Since 1785, when one professor at Yale wrote in his notebook that 58 of his seniors were Optimi, second Optimi, Inferiores and Pejores, school wasn’t the same again. With grades or ranks noting how good your work is, quantitatively or qualitatively, there’s no wonder a certain consensus wasn’t developed between all 196 countries. Heck, there isn’t even a consensus if there are 196 countries, even.
But have no fear: we’re here! Centralising and managing to categorise the grading systems of some of the most popular international destinations for students, we hope to give you an insight into how institutions and professors will grade your awesome papers and thesis.
Grading Scales from 1 to 10
Grading System in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is one of the most sought-after countries of international students, be if for Bachelor’s degrees or for Master’s. Tuition fees are low, the disciplines are diverse and the city life is… well, it’s very Dutch.
The grading system follows a basic 1 – 10 scale, with one being the worst and 10 being the most you can get. The grades can also correspond to a percentage equivalency, meaning that:
- 1 – 0-5% correct
- 2 – 5-15% correct
- 3 – 15-25% correct
- 10 – 95-100% correct
Additional decimals could be used (7.5 or 9.49, if your teacher is a sadist), or fractions, like + or -, which means a quarter.
Also, passing grades are as follows:
- 5.5: the passing border (5.4 is a fail)
- 6: if no decimals are used (5 is a fail)
Grading System in Spain
Like Netherlands, Spain uses a 10-point system, that can be converted in percentages. These grades can be translated in ranks. For instance:
- 10 with distinction: “Matrícula de Honor” (Honorary)
- 9 – 10: "Sobresaliente" (Outstanding)
- 7 – 8.9: "Notable" (Remarkable)
- 5 – 6.9: "Aprobado" (Pass)
- 0 – 4.9: "Suspenso" (Fail)
These grades will be converted in the transcript of records according to this list:
- "Matrícula de Honor": 4
- "Sobresaliente": 3
- "Notable": 2
- "Aprobado": 1
Grading Scales from 1 to 6
The Grading System in Germany
If a slightly terrifying teacher comes to your desk and throws a paper with a 1 on it, saying “Sehr gut!”, don’t complain. Firstly, because they feed on anger and you’re only making him stronger, second: in Germany, this means you did really good. The grades look like this:
- 1 or 1-: Very Good
- 2+, 2 or 2-: Good
- 3+, 3 or 3-: Satisfactory
- 4+ or 4: Sufficient
- 4-, 5+, 5, 5-: Below Requirements
- 6: Fail
The Grading System in Switzerland
Yeah, Switzerland doesn’t fall far from the European Founders tree. The grading system is between 1 and 6, with 4 as the passing mark. The grades are as follows:
- 6 – Excellent
- 5.5 – Very good
- 5 – Good
- 4.5 – Relatively good (e.n.: also known as the passive-aggressive grade)
- 4 – Pass
- 3.5 – Fail
- 3 – Poor
- 2.5 – Very poor
- 2 – Extremely poor
- 1 – No performance
- 0 – Absence without good cause, cheating or attempt to cheat
Other Grading Systems
The Grading System in the U.K.
The United Kingdom has a very specific grading system. Using Honours, letters and certain percentages, that’s additional to the GPA, the U.K. has its own conversion scheme, which we looked at separately.
But, as a rough guide, you should know that you can finish a Bachelor’s degree in the U.K. with:
- First-class honours – typically 70% or higher
- Second-class honours, upper division – typically 60 – 69%
- Second-class honours, lower division – typically 50 – 59%
- Third-class honours - typically 40 – 49%
- Without honours - awarded an ordinary degree, sometimes known as a "pass"
Grading systems outside Europe
Grading System in Australia
Ok, so. Australia is… special. Universities here use two grading systems, both letter based. The most common structure you will find is ordered like this, from the best to the worst:
- HD (High Distinction, not high definition), which means 85% or above
- D (Distinction; stop giggling), which means 75 to 84%
- Cr (Credit), equal to 65 to 74%
- P (Pass): equal to 50 to 64%
- F (Fail): equal to 49% or under, which means: get out!
Seeing how Australia can’t stray from the Empire, is also adopted United Kingdom’s marking system, which translates to:
- H1 (First Class Honours): 80% or above
- H2A (Second Class Honours – A Division): 75 – 79%
- H2B (Second Class Honours – B Division): 70 – 74%
- H3 (Third Class Honours): 65 – 69%
- P (Pass): 50 – 64%
- N (Fail): below 50%
But wait, there’s more! You can also encounter special grades, like:
- NGP (Non-Graded Pass), for when it’s important to have a quality grade, not quantitative
- NGP (Non-Graded Fail), for when it’s important to have a quality grade, not quantitative
- F1 (Pass Conceded): if your grade is between 53 and 55%
And, now, for another countr… Just kidding! Australia also has GPAs (Grade Point Averages). This grading system is most known from the U.S., but in Australia are quite rare, used mostly in the selection for entry courses for Medicine or Law.
The most common formula for an Australian GPA is: Sum of (grade points x course unit values) / total number of credit points attempted, with the grades being converted in numbers like this:
- High Distinction = 7
- Distinction = 6
- Credit = 5
- Pass = 4
- Fail level 1 = 1
- Fail level 2 = 0
As a quick and easy guide, GPAs mean:
- High Distinction: 4.0
- Distinction: 3.0
- Credit: 2.0
- Pass: 1.0
Grading System in the U.S
The U.S. has a long history of GPAs and letters under the guise of grades, but not many people know that the – and the + next to an A, B, C, etc. has a ponder on the final grade, as well.
The GPA, with its formula of dividing the total sum of grade points to the amount of credit hours, can range from 0.0 to 4.0.
And that’s the only sneak-peak we will give you, because the U.S grading system merits an in-depth analysis all on its own.
Grading System in Canada
Canada, the country of maple syrup, maple leaves on flags and maple syrup scented banknotes, is such a free-spirited state, that it allowed all its regions to create their own grading systems. Proving they’re the laid-back uncle of the world, Canada’s systems can be on either a numeric scale and on a letter one, ranging from A+ to F, or from 9.00 to 1.00.
You should check out a more comprehensive guide to Canada’s regions of grading systems, if you wish to go and study there, or if you already studied and want to know if you’re eligible.
So… Good luck with that and when conversions start getting annoying, don’t worry. Take a deep breath and smile at the thought that there are other students that are going through the same existential crisis just like you.