Aah! Finally exams are over. Speaking of exams here is what I found out about Ordinary Wizarding Levels or O.W.L.
The O.W.L.s have six possible grades that can be received for the test, and the N.E.W.T.s are graded on the same scale. The three passing grades are O, which stands for “Outstanding,” E, which represents an “Exceeds Expectations” grade, and A, which means an “Acceptable” grade. The three failing grades are P for “Poor,” D which means “Dreadful,” and the worst of all, T for “Troll.” But obviously the scores boil down to more than passing or failing, and the level of achievement or failure often determines a student’s future study or even their future employment. And you achieve O.W.L.S. not pass them.
If a student performs poorly in their O.W.L. level tests then they often do not have permission to continue studying the subject on their N.E.W.T. level. As anyone can surmise, the N.E.W.T.s are nastily exhausting, and the intensified rigor of these tests means that if a student hasn’t been able to achieve an Exceeds Expectations or Outstanding grade in the O.W.L., they likely won’t be able to pass the N.E.W.T. test in that subject.
The bulk of both O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. tests are made up of written tests that measure a student’s knowledge and understanding of the theory behind a particular subject of magic. But in order to establish that these students have the skills to back up their theoretical knowledge, there is also a practical portion to every test and subject (Now, now Umbridge we get that you don’t like that but no need to be mad). Often each subject involves at least a few different practical spells, and usually teachers will ask for demonstrations from students involving the most difficult or complex spells, potions, or other skills that they’ve learned in any particular subject that is being tested.
The duration of these tests is long and rigorous because typically the exam for one subject takes up an entire day, and there are a lot of subjects to be covered, too. The subjects that are or can be tested include Charms, Transfiguration, Muggle Studies, Ancient Runes, Divination, Arithmancy, Herbology, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, Astronomy, and History of Magic. It’s certainly not a light undertaking. However, students are not necessarily required to take tests in every subject, and it’s pretty much a certainty that students won’t be tested in every subject at the N.E.W.T. level.
So there are three passing and three failing grades. However the grades in the middle are kind of the no man’s land of the wizarding test scores. If a student gets a grade of Poor in their tests then they are allowed to retake them, and if they get a grade of Acceptable, they have passed the test but often won’t continue on with study in that subject or that test score won’t really help them much in their future endeavors. Ironically even though the A grade is called Acceptable, it doesn’t seem like many teachers or professionals actually accept it (like Snape 🙄). I know disappointing right?
If a student has passed the O.W.L. in a particular subject, they will be permitted to move on and study that subject more thoroughly in preparation for the N.E.W.T. tests. However, being permitted to study further or even actually choosing to study that subject more does not automatically mean that a student will take the N.E.W.T. for that particular subject. Ultimately the tests are optional, and although a student will obviously want to take particular N.E.W.T.s if they already know what kind of job they want to look for after their education at Hogwarts has concluded, it’s really down to individual wants and needs.