OWLS 1996

O.W.L. examination of Theory of Charms in 1996

"Ordinary. Wizarding. Level. Examinations. O.W.L.s. More commonly known as 'Owls'. Study hard and you will be rewarded. Fail to do so and the consequences may be… severe."
Dolores Umbridge to a fifth-year's class[src]

An Ordinary Wizarding Level (often abbreviated O.W.L.) is a subject-specific test taken during Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry students' fifth year, administrated by the Wizarding Examinations Authority. The score made by a student on a particular O.W.L. determines whether or not he or she will be allowed to continue taking that subject in subsequent school years.

As well as referring to the test that students take in their fifth year, the term "O.W.L" also refers to the type of class, i.e. the level of difficulty of the class the student is taking. In addition, "achieving an O.W.L" is used to refer to a class in which the student has passed their O.W.L exam (example: Harry Potter received an O.W.L. in Transfiguration by attaining a passing grade on the O.W.L exam for that class.)


Due to the serious and important nature of the tests, preparation for both O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s is very hard work. Students will generally begin preparing for their O.W.L.s in their fourth year, in order to take them at the end of their fifth. The pressure was enough to make certain students, such as Hannah Abbott have a panic attack, and it was necessary to give them a Calming Draught to lower her anxiety.

These examinations in sort determine what type of career students will be able to obtain once their education is complete. Some careers require certain subjects to be taken at N.E.W.T. -level and with a passing grade or in some cases top grades. In order to be admitted into a class at N.E.W.T. a student must first achieve an 'Outstanding' or 'Exceeds Expectations' at O.W.L. in order to cope with the upcoming course work, which will be much more advanced. Minerva McGonagall would not let Neville Longbottom into her N.E.W.T. Transfiguration class, because he did not achieve a high enough grade, that would limit the type of career Neville would be able to hold in the future


Cheating is also both highly tempting for the students and highly guarded against by the exam givers. Anti-Cheating Spells are applied to all O.W.L. exam papers. Auto-Answer Quills, Remembralls, Detachable Cribbing Cuffs, and Self-Correcting Ink are all banned from the examination hall as well. Despite this, at least one student attempts to cheat every year, though none have been successful since the year 1896.


"I think it appropriate to remind you that next June you will be sitting a important examination, during which you will prove how much you have learned about the composition and use of magical potions."
Professor Snape regarding the potions exam[src]
OWL exam paper

A Theory of Charms O.W.L. exam paper

Most O.W.L.s are divided into written exams and practical exams. The O.W.L. is comparable to the Muggle "O level" given at the same stage of education (the "O" standing for Ordinary). In 1988, this examination was replaced by the G.C.S.E. in England and Wales and the Standard certificate in Scotland, but wizards are under no obligation to change their examinations when Muggles do. Strict measures, such as Anti-Cheating Quills and Anti-Cheating spells, are used to prevent academic dishonesty. Among the examiners were Griselda Marchbanks and Professor Tofty. When a practical examination starts students will be called in aperiodically, by either first or last name.


O.W.L. exams are administered over a period of two successive weeks at the end of fifth year. Most exams that are divided into two parts: students will sit the theory portion in the morning and the practical portion in the afternoon, with the exception of the Astronomy practical exam, which occurs at night.

First week

Subject Time Exam info
Charms Monday Written: Levitation Charm, Cheering Charm, and Counter-charm for hiccoughs
Practical: Take an egg cup and make it do some cartwheels, Levitation Charm, Colour Change, and Growth Charms.
Transfiguration Tuesday Written: One of the questions was the definition of a Switching Spell
Practical: Vanishing spell {{c|one of the most complicated spells taught at O.W.L
Herbology Wednesday Written: ?
Practical: Fanged Geranium and other plants
Defence Against the Dark Arts Thursday Written: Question ten — name five signs that identify the werewolf
Practical:Counter-jinxes, Defensive Spells, Riddikulus, and Patronus Charm (for bonus points)
Ancient Runes Friday Written: Translation of runes like "ehwaz" and "eihwaz"
Practical: ?

Second week

Subject Time Exam info
Potions Monday Written: Contains a question about Polyjuice Potion (it's noted that the written exam is quite difficult)
Practical: ?
Care of Magical Creatures Tuesday Written: ?
Practical: Identify a Knarl hidden among a dozen hedgehogs; Demonstrate correct handling of a Bowtruckle; Feed and clean out a Fire Crab without sustaining serious burns; Choose from a wide selection of food the diet they would give a sick Unicorn
Astronomy Wednesday Written: Identify all of Jupiter's moons.
Practical: Look at the telescope and fill in the blank star‐chart with the precise positions of the stars and planets they were observing.
Books chapterart ootp 31
Divination Wednesday Written: ?
Practical: Crystal ball reading, tea-leaf reading, palm-reading
Arithmancy Wednesday Written: ?
Practical: ?
History of Magic Thursday Written: Wand legislation; Goblin riots of the eighteenth century; Statute of Secrecy breach; Formation of the International Confederation of Wizards and explain why the Warlocks of Liechtenstein refused to join


Muggle Studies – not specified

O.W.L. scores

If a student fails an O.W.L. and still wishes to retake it, they are presumably held back in that class. This was the case for Marcus Flint; Professor Severus Snape also remarked in 1996 that Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle need to pass their Defence Against the Dark Arts O.W.L.

Passing grades

Failing grades

Wizarding Education
BeauxbatonsCrestClearBg Hogwartscrest Ilvermorny Crest 3 DurmstrangCrest
The Eleven Schools: Beauxbatons · Castelobruxo · Durmstrang · Hogwarts · Ilvermorny · Koldovstoretz · Mahoutokoro · Uagadou
Specialised schools: Academy of Broom Flying · Charm School · Euro-Glyph School of Extraordinary Languages · Merge School of Under-Water Spellage · Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts
Examinations: First year exams · Second year exams · Third year exams · Fourth year exams · Ordinary Wizarding Level · Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test
Core classes: Astronomy · Charms · Defence Against the Dark Arts · Herbology · History of Magic · Potions · Transfiguration
Elective classes: Alchemy · Arithmancy · Care of Magical Creatures · Divination · Muggle Studies · Study of Ancient Runes
Extra-curricular classes: Apparition · Advanced Arithmancy Studies · Ancient Studies · Art · Flying · Frog Choir · Ghoul Studies · Hogwarts orchestra · Magical Theory · Muggle Art · Muggle Music · Music · Xylomancy