required Oral Exams: Students must also complete two oral exams, which are conducted later in the spring. These oral exams are supervised by a German educational official.
  4. Inclusion in GPA: The grades obtained in the five Abitur exams and the grades from both the junior and senior years are considered in calculating the final grade point average (GPA).

Can I Study in Germany Without Abitur?

Since October 7, 2016, there have been new regulations in Germany that allow individuals without the general qualification for university entrance (Abitur) to have access to universities.

To pursue higher education in Germany, most students are typically required to have completed either the Abitur or Fachabitur at the secondary level. However, individuals without these qualifications can still apply to universities if they have completed vocational training and can provide evidence of professional experience.

What Is the Highest Score on the Abitur?

The best possible grade of Abitur is 1.0.

Is the Abitur Recognized in the US?

Yes, the Abitur is recognized as a foreign credential in the US.

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