Short Guide to Understanding University Grades and Grading Systems in UK, America, and Europe -

Short Guide to Understanding University Grades and Grading Systems in UK, America, and Europe

There are many university grading systems or college grading systems in the world, each country with its own take on it, but the most common are variations of a university grading system using numbers from 1 to 10, letters from A to F, percentages from 0% to 100%, or numbers from 0 to 100.

We looked at some of the most popular international destinations for students and detailed systems like the UK grading system with its first-class marks, the US grading system which is letter-based, or the Swiss and German grading systems which are from 1 to 6. We hope this will help you better understand how your future papers will be marked. 

    The UK Grading System

    The United Kingdom has a very specific university grading system that is recognised across the world. Your university grades can fall into these categories:

  • 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" 
  • Graduating with First-class honours and generally receiving first-class marks is highly regarded and no easy task, while finishing with Second-class honours is very common and well-appreciated.

    The UK also has its specific conversion scheme in case a UK graduate wants to continue studying in another country. In this article, you can find information about how to convert UK university grades to other popular university grading systems, including to a GPA (grade point average) number, used especially in the US: How to Convert U.K. Grades For Master's Degrees In Other Countries

    University Grading System in Australia

    In Australia, universities 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), which means 85% or above 
  • D (Distinction), 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

    However, Australia also adopted the UK grading 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 university grades, like:

  • NGP (Non-Graded Pass), for when it’s important to have a qualitative grade, not quantitative 
  • NGF (Non-Graded Fail), for when it’s important to have a qualitative grade, not quantitative 
  • F1 (Pass Conceded): if your grade is between 53 and 55% 

Grading systems in Australia.jpg

Like the US, Australia also has GPAs (Grade Point Averages),  but they are rarely used here, reserved mostly for the entry selection when studying for a Medical or Law degree.

The most common formula for an Australian GPA is this: the sum of grade points x course unit values / total number of credit points attempted, with the grades being converted as follows:

  • High Distinction = 7 
  • Distinction = 6 
  • Credit = 5 
  • Pass = 4 
  • Fail level 1 = 1 
  • Fail level 2 = 0 

University Grading System in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of the most sought-after countries among international students, be it for Bachelor’s degrees or Master’s. Tuition fees are low, the disciplines are diverse, and the city life is… well, it’s very Dutch.

The university grading system follows a basic 1 – 10 scale, with 1 being the least and 10 being the most you can receive. These university grades also correspond to a percentage equivalency:

  • 1 means 0-5% correct 
  • 2 means 5-15% correct 
  • 3 means 15-25% correct 
  • ...
  • 10 means 95-100% correct 

Additional decimals could be used (7.5 or 9.49) 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)

University Grading System in Spain

Like the Netherlands, Spain uses a 10 points university grading system, that can be converted in percentages. These university 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) 

Moreover, these university grades will be converted in the transcript of records according to this list:

  • "Matrícula de Honor": 4 
  • "Sobresaliente": 3 
  • "Notable": 2 
  • "Aprobado": 1 

Check out Master’s degrees worldwide

The University Grading System in Germany

Unlike in the Netherlands or Spain where 1 is a very bad mark, in Germany, 1 means you did an excellent job. The German university 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 University Grading System in Switzerland

Switzerland also uses a 1to 6 university grading system, however here the values are reversed, 1 is the worst, 6 is the best, with 4 being the passing mark. The university grades are as follows:

  • 6 – Excellent 
  • 5.5 – Very good 
  • 5 – Good 
  • 4.5 – Relatively good (also known as the passive-aggressive grade – JK) 
  • 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 

Grading systems in Switzerland.jpg

The US Grading System

The American grading system 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 US grading system deserves an in-depth analysis on its own, which you can check out here.

Complete list of Master’s degrees in the US

University 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. The Canadian grading system can be on either a numeric scale or on a letter one, with university grades from A+ to F, or from 9.00 to 1.00.

You should check out a more comprehensive guide to the Canadian grading system by region if you wish to go and study there.

We know conversions can be annoying, but we hope our resources can bring some clarity into it.

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