• Katie Trojak

The English Uni Grading System


I’ve just about finished all my essays for the year (yay me!) so I thought that I’d address the grading system here in the UK. It’s very different than the US grading system and it’s still something I’m getting used to. But understanding it makes the difference of being crushed or elated when you see that essay grade.


The first thing: it’s much lower than in the US. UK schools grade on a different system which then lends itself to a lower number. This gave me many heart attacks in the beginning of the year as someone who was used to seeing 90’s.


But the Brits really take to heart that a 100 is perfect. This means that while it’s still technically possible, it won’t happen. Most teachers have almost never seen even a 90. This doesn’t mean that they’re harder than US universities or harsher graders, it just means that they’re on another system.


The passing level is almost always 40. But again, that doesn’t mean that it’s laughably easy to pass, it just means that 40 is the bare minimum.


In general, what I’ve heard is that first years shouldn’t be scoring over 70-75. Or at least, it’s very hard to and if one is, then they’re doing phenomenally well. Of course, that’s what I’m aiming for, but I realize that if I don’t get it then that’s alright. In general, I tend to score in the 60s with a trend towards the higher 60s and I consider myself a very good student.


For the entire degree, an average of anything over 70 means that you’ve graduated with a First Degree, the top degree available. Then it goes down in decades from there. Above 60 is an Upper Second, or 2:1, which most people in the UK graduate with. Above 50 is a Lower Second, or 2:2, and above 40 is a Third Degree, or 3. Sometimes, if one misses the Third Degree by just a bit, they’ll be awarded an Ordinary Degree.


I’ve heard someone say that to roughly translate between the two systems you can just add or subtract 20 points. So that a 70 in the UK is a 90 in the US. In my experience, especially as a first year, I would say a bit more, perhaps 25. So a 70 would be a 95.


It’s not really possible to translate it fully though, just because they’re too different and they mean different things. That’s why the study abroad office stopped taking US and all foreign grades into account for the final degree grade, because it’s impossible to completely accurately translate.


Also, it’s important to remember that, at least for Arts and Humanities students, I’ve really never heard of a multiple choice test being used. So it’s very different to grade an essay with a US 90 than a standardized test with a 90 since in one each point is clearly from a specific question.


So if you’re coming from the US and wondering how the UK Uni grading system works, now you know! Don’t panic too much when those first grades come in and they seem ridiculously low, you’re probably doing better than you think. And if you’re a first year like me, then you’ve got time to earn that First Degree.

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