This year's brevet, or DNB - diplôme national du brevet – takes place on 28 and 29 June.
Whilst most students will go on to lycée to study for a bac, the brevet, taken at the end of collège, around the age of 15, is the last compulsory exam in the French education system.
Marks are awarded on both continuous assessment throughout troisième and the June exams – which leads to the perhaps confusing situation whereby brighter kids can actually have their brevet before they sit the exams as they already have the 10 points needed to pass. For them, the exam is an opportunity to boost their marks.
The June exam tests students on French, maths and history/geography (they can choose whether to answer the history or the geography question on the day).
However, students also need to have passed their B2i (computer and internet skills) during the year and have reached level A2 in one foreign language. (Students studying more than one foreign language can choose which one they are marked on.)
Finally, and controversially, students are now also marked on their general behaviour and attitude – this is the mark that appears on their reports under 'vie scolaire'. Stuff like wearing a baseball cap to lessons can get students marked down here.
Students need 10 points (out of twenty) to pass the brevet, 12 for a Mention Assez Bien, 14 for a Mention Bien and marks above 16 get you a Mention Très Bien.
It is worth remembering that if your child is a boursier (entitled to an education grant), gets 14 points or more and continues to qualify for a bourse in their first year of lycée they will get a higher bourse au mérite which can be worth an extra 800€ per year.
A couple of years ago a parliamentary commission called for an end to the brevet exam, saying students should be marked only on coursework and continuous assessment. It also called for the brevet to include more practical life skills like writing a CV or holding a conversation in English.
But the government has rejected this idea and the exam is not only to stay but will be beefed up in 2013 to include more maths, a longer dictée, more education civique and an end to choosing between history or geography in the final exam.
Find useful revision material here:
and look at past papers here: