As cited by Neil Postman, Keith Hoskin argues that the concept of grading students' work quantitatively was developed by a tutor named William Farish, and first implemented by the University of Cambridge in 1792. Hoskin's assertion has been questioned by Christopher Stray, who finds the evidence for Farish as the inventor of the numerical mark to be unpersuasive. Stray's article elucidates the complex relationship between the mode of examination (testing), oral or written, and the means of evaluation or grading. As a technology, grading both shapes and reflects many fundamental areas of educational theory and practice.
Most nations have individual grading systems unique to their own schools. However, several international standards for grading have arisen recently.
The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a standard for comparing the study attainment and performance of students of higher education across the European Union. For successfully completed studies, ECTS credits are awarded. One academic year corresponds to 60 ECTS-credits in all countries, irrespective of standard or qualification type and is used to facilitate transfer and progression throughout the Union.
ECTS also includes a standard grading scale:
|ECTS Scale||Definition||percentile range|
|FX||Fail; more work required||–|
|F||Fail; considerably more work required||–|
This diploma is awarded by some European Schools. Pupils are graded on an analog scale of 0 to 10. Half marks may be awarded, and in computing the total average two decimals are shown:
|10||Highest mark achievable|
|1||Worst grade (cheating, etc.)|
Par with the United States with a few exceptions:
In Canada, grade point averages vary by province, by level of education (e.g., high school or university), by institutions (e.g., Queen's or Toronto), and even by different faculties in the same institution (e.g., Ryerson or Université du Québec à Montréal). The following are commonly used conversions from percentile grades to letter grades:
In Senior High Schools:
|A||80–100||Standard of Excellence||Final course grades in this range are annotated with Honors Standing in the Alberta Senior High School Transcript.|
|D||40–49||As of September 1986, final grades in this range are not awarded any credits toward Alberta Senior High School Diploma.|
|F||0–40||Failing grade with no credits awarded toward Alberta Senior High School Diploma.|
In Alberta Post-Secondary Colleges, Technical Institutes, or Universities:
|Letter Grade||Grade Points||Notes|
|A-||3.7||Student may be awarded an Honors designation on a parchment if semester and cumulative grade point average of 3.7 is achieved on the first attempt of courses required towards graduation of major. In addition, students will need to complete graduation requirements within specific time restrictions.|
|C||2.0||Minimum general semester and cumulative grade point average to progress without Academic Probation or Withdrawal status. Certain faculties may require higher grade point averages to remain in faculty.|
|D||1.0||Minimum general passing letter grade to receive credit for a course. Certain faculties may require higher grades to receive course credit.|
There is no universal percentage grade associated with any letter grade in the Province of Alberta and such associations are made by professors or a bell curve.
|Percent||Letter Grade equivalent||Descriptors|
|90-100%||A+||A superior / outstanding performance.|
|80-89%||A||A very good / excellent performance.|
|70-79%||B||A good / above average performance.|
|60-69%||C||A generally satisfactory, intellectually adequate performance.|
|50-59%||D||A barely satisfactory performance.|
|0-49%||F||Failure. An unacceptable performance.|
Taken from http://www.usask.ca/calendar/exams&grades/gradingsystem/ and http://www.uregina.ca/gencal/ugcal/attendanceEvaluation/ugcal_64.shtml
In British Columbia universities: F is a failing grade. The following table is only an approximation; faculties within universities sometimes follow a different system between percentiles and corresponding letter grades.
In Newfoundland and Labrador universities:
In Ontario schools:
|A||80−100||Level 4||Above government standards|
|B||70−79.9||Level 3||At government standards|
|C||60−69.9||Level 2||Below, but approaching government standards|
|D||50−59.9||Level 1||Well below government standards|
|F||0−49.9||—||Failing standards (used in high schools)|
|R||Remedial standards (used in elementary schools)|
Ontario universities and colleges also use a similar grading system as the above and the system used in the United States. Some colleges use a 4.0 scale, while others a 4.3 or 12.0 scale.
