Exams are something that nobody can escape – no matter whether they’re magical or Muggle! At Hogwarts, every student from first to seventh year will sit them. But are they truly the be all and end all? Let’s find out…

Exams play an important part in the wizarding world – that’s a fact. Right from the beginning of your Hogwarts school career, you will come across tricky tests. At their most basic level, they help to gauge the progress a student is making. Can you successfully cast Expelliarmus before being hit with a Jelly-Legs Jinx? Can you turn a hedgehog into a pin cushion that doesn’t squeak? And can you brew a potion that works and isn’t just a cauldron full of poison (unless that was your intention)?

However, not all exams carry the same importance. O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s carry much more weight than end of year exams. Those could even be cancelled on special occasions – like the time Harry defeated the Basilisk and rescued Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets (much to the dismay of a certain Miss Granger). O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s can determine the future path you’ll take – from the subjects you’ll study in greater detail to your future career.

Hermione certainly understood the weight that these exams held. She spent what should have been her seventh year at Hogwarts chasing down Horcruxes and helping to defeat one of the Darkest wizards of all time. If anyone deserved a break, it was Hermione. Instead, she decided to jump straight back into her seventh – and trickiest – year at Hogwarts and get those N.E.W.T. exams done.

It worked out well for her. Despite telling Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, that no, she didn’t want to follow a career in Magical Law because she was ‘hoping to do some good in the world’, she did in fact join the Ministry of Magic. She used that brilliant brain to work her way up to the top and became a brilliant Minister for Magic. Would she have been able to achieve such a role without completing her education? We doubt it.

It’s not just the top job that needs specific qualifications. Plenty of other Ministry roles require them too. For example, Auror applications are only considered if the candidate has at least five N.E.W.T.s (with grades of either Outstanding or Exceeds Expectations) in the necessary subjects. And that’s before mentioning the training and tests you have to undergo once you’re accepted! Tonks Metamorphmagus abilities might have earnt her top marks in Concealment and Disguise but her habit of tripping over her own feet meant she nearly failed her Stealth and Tracking.

Even those who aren’t destined for a career in the Ministry of Magic can’t discount the importance of exams. Those who feel drawn to caring for people with magical maladies and injuries as a Healer will need at least five Exceeds Expectations at N.E.W.T. level. Or if you wanted to become a daring Curse-Breaker at Gringotts (like a certain Bill Weasley), you must have a N.E.W.T. in one of the toughest subjects Hogwarts has to offer, Arithmancy.

Despite the fact that we’ve just talked at length about how crucial exams are… they’re not the be all and end all. Don’t underestimate the importance of life experience! Neither Harry or Ron went back to Hogwarts after they defeated Voldemort and never got their N.E.W.T.s. Yet, they both walked into jobs as Aurors at the Ministry of Magic. The pair of them weren’t traditionally qualified – but if being instrumental in the downfall of Voldemort doesn’t count as relevant life experience, we don’t know what does.

Although Ron was only an Auror briefly (he probably had enough Dark wizard fighting to last a lifetime) and went to join George at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Harry remained and became the Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Not bad for someone who didn’t finish school!


Speaking of not finishing school, Fred and George are the perfect example to prove exams aren’t the only thing required to be successful. When they dramatically left Hogwarts on the back of their brooms, leaving nothing but chaos and a Portable Swamp behind, many thought their future was uncertain… we imagine Mrs Weasley was beside herself.

She needn’t have worried. Fred and George had an unrivalled entrepreneurial spirit that meant their joke shop, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, was nothing but a big success. Even when Voldemort returned to power, and the shops of Diagon Alley were slowly being abandoned, they stood strong – giving everybody the laugh they needed with their whimsical products.

Then there are the careers that come from talents that certain witches and wizards are born with – the Seers, Legilimens and Metamorphmagi. Whilst some of these abilities are also able to be learned to some degree, those who naturally possess them don’t need to worry about practice or completing an exam to prove their skills. We reckon that having the gift of the ‘Inner Eye’ would be enough to land you a Divination teaching job and a couple of book deals by itself!

And don’t get us started on Quidditch… You don’t need an Outstanding N.E.W.T. in History of Magic to become the best Seeker seen in generations!

Ultimately, exams have a very important place in wizarding society – from measuring progress to determining your future career. Yet, there are alternatives, and you can make a life for yourself without them. There are many different paths through the wizarding world and if we were to leave you with one final thought… don’t ever underestimate the value of life experience.