In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban the kids get their exam results at the end of the year.

The exam results came out on the last day of term.
(Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 22, Owl Post Again).

This is true not just of the younger yeargroups but of the people taking O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s as well. Fred, George and Percy's results in these qualifications are mentioned, for instance.

Percy had got his top-grade N.E.W.T.s; Fred and George had scraped a handful of O.W.L.s each.
(Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 22, Owl Post Again).

However, in Half-Blood Prince Harry, Ron and Hermione get their O.W.L. results delivered to them by owl (fittingly enough) in the middle of the summer holidays.

What explains the difference in timescale here? Can we tell whether Percy, Fred and George got their results early or Harry, Ron and Hermione got theirs late?

  • Did it have something to do with the loss of the Headmaster? Instead of grading exams the staff was making funeral arrangements and had a period of mourning.
    – Skooba
    Sep 15, 2017 at 11:39
  • 1
    Or, er, wait, was it the exams from previous year (OotP)?
    – Skooba
    Sep 15, 2017 at 11:40
  • I've seen this happen in real life too. Deliberations at the end of the year are done grade by grade, so that not every teacher needs to be present for every student on the list (many of whom are not students of theirs). Instead, they're only present for the students (/grades/classes) that they teach. It's not impossible for the school to separate its deliberations by year, and it's similarly not impossible for Ron and Hermione's deliberation to have been postponed for a mundane reason (e.g. absence of a few teachers who teach Ron and Hermione's grade)
    – Flater
    Sep 15, 2017 at 13:42
  • @Skooba You're thinking of the end of Half-Blood Prince. They get their exam results at the start of that book, having taken the exams themselves the previous year. Sep 15, 2017 at 19:26

3 Answers 3


It has nothing to do with Voldemort coming back. Here is a quote from the OoTP, in chapter 31, O.W.L.S. This conversation is way before the battle in the ministry.

“Please, Professor,” said Hermione, her hand in the air, “when will we find out our results?”
“An owl will be sent to you some time in July,” said Professor McGonagall.
“Excellent,” said Dean Thomas in an audible whisper, “so we don’t have to worry about it till the holidays. . . .”
Harry imagined sitting in his bedroom in Privet Drive in six weeks’ time, waiting for his O.W.L. results. Well, he thought, at least he would be sure of one bit of post next summer. . . .

This looks like a details mistake on the side of J.K. Rowling and doesn't have a canon answer. It is great that you caught it, I never could. If there was no such conversation, I would also go with the Voldemort returned argument.

  • What do you think might have happened in-universe? Some change of Ministry policy due to Umbridge? Sep 16, 2017 at 16:49
  • 4
    @TheDarkLord sounds reasonable. Now that every student is a potential traitor to the minister, they wanted to make sure that certain students can not become aurors or important ministry officials by making them "fail" some classes with a failed background check, which requires additional time. Sep 16, 2017 at 16:58

Since the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams were taken by Ministry officials, it's likely they would also be graded by Ministry officials. I could imagine that the results got delayed because they just realised Voldemort was back. The Ministry was in a lot of trouble so they might have re-prioritised some work, shifted people to more important tasks and so on. Grading exams hardly would've appeared high up any top priority list at that moment, so maybe that's the cause for the delay.

Arthur Weasley is mentioned to have a lot to do at the time in question and he is assigned to do more relevant tasks. The same could've happened to the people who worked on the exams - or even just one of them, because even one missing grade could postpone delivery.


Well, why don't we think about some of the differences between those years? It was fifth year, yes? That was the year that everyone found out (in the end) that moldy oldy Voldie was back, and let's not forget that the six members of the D.A. that went to the Ministry absolutely wrecked it with some Death Eater help. That would tend to cause a lot of panic, which would explain the delays. They were probably fixing up the Ministry and making those safety pamphlets. And being frantic about the prophecies that smashed.

  • 3
    Maybe BUT as @atayenel mentioned - Prof. McGonagall says the results will arrive in July. She says that BEFORE the Ministry incident and the "official" return of Voldi.
    – vap78
    Sep 18, 2017 at 11:51
  • 1
    Let's not forget that authors sometimes make careless mistakes. This must be it. Or maybe it's just a rough guess, like Oh, I was pretty sure I got an owl, maybe Snape failed me in Potions, though. I think it's an authors mistake, now that you pointed it out. wait, but don't forget that McGonagall knew that Voldie the oldie and moldy is back Sep 18, 2017 at 20:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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