|Letter Grade||12.0 Grading Scale||4.0 Grading Scale|
Grade Point Chart:
|Number of grade points for 1.0 credit course||Number of grade points for 0.5 credit course||Percentage Equivalency|
|A+ = 12.0||A+ = 6.0||90-100|
|A = 11.0||A = 5.5||85-89|
|A- = 10.0||A- = 5.0||80-84|
|B+ = 9.0||B+ = 4.5||77-79|
|B = 8.0||B = 4.0||73-76|
|B- = 7.0||B- = 3.5||70-72|
|C+ = 6.0||C+ = 3.0||67-69|
|C = 5.0||C = 2.5||63-66|
|C- = 4.0||C- = 2.0||60-62|
|D+ = 3.0||D+ = 1.5||57-59|
|D = 2.0||D = 1.0||53-56|
|D- = 1.0||D- = 0.5||50-52|
|F = 0.0||F = 0.0||0-49|
In Quebec universities:
|A||80−100||Greatly above standards|
|C||60−69||At government standards|
Mexican schools use a scale from 0 to 10 to measure students' scores. Since decimal scores are common, a scale from 0 to 100 is often used to remove the decimal point:
Students who fail a subject have the option of taking an extraordinary test (examen extraordinario, often shortened to extra) that evaluates the contents of the entire period. Once the test is finished and the score is assessed, this score becomes the entire subject's score, thus giving failing students a chance to pass their subjects. Those who fail the extraordinary test have 2 more chances to take it; if the last test is failed, the subject is marked as failed and pending, and depending on the school, the student may fail the entire year.
Some private schools (particularly in higher levels of education) require a 70 to pass instead of the regular 60.
Grades are often absolute and not class-specific. It may be the case that the top of the class gets a final grade of 79. Curve-adjustment is rare. Grad-level students are usually expected to have grades of 80 or above to graduate. Students in the honor roll are usually those with an overall GPA of 90 or higher upon graduation, and some private universities will award them a "With Honors" diploma.
Grades in the United States:
Classical five-point discrete evaluation with grades is the system most commonly used in the United States, but there are many variations. There are also a few schools that eschew discrete evaluation (letter grading) in favor of pure discursive evaluation. There is no standardized system of grading in the United States, as these issues are left up to individual universities, schools, and states.
Grades in the United States are generally assigned by a letter: A (highest grade, excellent), B (above average), C (average), D (usually the minimum passing grade), and F (fail). Additionally, most schools will calculate a student's grade point average (GPA) by assigning each letter grade a number and using a mathematical formula to come up with a numerical representation of a student's work. Generally, American schools equate an A with a numerical value of 4.0.
The percentage needed in any given coursework needed to achieve a certain grade and the assignment of GPA point values varies from one school to another. The most general and common grading scale is as follows:
|A||100 - 90||4.0-3.5|
|B||89 - 80||3.49-2.5|
|C||79 - 70||2.49-1.5|
|D||69 - 60||1.49-1.0|
Whether the failing grade is F or E typically depends on time and geography. Some states, but not many, have tended to favor E since World War II while the majority of the country tends to use F. Ultimately, the grade F traces to the days of two-point grading as Pass (P) and Fail (F). In recent years some schools have begun using an N for failing grades, presumably to represent NO CREDIT.
Chromatic variants (+ and −) are often used. In hypomodal grading on a 100-point scale, the prime letter grade is assigned a value centered around the one's digit 5: the + grade is assigned the top values of near the one's digit 9, and the − grade is assigned the bottom values near 0; thus, 80 to 83 is B−, 84 to 86 is B, and 87 to 89 is B+. In straight modal grading on a 4.0 decimal scale, the prime number is the prime letter grade: the + range of the grade begins at X.333 (repeating), rounded to X.30, above the prime number, and the − range of the grade begins at X.666 (repeating), rounded up to X.70, below the prime number: thus, B = 3.0, B+ = 3.3, and B− = 2.7.
The A range is often treated as a special case. In most American schools, a 4.00 is regarded as perfect and the highest GPA one can achieve. Thus, an A, being the prime grade, achieves the mark of a 4.00; for the A+ mark, most schools still assign a value of 4.00, equivalent to the A mark, to prevent deviation from the standard 4.00 GPA system. However, the A+ mark, then, becomes a mark of distinction that has no impact on the student's GPA. A few schools do assign grade values of 4.33, however.
In many American high schools, students may also score above 4.0 if taking advanced, honors, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate classes (for example, a "regular" A would be worth 4 points, but an A earned in an advanced class might be worth 4.5 or 5 points towards the GPA.)
