|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event
|Students' seventh year
The NEWTs (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests) are final exams taken by 7th year students at Hogwarts. Not all students are able to proceed to take NEWTs in all subjects; teachers will accept for further study only those students who have done well enough in their OWLs to convince the teachers that they will benefit from more advanced study. Magical education that is designed to lead to NEWT testing is, of course, referred to as "NEWT-level courses", and magic normally taught at that level is referred to as "NEWT-level magic."
Fairly often in the books, something is mentioned as being NEWT-class or NEWT-level magic. Examples of this are Harry's ability to conjure a corporeal Patronus, and Hermione's ability to perform the Protean Charm. NEWT-class spells are complicated enough that the average wizard does not expect to have to perform them for real until his NEWT exams, and thus Harry's ability, in his third year at Hogwarts, and Hermione's ability early in her fifth (and, with the Polyjuice Potion, even second) year, to perform magic that is not generally tested until seventh year, is exceptional.
In the same way, the courses one takes in sixth and seventh year classes, after one has achieved a sufficiently high OWL grade, are called NEWT-level courses. Professor McGonagall teaches advanced Transfiguration, for instance, to sixth and seventh year students who have achieved at least an E in their Transfiguration OWL, and we see Neville wondering whether he can somehow parley his Transfiguration A into NEWT-level study in McGonagall's class.
The only person we hear of receiving their NEWT grades is Percy Weasley, and while we do hear that he had received his "top-grade NEWTs", we are not close enough to him to know what exams he is sitting or when. Professor Dumbledore does mention at one point that he is aware that Dawlish had received top grades in his NEWTs.
- O - Outstanding
- E - Exceeds Expectations
- A - Acceptable
- P - Poor
- D - Dreadful
- T - Troll
Presumably, it is because of Percy's top-grade NEWTs that he is able to gain employment with the Ministry. Harry is told that in order to become an Auror, he must manage to achieve at least five Exceeds Expectations grades in his NEWTs.
Similarly to the OWL exams, which are the analog of the Muggle GCSE or O-Level exams, the NEWT exams are analogous to the Muggle A-level exams, which are generally required for proceeding to university. There is no mention of a Wizarding university, but the top jobs require NEWTs as a prologue to the further education that is required before starting work proper. We are told that there will be three years of study after graduation from Hogwarts before Harry will be able to start work as an Auror.
While there must be a lot of stress in the lead-up to the NEWT exams, we don't actually get to see this, as Harry does not attend Hogwarts in his seventh year.
We can see that the OWL exams are probably named after the O-levels that were standard in Muggle education, until they were replaced by GCSEs; we can guess that the author is of an age to have taken O-levels and probably A-levels as a high school student. The reason for the name NEWT is uncertain, but we can guess that, having selected one animal with Wizarding associations for the fifth-year tests, another animal with magical associations should be selected as the acronym for the seventh-year tests. It is, perhaps, unlikely that any Government body would have the necessary sense of humour to name an exam with the words "nastily exhausting", so we can speculate that the official name, while retaining the NEWT acronym, may be something less droll. If so, we never hear the official name.
It is likely that the NEWT exams are taken in the two weeks of summer term following the OWL exams. We have seen that OWLs take two weeks, during which time the Great Hall will be full of fifth-year students writing their exams; presumably, the NEWT exams fill the Great Hall for the following two weeks. Given that no more than one seventh of the school population will be taking OWLs at any given time, and that significantly less that one seventh will be taking NEWTs, it is possible that theory sections of OWLs and NEWTs are taken at the same time, though care must clearly be taken to avoid collisions between the practical exams.
Because Harry, Hermione, and Ron do not attend Hogwarts in their seventh year, we do not actually experience NEWT exams. We could possibly have seen Fred and George taking these exams, but they elected to leave school dramatically in the middle of their seventh year. (In an interview following the publication of the seventh book, the author has said that Hermione returned to school to complete her seventh year, and presumably sat her NEWT exams at that time, but no mention of this is made in the books.)
Despite Harry's being told that he must have at least five Exceeds Expectations NEWT results to become an Auror, the author has implied that he entered the Aurors in the year that would have followed his seventh year at school. As he neither attended Hogwarts that year, nor sat NEWTs, we must assume that the Aurors accepted his year of unsupervised work (remaining hidden from Voldemort, finding and destroying four or five Horcruxes, assisting in the Battle of Hogwarts, and finally decisively defeating Voldemort) as being equivalent to the necessary studies and exams.