Pursuant to the Act on Primary and Secondary Education (Official Gazette, 87/08), secondary education of pupils within grammar school educational programmes completes upon passing the state graduation exam. Secondary education of pupils within vocational and art educational programmes, lasting for at least four years, finishes upon the final paper creation and defence, organized and conducted by the school. Pupils of four-year vocational and art high schools may also take the state graduation exams if they wish so. The provisions on taking the state graduation exam refer to the pupils who enrolled in the first grade of grammar school or four-year vocational and art school in the school year of 2006/2007.
The state graduation exam is a set of exams in certain subjects that the pupil was taught during his/her four-year secondary education. The goal of the state graduation exam is to test and assess pupils' acquired knowledge and aptitude, obtained through education in accordance with the prescribed general education curricula.
Mandatory exams taken within the state graduation exam are those in general education subjects that the pupil was taught during high school, and those are the Croatian language, mathematics and a foreign language. Exceptions to the rule are rare: pupils attending classes in a language and script of national minorities are obliged, in addition to the Croatian language exam, to take exam in the national minority language in which they are educated, while as the third exam they choose either mathematics exam or a foreign language exam.
Only those pupils receiving education in the language and the script of the Czech national minority may choose - either to take the mandatory part of the state graduation exam without taking exam in their mother tongue (Czech), in which they are educated, or, in addition to the obligatory part, take exam in their mother tongue. The second part of the state graduation exam is an optional part comprising all other subjects that the pupil was taught in school. Pupils will take exams in an optional subject or more optional subjects only if they are stated as a prerequisite for the enrolment into polytechnic or university studies. Pupils will get a separate confirmation on the passed exams in optional subject(s). Without the passed state graduation exam, it will be considered that such a grammar school pupil has not completed secondary education.
The difference compared to the past graduation system is that exams are neither conducted nor assessed by the school teachers, but by the public institution - National Centre for External Evaluation of Education. The National Centre for External Evaluation of Education creates exam catalogues for all subjects taken within the state graduation exam, working materials and handbooks for the preparation of exams, and prepares and delivers exam materials to schools. The Centre also keeps the Central Register of State Graduation Exams in an electronic form, into which data on all persons that have taken the state graduation exam, data on the subjects and grades and percentage points obtained in state graduation exams will be stored. The Centre will also be issuing diplomas and certificates on the passed state graduation exams.
Not only does the introduction of the state graduation exam ensure higher objectivity of pupils' school achievements on the national level, but it at the same time encourages teachers to teach better in elementary and high schools, and pupils to study harder, and generally increases the quality of school education.
As of the school year of 2009/2010, the state graduation exam will be taken by all pupils who successfully complete the fourth grade of high school.
The state graduation exams will be conducted at the same time, with the same exam materials and in the same way for all pupils in the Republic of Croatia. This will produce the results that are mutually comparable, making the selection procedure when enrolling into polytechnics and universities more just and transparent. A diploma on the passed state graduation exam will serve as an objective indicator of a pupil's preparedness.