COVID-19 response:

The November 2020, January 2021, April 2021, June 2021 and August 2021 diploma exams are optional due to COVID-19.

Students who complete a diploma exam course and have a school-awarded mark are eligible for an exemption. It doesn’t matter if they are registered for the diploma exam or not. If they choose not to write the diploma exam, they will be granted the exemption.

For further information see: Learning during COVID-19.

General Information Bulletin and schedule

The General Information Bulletin (PDF, 4.6 MB) contains specific directives, guidelines and procedures of the Diploma Examination Program.


The following forms are used for the administration of diploma exams and field tests:

Provincial results and participation

Diploma exam results are available as PDFs for individual schools and for each school authority in Alberta. Use the school authority database to find 5-year reports for each writing period, as well as participation rates for each school and authority. You can use the search tool, or select a category (public, separate, etc.) and then select an authority and school.

Provincial Standards

Consistent standards

Government's goal is to ensure fairness for all students, no matter when they write a diploma exam.

We use a process called 'equating' to maintain consistent standards and help make the exams as fair as possible.

By maintaining consistent standards through equating, government can more accurately report changes in student diploma exam results from one exam to the next, and from one year to the next. This also makes it possible to more accurately report how students performed, no matter which exam they wrote.

This practice started in 2003 for the diploma exam program, and it is currently used on almost all diploma exams. Similar approaches for maintaining consistent standards are used in the Provincial Achievement Testing Program (PATs)  as well as in many national and international tests.

Anchor items

Anchor items are questions that appear in more than one diploma exam. They are a mini-version of the exam and they represent the whole program of studies for the subject.

By making at least 20% of questions on an exam the same as those on a previous exam, we can determine if the student population writing one exam differs in achievement from the student population writing another exam.

These anchor items can also be used to determine if one exam is harder or easier compared to another exam. This process then lets government remove the variation in student scores caused by differences in difficulty from one exam to the next. In other words, a mark of 80% on one diploma exam means the same as a mark of 80% on another diploma exam in the same subject.

How equating works

Equating – step 1

Student performance on the anchor items is compared between 2 diploma exams. Since the anchor items are identical between 2 diploma exams, differences in performance tells us whether the current group of students is, on average, stronger, weaker or the same as the previous group, in terms of their abilities.

Equating – step 2

Based on what is found from step 1, student performance on the unique (non-anchor) items is compared between the 2 exams. In this way the relative difficulties of the 2 exams are compared.

For example, if the average student performance for the current group is close to the previous group on anchor items but the current group's performance is lower on the unique items, we would know that, while the 2 groups have similar abilities, the unique items are more difficult for the current group.

Equating – step 3

Based on the comparisons in steps 1 and 2, a statistical method called equating is used to adjust the student's results so that the variation in difficulty among exams does not affect their exam mark.

Adjustments to a student's score may be up or down, depending on the relative difficulty of the exam. The degree of adjustment for each score point also varies.

The equating process is designed to remove the variation in exam difficulty as a variable when assessing a student's knowledge and ability. This process is meant to ensure fairness for all students, over time.

This effort to ensure fairness for students means that not all diploma exam questions can be released to the public immediately after the exam. This is to ensure students do not see anchor questions prior to writing an exam, potentially gaining an advantage over other students.

We release as many diploma exam questions as possible online each year.

Comparing results over time

Diploma exams are designed to match a program of studies for a particular subject, and this design does not change until the program of studies is changed. Once the examinations from all administrations in a given school year are equated, results on the multiyear reports will be directly comparable over time.

If the program of study is substantially changed, a new exam will be developed. Provincial standards will be reset and confirmed by a standard-setting committee of about 20 teachers selected from across the province.

This process may be done multiple times in the first few years until the new exam stabilizes. During that period of time, any direct comparison of student scores from administration to administration should not be done, and trend analysis is not appropriate and valid.

School-awarded marks and diploma exam marks

School-awarded marks and diploma examination marks complement each other.

We design diploma exams to assess student achievement on the objectives of the curriculum.  Diploma exams have some key benefits. Most importantly, they are consistent, giving an assessment standard that stays the same over time and across the province.

However, some learning outcomes cannot be measured well by these timed tests. Teachers work closely with students on a daily basis, and use many different kinds of assessments, which can assess a broader range of students’ knowledge and skills.

The scope of what the diploma exams and teachers measure are not the same. However, the two sets of marks should be reasonably close, since both are assessing the same program of studies. As well, teachers help set the standards of achievement for diploma exams, so that we can make sure the province’s expectations are similar to those of most teachers.

To assist students, teachers, and parents in understanding what the provincial standards for each diploma exam look like in the classroom, Alberta Education has published documents for each subject called Information Bulletins.


Connect with Deanna Shostak, Director, Diploma Programs:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-422-5160
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]

Connect with Pascal Couture, Director, Exam Administration:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-643-9157
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]