There has been dispute over how colleges should look at grades from previous schools and high schools because one grade in one part of the country might not be the equivalent of a grade in another part of the country. In other words, an "A" might be 90-100 somewhere, and a 94-100 somewhere else. In middle and high schools that do not use a system based on academic credit, the grade point average is computed by taking the mean of all grades. In colleges and universities that use discrete evaluation, the grade point average is calculated by multiplying the quantitative values by the credit value of the correlative course, and then dividing the total by the sum of all credits.
|Speech 101||3||A||3 × 4.0 = 12.0|
|Biology 102||4||B+||4 × 3.3 = 13.2|
|History 103||3||B−||3 × 2.7 = 8.1|
|Physical Education 104||1||C||1 × 2.0 = 2.0|
In a standards-based grading system, a performance standard is set by a committee based on ranking anchor papers and grading rubrics, which demonstrate performance which is below, meeting, or exceeding the "standard." This standard is intended to be a high, world-class level of performance, which must be met by every student regardless of ability or class, although they are actually set by a committee with no reference to any other national standard. Levels are generally assigned numbers between zero and four. Writing papers may be graded separately on content (discussion) and conventions (spelling and grammar). Since grading is not based on a curve distribution, it is entirely possible to achieve a grading distribution in which all students pass and meet the standard. While such grading is generally used only for assessments, they have been proposed for alignment with classroom grading. However, in practice, grading can be much more severe rather than more generous than traditional letter grades. Even after ten years, some states, such as Washington, continue to evaluate over half of their students as "below standard" on the state mathematics assessment.
In Argentina the GPA is calculated bimonthly, per semester or per year. Typically, grades vary between 1 and 10. The minimum grade for approval generally requires 60% which represents a grade 4 at University and 6 at Seconary School(some schools may require 70%). Depending on the University, the admittance may require:
In Brazil The GPA is calculated bimonthly, per semester or per year. Typically, grades vary between 0 and 10. The minimum grade for approval varies between 5.0 (most common in public schools) and 7.0 (most common in private schools; sometimes 6.0). The GPA can not be used for college entrance evaluation. For that, the typical evaluation is a specific exam created by each University known as "vestibular". Some other methods can be used such as ENEM (Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio - National High School Standardized Exam) or PAS (Programa de Avaliação Seriada - Continuous Evaluation Program) according to the choice of the university.
In Chile grades vary from 1.0 and 7.0, minimum passing grade being 4.0. The average GPA from grades 9th-12th, called the "NEM", is used for college entrance, along with the college admission test, PSU (Prueba de Selección Universitaria - University Selection Test).
In Hong Kong, the system of grade point average (GPA) is used in universities:
Some universities don't include A+ in the grades, or set the grade point of A+ to be 4.00, so that the maximum GPA attainable is 4.00 instead of 4.30. Some universities use a 12-point system called "CGA" instead. Some universities do not include minus grades (i.e., no A-, B-, C-) and the grade point of A+, B+, C+, D+ is 4.5, 3.5, 2.5, 1.5 respectively.
In Russia, Ukraine, Hungary and likely many of the former Soviet Union (with the notable exception of Moldova, that switched to the Romanian system) and some countries formerly associated with the Eastern Bloc, close variations of a five-point grading scale is used:
Qualifiers + and - are often used to add some degree of differentiation between the grades: e.g., 4+ is better than 4, but a little worse than 5-. Grading varies greatly from school to school, university to university, and even teacher to teacher, and tends to be entirely subjective, even for courses that lend themselves to objective marking, such as mathematics and applied sciences. Even though the grades technically range from 1 to 5, 1 is not common and is rarely given for academic reasons—in many cases, a 1 is given as a result of failure to show up for or to complete an exam. A 2 grade usually means that the student showed no or little knowledge in a subject (in Russia/Ukraine, but not in Hungary).
It may be worth mentioning that 1 is somewhat an exotic grade in Russian schools, but it does exist officially. The mostly used grades are 5 to 2. + and - modifiers follow the same tendency; they are used rarely in middle school, and almost never in colleges or universities. Some institutions and teachers (excluding Russia), unsatisfied with the five-point scale, work with various larger ones, but these grading systems are not recognized by the state and require conversion for official use.
It is necessary to understand that, in Russian universities, all of the courses are compulsory subjects. There are no electives in the sense of the Western system available in Russia. However, very rarely in some universities are there certain subjects that are not graded at all. Such subjects could be interpreted as additional electives, because they are not compulsory, do not contribute towards the degree, and will not be mentioned in the final degree paper (diploma). However, the grade ‘Attended’ is issued if the attendance requirements are met by a student.
