During the time you’re a student, you’ll always want to keep track of your grades. But, depending on where you go, the grading systems can differ dramatically. Some countries rely on a number of systems, while others use a percentage system. In the United States, they use a letter grading system.
The A – F American grading scale is pretty standard. Below, we’ll run through all of the 5 main facts you should know about the American school grading system, and what to expect when you enrol in a Master’s programme in the U.S.
1. Where and what Master's degree to study in the U.S.
Before you continue reading our great and comprehensive guide, you should consider these subjects to study:
- Study Biotechnology in the U.S.
- Study Public Health in the U.S.
- Study Tourism & Leisure in the U.S.
- Study Political Science in the U.S.
- Study Computer Sciences in the U.S.
If these aren't what you were looking for, you can always check out some awesome universities, like:
- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, in Edwardsville
- Western Kentucky University, in Bowling Green
- The New School, in New York City
- California State University Northridge, in Los Angeles
- University of South Florida, in Tampa
There are also some good online university options we recommend:
2. The US letter grading system
Every time you finish an assignment, your instructor will put a letter at the top of it. That letter tells you how well (or poor) you did on the assignment.
From A to F, you go from great to… well, not so great. But they also have a percentage behind them. And the percentage typically shows how many of the questions on a test you answered correctly, or how many requirements you met during the course. For instance:
- A - is the highest grade you can receive on an assignment, and it's between 90% and 100%;
- B - is still a pretty good grade! This is an above-average score, between 80% and 89%;
- C - this is a grade that rests right in the middle. C is anywhere between 70% and 79%;
- D - this is still a passing grade, and it's between 59% and 69%;
- F - this is a failing grade. No, wait, don’t cry! You just need to study harder!
3. The US university grading system
At most universities in the U.S., your grades don’t stand on their own. Often, they correspond to what is called a quality point.
The quality point is, confusingly, a quantity that your grade has, that way it can be calculated towards your GPA (which we’ll discuss in the next section). Every school, college, and other higher education institutions will have a different scale (most use a 4.0 scale) for your letter grades, but, generally, an A always corresponds to either 4 or a multiple of 4.
You’ll want to check with your school administrators or registrars to know how the quality points match up at your university.
4. Your overall grades provide a Grade Point Average (GPA)
A Grade Point Average (GPA) is a hugely important number for students. Your GPA is used for everything: applying for scholarships, joining clubs, graduating, applying to other schools.
In theory, your GPA is supposed to show what kind of student you are. Have you passed most of your classes with flying colours? Then your GPA is probably closer to a 4.0. Are you an average student, with some great classes and some classes that were difficult? Your GPA is probably a 2.5 or 3. Did you start of difficult and then learned the ropes to improvement? Your GPA reflects that too!
Essentially, your American university average GPA is calculated by taking the quality point from each grade (see the previous section), adding them together, and then dividing by the number of course credits you attempted. The resulting number represents your GPA.
5. There is no “E” grade
If American grades go from A to F, how come it skips over E? That’s a good question! It’s a simple answer really.
Back in 1897, the letter E used to mean the same thing as F; that is, it used to be the lowest possible grade. However, parents and students found it easier to understand that “F” stood for “Failed” (rather than thinking that “E” could mean “excellent”).
Since the 19th Century, the letter F has caught to universally mean “Failed”, and has incidentally become the letter that every student fears.
Remember that grades aren’t everything
Students obsess about their grades; and if you ask me, they obsess too much. Yes, grades show how well you succeeded in your classes and how well you were evaluated. And. of course, if your grades or your test scores are low, then you should always try to improve them. This is how your teachers know that you understood the material and that they’ve done their jobs.
Your grades may show your overall performance in classes, but they aren’t necessarily a reflection of how smart you really are.
Ready to apply to a university in the U.S.?
You can now apply with Studyportals to one of our partner universities in the U.S. You can apply whenever you want, and it won't cost you anything. Here are some American universities we recommend:
Check the available Masters and see which of the degrees match your background and interests. Start the application process by filling in your student profile. You will soon get contacted by one of our application counsellors who will assist you further. We’ll then apply on your behalf. Find out more about applying to a Master's degree with Studyportals.