Update on the Iranian Konkur

Despite rumours of its abolition, the Iranian national university entrance examination, Konkur (or Concours – from the French), continues to be available to students wishing to enter higher education in the country.

What is the Konkur?

The Konkur is the mandatory route for students wishing to gain admission to universities in Iran. The examination is 4 ½ hours long, follows a multiple-choice format and is offered in four different academic streams. It does not have a grading scale; instead, students are ranked in order of achievement with the score of the top-ranking student being the highest grade available.

The examination is administered by the National Organisation of Educational Testing (also known as the Sanjesh Organisation), part of the Ministry. Until 2018, the Pre-University Certificate (پیش دانشگاهی), awarded after the final year of upper secondary school to those aiming to enter higher education, was the standard requirement for students wishing to sit the Konkur. However, the Certificate was phased out that year and since then students have been able to sit the Konkur upon completion of upper secondary schooling.

Is it being discontinued?

There have been rumours of its imminent discontinuation for several years, including reports in the Iranian press and from the Ministry of Education. There has been widespread criticism of the system as the Konkur’s highly competitive nature has created an industry in exam-preparation classes. There has also been concern over its impact on the stress levels of students and on school instruction, the last year of which is focused entirely on passing the examination.

For the time being however, the Konkur continues to be available.

Impact of COVID-19

Students completing upper secondary schooling in the 2019 / 2020 academic year took the Konkur in August 2020; it had been delayed by several weeks due to the pandemic. It is reported the examinations took place in-person with safety measures in place to limit spread of the virus.

School closures have occurred at various times across a number of cities and regions in Iran since early 2020, though it is unclear how this affected student learning and preparation for the Konkur. It is also reported that online classes were provided in place of in-person learning and that educational programmes were broadcast on several national television channels and across social media.

Continual monitoring

At UK ENIC, we will follow any further developments and continue to gather information on both the Konkur and the impact of COVID-19 on education systems across the world.