The majority of subjects are graded on a ‘Pass/No pass’ (Credit/No Credit) basis (зачёт/незачёт, pronounced as "zach`ot/nezach`ot"), and the rest is graded in terms of numbers. The 'Pass/No Pass" grades do not have any official numeric representation. When "zachot"- (credit- or pass-) type subjects are graded as ‘Pass/Not pass,’ this simply represents a student's good or poor knowledge of a subject. Each university implements its own understanding of the appropriate level of knowledge a student should have in order to pass studied subjects. Students in Russia must pass all of the offered subjects in order to graduate.
Due to several ways to translate the word "zachet" from Russian into English (it can be translated as "credit" or "pass"), this type of grading is the source of problems for Russian students applying to Western universities. Such grades may confuse Western universities and make it difficult to correctly calculate students' GPA in terms of Western systems.
In the past recent years, some of these countries (excluding Russia) have started to implement the following grading system:
|New System||Old System|
At most universities and colleges, the United Arab Emirates' grading system is very similar to the United States' system. See Education in the United Arab Emirates for more information.
In Albania, grades from 1 (sometimes 0) to 10 are used, with some schools allowing decimals (up to the hundredth digit) and some others only allowing whole numbers.
In high schools, the year is divided into three trimesters and classes are usually yearlong. Students need an average of 6.00 or higher in the three trimestral exams to avoid having to take a final to pass the class. In the event of a student scoring less than 6.00 in the 3rd trimester, he or she would have to take a final exam, regardless of average. This is considered controversial, since the last trimestral exam is not more important than the first two, but the rule stands to prevent students who have already reached the minimum average (e.g., two 10.00 in the first two give a student the lowest possible average of 6.33) from not making an effort during the last three months of the year.
In Bulgaria, the following grade scale is used in schools:
For exact grading, two positions after the decimal point are used; thus, grades as, e.g., Poor (2.50), or Excellent (5.75), are common. Every passing grade at or above the .50 mark is prefixed with the term of the higher grade. The minimum is 2.00; grades below 3.00 are failing grades, and the maximum is 6.00.
Roughly, the Bulgarian grade system can be equated to the American one as the following: 6=A, 5=B, 4=C, 3=D, and 2=F.
The current scale, syv-trins-skalaen ("7-step-scale"), was introduced in 2007, replacing the old 13-skalaen ("13-scale"). The new scale is designed to be compatible with the ECTS-scale.
Syv-trins-skalaen consists of seven different grades, ranging from 12 to -3, with 12 being the highest:
|00||inadequate||03 & 5||Fx|
|02||adequate||the minimum acceptable (minimum passing grade)||6||E|
|4||fair||numerous significant flaws, slightly below average||7||D|
|7||good||numerous flaws (8 = average performance)||8 & 9||C|
|10||excellent||few significant flaws||10||B|
|12||outstanding||none or few insignificant flaws||11 & 13||A|
This new scale remains a absolute scale, meaning that, proportions are not taken into consideration.
|Percentage Range||Grade|| Points for |
| Points for |
| Points for|
|90 – 100||A1||100||60||20|
|85 – 89.9||A2||90||50||15|
|80 – 84.9||B1||85||45||10|
|75 – 79.9||B2||80||40||5|
|70 – 74.9||B3||75||35||0|
|65 – 69.9||C1||70||30||0|
|60 – 64.9||C2||65||25||0|
|55 – 59.9||C3||60||20||0|
|50 – 54.9||D1||55||15||0|
|45 – 49.9||D2||50||10||0|
|40 – 44.9||D3||45||5||0|
|25 – 39.9||E||0||0||0|
|10 – 24.9||F||0||0||0|
|0 – 9.9||NG||0||0||0|
Any score below 10% is classed as NG or No Grade.
At Higher Level, a C grade and above is considered an 'Honour' grade.
Leaving Certificate results are measured by the number of 'points' awarded to the student. It is usually the amount of points awarded to the student that forms the basis for the student's acceptance or otherwise into a course of higher education (e.g., a university degree course).
A number of points between 0 and 100 are awarded to the student for each Leaving Certificate exam sat. The student then combines the points from his or her six top scoring exams, giving a final total score between 0 and 600. The number of points awarded for a particular grade depend on whether the student sat for the exam for the 'Higher Level' course or the 'Ordinary Level' course. The number of points awarded for each grade at the two levels are as follows:
Anything below a D3 is considered a failing grade, and no points are awarded.
