Greek Youngsters’ Anguish as University Entrance Exams Begin

The university entrance exams, the most stressful test in any Greek student’s life, began throughout the country on Friday.

The exams or ‘Panellinies’ as they are known, will last three weeks and will define to a large extent the student’s success — or failure — in the Greek education system.

Pressure to score high in tough tests, one day after the other, in combination with Greek society’s view that every student should obtain a university degree, makes the ‘Panellinies’ a traumatic event for many Greek youngsters.

However, for most graduating high school seniors the Panhellenic exams are one of the most trying periods of their lives, physically and emotionally, as they get worn down by studying — including private tutoring or at Frontistiria and prep schools — as they want to excel in competition for the annual allotted slots at state schools.

There are two waves of exams, the first with basic subjects such as math, composition, economics and history, and a second test of specialty subjects such as foreign languages, architecture, music and others leading to professions.

The results of the exams are posted on boards at the student’s schools, usually by the end of July, and are an annual scene of frenzy and worry as they gather around looking to see what score is next to their name.

The highest scoring students get first crack at the most desired majors, such as law and medicine, and those seeking to be, for example, teachers, have to see how they fared compared to competitors and how many slots are open for that subject, making the head-to-head rivalry even more worrying.

Heading towards abolition?

Greece’s education minister announced in April a radical overhaul of the country’s education system, including the abolition of university entrance exams.

Kostas Gavroglou said the abolition will affect today’s first-year secondary-school students and will be phased in from the 2020 academic year.

Entry into higher education institutions will instead be based on school performance and the results from students’ final year at secondary school.