N.E.W.T.s and O.W.L.s
An explanation for non-British folks
The first four years at secondary (high school) school is spent studying
for "O" (ordinary) levels. They are now called GCSEs (general certificate
of secondary education). In the first two years, you take basic subjects,
such as maths, english, science, history. Compulsary subjects for first
and Second year vary from school to school. At the end of second year,
one chooses at least two extra subjects to take, such as French, business
etc. This is much like the way Hogwarts works: you have to keep your old
subjects and you take on new ones. You can take as many as you like, but
most people take three extra, making 8 subjects (5 core subjects + 3 extra).
At the end of fifth year they take an exam or series of exams in each subject.
Each subject is one "O" level. If you pass (grade D or above) then you
have one "O" level. So if you take twelve subjects (I know someone who
did this), and pass, you have 12 "O" levels. This is much better than someone
who only "got" (passed) 5 "O" levels. Hogwarts seems to follow this. Really
and truly, taking more than twelve would be lunacy. There's a lot of work
that needs to done for each subject and there just aren't enough hours
in the day, as Hermione found out!
The next level of exams are "A" levels. These are studied for
in sixth and seventh year. This is where is gets even more specialised.
Again you can take as many subjects as you like, but this time you only
take your chosen subjects. For example, I did Drama Studies, English Lit
and Theatre Skills, and those were the only subjects I did. This is because
the courses are very in depth. At the end of seventh year, you take the
"A" Level exams, and again each one you pass is one "A" Level. You get
points acording to the grade you get, but usually universities specify
the grades they want you to get for their courses. For example, if you
want to study pure maths at university, they will specify a grade B in
maths and two Cs in your other subjects. I don't know if this is how it
works at Hogwarts, as the books haven't gone into detail about this yet.
All we know is that Percy had to get top grade N.E.W.Ts to get into the
ministry. I assume this means they have a mimium grade requirement for
copyright 2001 Jenna, used by permission