In The Netherlands, grades from 1.0 up to 10.0 are used, with 1 being worst and 10 being best. The grades 9 and 10 are hardly ever given on examinations (on average, a 9 is awarded in only 1.5%, and a 10 in 0.5% of cases). Generally, either one or two decimal places are used, and a +/− means a quarter (rounded to either 0.8 or 0.3 if only one decimal place is used). Thus, a grade of 6.75 (or 6.8) could be written as 7−, whereas a grade of 7+ would count for 7.25 or 7.3.
The grade scale with the labels:
Usually 5.5 constitutes a pass, whereas 5.4 and below constitute a fail. If no decimal places are used, 6 and up is a pass and 5 and below is a fail. Sometimes, when no decimal place is used, an additional grade, 6−, is used as "barely passed." In contrast with the usual interpretation as a 5.75, this grade represents what would have been a 5.5 if a decimal place were used. In some other situations, the decimal point is expressly forbidden to be used for any grade between 5.0 and 6.0, so that graders are forced to specify a clear pass/fail decision.
An alternative system classifies grades of 6.0 and up as always passing, but also allows one or two classes in a school year with a score between 5.0 and 6.0. However, the average of all grades over the year must be over 6.0. If students do not reach the average of 6.0 or have more than two courses with a score between 5.0 and 6.0, a secondary exam must be taken to pass the failing classes. A score below 5.0 is always insufficient and the exam must be retaken.
Depending on the grade, several honors are available, including met genoegen and cum laude. This honor system is typically only used at universities. For an average grade of at least 7, but not meeting the criteria for cum laude, met genoegen (with pleasure) is sometimes awarded; this is strongly dependent on the criteria the university maintains. The criteria for the cum laude honor vary as well, usually requiring at least an 8 or 8.5 average grade. Various other conditions often apply as well, such as the condition of receiving no grades below a certain limit (6 or 7), or completing within certain time restrictions.
When different variations of cum laude are used, the degree of honor is usually dependent on the average grades over the school year. Usually, if the average score of the student is at least an 8.0, but less than 8.5 over the whole school year, the honor cum laude is awarded. If the grade is over 8.5, but less than 9.0(or 9.5 in some schools), magna cum laude is awarded. Lastly, if the grade is over 9.0 (or 9.5 in some schools), summa cum laude is awarded.
Australian primary and secondary schools are currently migrating to a common reporting and assessment format. Education is the responsibility of the states in Australia. In 2005 the Federal Government introduced a universal common assessment and reporting standards legislation that all states had to adhere to. The grading system is now structured as follows, though the percentages are only an approximate guide:
Most Australian tertiary institutions use close variations of the following grading structure:
Many courses also have Non-Graded Pass (NGP) and Non-Graded Fail (F), in which it is considered more appropriate to have qualitative than quantitative assessment. However, in some universities, an F1 category may be given a 'Pass Conceded' if the student's Weighted Average is greater than a nominated threshold. (More often than not, this is around the 53-55 range.)
Grade point averages are not generally used in Australia below a tertiary level. They are calculated according to more complicated formula than some other nations:
Grade Point Average (GPA) = Sum of (grade points × course unit values) / total number of credit points attempted, in which grade points are as follows:
At some universities, such as University of Technology, Sydney, a GPA calculation out of 4 is calculated, whereby 4.0 = a High Distinction; 3.0 is a Distinction, 2.0 is a Credit, and 1.0 is a pass. In certain faculties, such as law, it is therefore possible to graduate with "honours" with a GPA of less than 2.5.
Whenever a course result is a Non-Graded Pass, the result will normally be disregarded in GPA calculation.
The term course unit values is used to distinguish between courses which have different weightings e.g. between a full year course and a single semester course.
The High School Certificate system varies from state to state. For example, in New South Wales, the UAI (Universities Admissions Index) determines tertiary positions. Government Supported Positions are given to students that achieve above a certain UAI threshold. (An example of this is a UAI of 85 for Civil Engineering at the University of New South Wales.) The value of the UAI corresponds with the percentile the student is placed within the state of New South Wales.
By contrast, in Queensland, graduating Year 12 students are awarded an OP of between 1 and 27, 1 being the most coveted; students are allocated their OP by means of a summation of marks from all their year 12 (and in some cases, year 11) courses, and also from the QCS ([Queensland Core Skills]) test, this being a series of four tests held at the end of secondary education.
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