As you begin to study at a university in the United Kingdom (UK), you may not be aware of what the grading system actually is in the UK educational system. As opposed to the system in North America, all grades higher than 70% are seen as very high in the grading system in the United Kingdom. Only a tiny percentage of the students here will achieve this.

You will most likely be tested using assessments on a continuous basis. You will be assessed on your projects, participation in coursework, examinations, etc. By the time you finish your course, you will have a grade that reflects the achievement you have made overall.

UK Grading System Specifics

The UK has a grading scheme used for all undergraduate (bachelor) degrees as well as master’s degrees. This system has also been applied throughout other nations and vary from country to country. As you apply for a degree in the United Kingdom, you should always realize that you can apply for either a regular or honors degree. The honors degree is the most popular. In the UK, when you going for a regular degree, your aim should be to pass the subject you are studying. If unable to pass, you will not receive a failing grade, but you will not earn that specific degree in the grading system in the UK.

The honors program of study is designed to give students a degree and it specifies an achievement level and specialty in that specific subject. Because of this, you will find that the honors degree is a popular choice that will offer an employer the chance to gain an understanding of your knowledge and competency in an area.

UK students will be awarded according to one level or another based on the following which is a reflection of their average overall (these will slightly vary for different colleges).

First-Class Honors (Honours), 70% or higher

In most colleges, First-Class Honors (FCH) will be the level that is the highest achievable level of honors. Fewer colleges will award FCH with Distinction which is also referred to a starred first degree in many colleges. You will see that a double first distinction can relate to an FCH in two different areas such as Math and Classics.

Second Class Honours: 50% – 70%

  • Second-Class Honors (Honours) (SCH), Upper 60 to 70%
  • Second-Class Honors (Honours) (SCH), Lower 50 to 59%

Most graduates will fall into the SCH which is divided into Upper SCH and then Lower SCH. These unique divisions will be abbreviated to two-one (2:1) and two-two (2:2). Most times, employers are going to look for one distinction or the other.

Third-Class Honors (Honours) (TCH): 45% to 49%

TCH is known for being the lowest of the honors system classification in the majority of modern colleges. The passing rate is 40%-44% and the Failing rate is for any grade received that is 39% or lower.

This is a typical scale of grading system in the United Kingdom:

  • A distinction will be higher than 70%
  • Commendation/Merit will be between 60 and 70%
  • Passing is 50 to 59%
  • Failing is 50% or lower

When comparing to the American grading system, the UK uses these averages which are the most common:

  • A – grade of at least 70%
  • B+ / A – 60 to 70%
  • B – 50 to 59%
  • C+ – 45% to 49%
  • C – 40% to 44%
  • Failing – anything below 39%

Check Also: United Kingdom Courses for International Students

United Kingdom Academic System

You are going to experience many different styles of learning and teaching when you are studying in the UK. First, you are going to read a broad topic and then research that topic thoroughly in order to show an understanding of the ideas you have learned. Then you will need to describe and analyze them.  You will probably have time spent between seminars, lectures, workshops, and tutorials, studio time, and laboratory sessions. This will depend on what subjects you are learning about.

You will find that the UK academic system focuses on learning by yourself independently and teaching yourself. Therefore, you will be expected to work along for a great deal of time out of the classroom. Other than a syllabus, a professor may give you a reading list of suggestions that will be mandatory for you.

You should research topics and take notes in addition to your work and reading out of the classroom. Always be prepared to discuss this material, particularly if you are in graduate school. Your advisors and your graduate supervisors are going to be available to assist you, but you need to decide on the amount of time you need to invest and plan your studies accordingly. You will be expected to serve in an active role in your own independent education and learning.

As an undergraduate student, there are many chances for you to communicate with other peers and professors during seminars, labs, and tutorials which will promote discussions in a smaller setting. It is important for you to remember that professors will discourage you from visiting outside of their usual work hours. You should talk about the studies with your professors and pose any questions to them about the specifics of the course material.

Since there is not too much room for deviation in the system, you will often rise to another degree level or class, depending on whether or not your grades are close enough to the next higher class available. Alternatively, you will go down a notch if you do not pass all the parts of a given course, regardless of your grade averages. There are some colleges in which the candidates successfully work on completing more than one year of study for a degree but then opt not to complete that degree completely. In those cases, you may be given a qualification that is lower.

It is necessary for you to have a full understanding of the grading system in the UK in order to avoid misunderstandings, especially if you are comparing UK grades with another country’s system of grading. The information above covers the different aspects of their UK grading system, honors, and teaching to give you a clear understanding. I hope that this information was helpful!


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