Are they allowed to retake the exam? Or would it mean they must repeat the same study year?

  • 9
    Why remove the [Hogwarts] tag, @Randal'Thor? This seems like a Hogwarts question to me – Mithrandir Mar 22 '17 at 21:12
  • 4
    @Mith It's a UK question. Presumably home schooled wizards can take the OWLs too – user13267 Mar 23 '17 at 12:01
  • 6
    The owl will screech really angrily and try to claw the student. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 23 '17 at 14:32
  • They are just expelled out of Hogwarts... – I Love You 3000 Mar 23 '17 at 18:01
  • Well if the student role-plays a ferret they might be preyed upon by the owl... unless they're rescued, of course. – Pryftan Aug 1 '17 at 22:46

Or would it mean they must repeat the same study year?

Absolutely not. Fred and George for example got only three OWLs each, meaning they failed seven, but they certainly aren't held back:

'Anyway, it's a nightmare of a year, the fifth,' said George. 'If you care about exam results, anyway. Fred and I managed to keep our peckers up somehow.'

'Yeah ... you got, what was it, three OWLs each?' said Ron.

'Yep,' said Fred unconcernedly. 'But we feel our futures lie outside the world of academic achievement.'

'We seriously debated whether we were going to bother coming back for our seventh year,' said George brightly, 'now that we've got -'

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - p.205 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 12, Professor Umbridge

It only means that their choice of NEWT subject was pretty limited by their poor grades. This we can infer from the fact that Hogwarts teachers set entrance requirements for their classes. Snape, for example, famously required O at OWL for admittance into his NEWT Potions class.

Are they allowed to retake the exam?

Mithrandir's fine answer shows us that they are allowed but they certainly don't have to. There's no way Fred and George retook seven subjects in The Goblet of Fire (the year after their OWL year). Similarly, Harry failed Divination and History of Magic and did not retake them:


Pass Grades: Outstanding (O), Exceeds Expectations (E), Acceptable (A)

Fail Grades: Poor (P), Dreadful (D), Troll (T)



Divination: P


History of Magic: D

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - p.100 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 5, An Excess of Phlegm

  • 4
    Fred and George for example got only three OWLs each, meaning they failed seven, but they certainly aren't held back One could say they weren't held at all... – xDaizu Mar 22 '17 at 15:13
  • I can almost hear Hermione gnashing her teeth from here, do to Fred and George's attitude... ;-) Hope she wasn't nearby when this conversation took place! – Baard Kopperud Mar 22 '17 at 21:08
  • @BaardKopperud She was actually, but she was soon distracted by talk of the joke shop - and it was the Skiving Snackboxes that started the conversation in the first place :P – Au101 Mar 22 '17 at 21:11
  • 4
    The model is almost certainly the same as O-levels, which Rowling will have experienced herself. The practice was that you could retake them but you did not have to. – Francis Davey Mar 23 '17 at 0:34
  • To add to that, O-Levels were not an immediate retake. You would have to retake either about six months later, or one year later, and usually you would be expected to be at school for that time. – DJClayworth Mar 23 '17 at 17:44

They either have to or can take them again the next year, presumably learning what they were supposed to the previous year, as we see Crabbe and Goyle do:

"Keep your voice down!" spat Snape, for Malfoy's voice had risen excitedly. "If your friends Crabbe and Goyle intend to pass their Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL this time around, they will need to work a little harder than they are doing at pres-"
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, chapter 15

  • 10
    Oh, wow. Nice find! – Rand al'Thor Mar 22 '17 at 12:15
  • 9
    Technically this only shows they just have the option to take them again (which is how I and the other answer interpret it). – Adam Martin Mar 23 '17 at 0:42
  • @AdamMartin - actually, I interpreted it as being if you fail enough of them you have to retake all of them. – Mithrandir Mar 23 '17 at 7:44
  • @Mithrandir why? Fred and George did not even finish school and went on to run a successful business. They neither "had to retake" nor even graduate. – James Jenkins Mar 23 '17 at 15:51
  • @Mithrandir: I am pretty sure you are wrong about the compulsion. JKR and I are both British, and the model in Britain is that you can retake, but there is no obligation to. (IRL, if you fail enough GCSE/O-levels, you wouldn't be able to do A-levels - but they aren't compulsory either.) – Martin Bonner Mar 23 '17 at 17:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.