Harry Potter: What Are The O.W.L.s And N.E.W.T.s? (2024)


  • Hogwarts students must pass the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, two major exams, to shape their wizarding future and advance in specific magical subjects.
  • O.W.L.s are taken in fifth year and focus on individual subjects, determining access to advanced classes. N.E.W.T.s in seventh year set up future careers.
  • Failing O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s can limit job opportunities, but there is little information on the consequences for failing students. Cheating is tightly controlled.

When it comes to the Harry Potter series, one thing that some fans wanted to learn more about was the actual school aspects of Hogwarts. While fans do get a taste of the educational side of Hogwarts, much of the time that is focused on in the school is the hijinks that the lead characters get up to between and after their classes. There may be plenty of spells that Harry, Ron, and Hermione learn, but there are probably even more tests they have to take.

Fans are often told that Hermione is an excellent student, and left to assume that Ron is a middling at best student, but it is rare that anyone gets to see their achievements. No one likes tests, but believe it or not, Hogwarts has two major tests that have a massive role in the wizarding future of those at Hogwarts. That is precisely where the Harry Potter series O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s come into play.


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What Are Hogwarts’ O.W.L.s?

Harry Potter: What Are The O.W.L.s And N.E.W.T.s? (2)

Harry Potter

Created By

J.K. Rowling

Movies In Series


Main Cast

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

Release Date


Total Series Runtime

1,179 minutes

Total Series Budget

$1.2 billion

Total Series Box Office

$7.7 billion

The O.W.L.s or Ordinary Wizarding Level test are massive exam that each Hogwarts student has to undergo during their fifth year at the school. Instead of the exam being all-encompassing like some school exams are at a similar level, they were specific to individual subjects. The reason for this is that students who did well in certain subjects would then have the ability to move forward into advanced versions of those classes, further shaping and honing their magical abilities in specific fields, like Transfiguration. Essentially, those who failed their O.W.L.s in certain subjects would no longer have access to the wide range of classes they were able to take before.

Once a student had made it through their O.W.L.s they would already have a solid idea of what kinds of jobs they’d be able to get in the wizarding world. For example, a student like Hermione who excelled across the board in her O.W.L.s would more or less have the ability to move into any field once she was done her time at Hogwarts. At the same time, a student with little success but great promise in herbology would likely send a witch or wizard into that specific field of work. When it comes to failing or passing the tests, there were a variety of possible greats to achieve, with the passing grades being Outstanding, Exceeds Expectations, or Acceptable, while failing grades were marked as Poor, Dreadful, or Troll.

What Are Hogwarts’ N.E.W.T.s?

Harry Potter: What Are The O.W.L.s And N.E.W.T.s? (3)

The N.E.W.T.s or Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test was the second of the two major tests that Hogwarts students take, this time taking place during the student’s seventh and final year. More so than O.W.L.s, making sure that students both passed and excelled on their N.E.W.T.s was a big deal as this was a student’s final opportunity to set themselves up for their future career in the wizarding world. An example of how important this is would be those who wanted to become Aurors having to excel in five different N.E.W.T.s in order to even be considered. While Aurors aren’t always positioned as masters of magic, this condition does mean only the most skilled can be brought into the organization.

The interesting thing about the N.E.W.T.s in comparison to the O.W.L.s is that it wasn’t technically a requirement at Hogwarts. Since students could go off into the wizarding world to start their own business or simply take up a job without restrictions, it was possible for students to skip taking the exams altogether. Choosing to not do so would severely hamper what job opportunities a witch or wizard would have in the future, but those with great achievements wouldn’t even need their N.E.W.T.s, as is the case with both Harry and Ron who immediately trained to be Aurorers after the defeat of Voldemort. With a similar grading scheme as the O.W.L.s, students would need to meet the top two marks in most classes to be considered a full pass.

What Happens If A Student Fails A Test?

Sadly, not much is known about what goes on if a student fails to achieve excellence in their O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s. With little information, it is easiest to assume that those who failed certain aspects of their O.W.L.s in a class like Defence Against The Dark Arts were either left out of future classes, though it is possible that students could have another chance to take the test if they nearly passed. Thanks to the various grade distinctions, it’s also possible that someone achieving a failing grade of Troll would be barred from being able to repeat the test or a class altogether thanks to how little effort they put in.

Surprisingly more is known about cheating during Hogwarts tests than a history of and what happens to failing students. Supposedly, at least one student has tried to cheat in their O.W.L.s every single year since the late 1800s. In a quote from Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, she comments on those trying to cheat on their O.W.L.s:

“Now, I must warn you that the most stringent Anti-Cheating Charms have been applied to your examination papers."

This has made the tests highly refined, with plenty of powerful charms in place to protect the process. If the tests are held as being that important, It just wouldn’t make sense for Hogwarts to treat failing students too harshly. At the end of the day, O.W.L.s are important for students to get jobs in the future, so they likely only really cared about their success in the fields they cared about or were interested in any way, thus making a failing grade less of a big deal.

Harry Potter is available to stream now on MAX.

Harry Potter: What Are The O.W.L.s And N.E.W.T.s? (5)
Harry Potter

When Harry Potter learns that he is a wizard, he enters a world beyond belief. Aside from continuing his studies at Hogwarts with best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry must also face Voldemort and his dark wizarding forces. The Harry Potter franchise is a worldwide phenomenon, spanning seven books, eight movies, three spinoff movies, a stage play, and numerous video games.

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