Iceland Grading System

High School Grade Scale

The Icelandic grading system for high secondary education (often referred to as upper secondary school or gymnasia) is distinctive and varies slightly from the scales used in higher education. Here’s an overview in a table format to clarify the grading scale:

Iceland GradesComparable English TermsEquivalent Percentage RangeEquivalent GPA
9Very Good85-92%3.7

Some schools might use ‘+’ and ‘-‘ to denote variations within these grades, providing a more nuanced evaluation of a student’s performance.

College Grade Scale

At the college or university level in Iceland, the grading scale slightly differs to reflect a more granular assessment of students’ academic work:

Iceland GradesComparable English TermsEquivalent Percentage RangeEquivalent GPA
BVery Good80-89%3.5

Please note, the usage of letter grades (A-F) aligns more closely with international grading scales at the higher education level, facilitating the comparison and transfer of grades between Icelandic institutions and universities abroad. Similar to high schools, certain universities may also apply ‘+’ and ‘-‘ signs to grades to provide further detail on students’ achievements.

In both high schools and universities, these grades are critical in assessing students’ academic performance, eligibility for further study, and scholarship opportunities. Each grade reflects not just a numerical value but a qualitative measure of understanding and mastery of course material.

Understanding Grades in Iceland

Diving into the significance of each grade in the Icelandic education system offers insight into the academic expectations and achievements of students. Here’s what each grade level signifies:

Excellent (10/A) 🌟

The pinnacle of academic achievement, an “Excellent” grade signifies a student’s superior understanding and mastery of the subject matter. These students demonstrate exceptional skills, comprehensive knowledge, and the ability to apply concepts in complex situations.

Very Good (9/B) 👍

Students receiving a “Very Good” grade have a strong grasp of the course content, showing above-average comprehension and the capability to apply knowledge effectively. They may occasionally exhibit innovative thinking and problem-solving skills.

Good (8/C) 🙂

A “Good” grade indicates a solid understanding of the material. These students perform well on assessments and understand the majority of concepts taught, with occasional minor misunderstandings.

Satisfactory (7/D) ✔

Achieving a “Satisfactory” grade means the student has met the basic requirements of the course. They understand the fundamental concepts but may struggle with more complex ideas or applications.

Adequate (6/E) ✅

An “Adequate” grade reflects a minimal passing level where the student has a basic comprehension of the subject sufficient to progress. Their grasp of more challenging content may be limited.

Passing (5) ↔️

A “Passing” grade, specifically at the high school level, indicates that a student has achieved the minimum required score to pass the course but may not have a strong understanding of the material.

Fail (0-4/F) ❌

A “Fail” grade signifies that a student has not met the required minimum to pass. It reflects a significant gap in understanding or failure to complete coursework to a satisfactory standard.

Understanding these grades in the context of Iceland’s educational system is crucial for students, parents, and educators alike. It provides a framework for setting expectations, guiding academic efforts, and evaluating progress throughout one’s educational journey. Each grade not only measures academic performance but also offers insights into areas of strength and opportunities for improvement.

Iceland Grade Comparison

Comparing the Icelandic grading system with those of other countries can provide valuable insights for international students, educators, and professionals involved in academic exchanges. Here’s how the Icelandic grades typically align with grading systems in the US, UK, India, Australia, Canada, and China:

High School Grade Scale Comparison

Iceland GradesUS GradesUK Grades (GCSE)India Grades (CBSE, %)Australia GradesCanada GradesChina Grades (Percentage)

College Grade Scale Comparison

Iceland GradesUS GradesUK Grades (Degree)India Grades (UGC)Australia GradesCanada GradesChina Grades (Percentage)
AAFirst-Class Honours60% and aboveHigh DistinctionA85-100%
BBUpper Second-Class Honours (2:1)55-59%DistinctionB75-84%
CCLower Second-Class Honours (2:2)50-54%CreditC65-74%
DDThird-Class Honours45-49%PassD60-64%
EEPass40-44%Pass (Conceded)E55-59%
FFFailBelow 40%FailFBelow 55%

This comparison highlights the diversity in grading systems across countries, reflecting different educational cultures and evaluation standards. While direct conversion isn’t always linear due to these differences, the table provides a general guide for understanding how Icelandic grades might translate internationally.

Please note that the comparison is indicative and actual conversions, especially for purposes like university admissions or job applications, may require a more detailed analysis or official evaluation from educational institutions or professional bodies.

Special Grading Considerations:

The Icelandic education system, like any other, encompasses a variety of practices and considerations that reflect its unique cultural, institutional, and educational values. These variations can be found across different states, schools, and even between individual teachers. Understanding these nuances is crucial for grasping the full picture of how grading operates within Iceland.

Variations Across School Types

  • Public vs. Private Institutions: There might be slight differences in grading policies between public and private schools. Private institutions sometimes adopt more rigorous standards or different grading scales to distinguish their academic rigor.
  • Vocational vs. Academic Tracks: Vocational and academic tracks may have different assessment criteria, reflecting the practical skills focus versus theoretical knowledge emphasis, respectively. This can influence grading practices and interpretations of grades.

Teacher Discretion

Teachers in Iceland, as in many countries, have a degree of discretion in how they grade. This can include the weight given to different types of assessments (e.g., projects vs. exams), the consideration of effort and improvement over time, and the use of plus/minus variations to provide a more nuanced evaluation of student performance. Such discretion emphasizes the importance of understanding individual course syllabi and grading criteria.

Handling Failing Grades

  • Remediation and Retakes: Students receiving failing grades often have opportunities for remediation, including additional tutoring, re-submission of assignments, or retaking exams. Policies on retakes and remediation vary by school but are generally aimed at supporting student success.
  • Impact on Advancement: Failing grades in core subjects may require students to repeat a course or year, depending on the school’s policies and the student’s overall performance. In some cases, schools offer specialized support to help students catch up and successfully reintegrate with their peers.

Impact on University Admissions

  • Grade Weighting: Some universities may weight grades from certain subjects more heavily, depending on the program of study. For example, science grades might be more critical for admission to a science program.
  • Holistic Admissions: Beyond grades, Icelandic universities often consider other factors in admissions, such as personal statements, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular achievements. This holistic approach recognizes that grades are just one part of a student’s academic and personal story.

Understanding these special grading considerations offers insight into the flexibility and diversity of the Icelandic education system. It highlights the system’s efforts to accommodate different learning styles, provide equal opportunities for success, and ensure that grading reflects a comprehensive view of student achievement.


Q: What is the passing grade in Icelandic high schools?
A: The minimum passing grade in Icelandic high schools is generally a 5 on a scale of 0-10. However, the passing criteria might vary slightly depending on the school’s specific grading policy.

Q: Can grades from Iceland be directly compared to grades from other countries?
A: While I provided a comparison table earlier, it’s essential to note that direct comparison may not always be accurate due to differences in grading standards and educational systems. Official transcript evaluations or consultations with educational institutions are recommended for precise equivalency.

Q: How do universities in Iceland consider grades for admission?
A: Icelandic universities typically look at an applicant’s grades as part of a holistic review process that may also include personal statements, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities. The importance of grades can vary by program and university.

Q: Are there opportunities to improve failing grades in Iceland?
A: Yes, students who receive failing grades often have opportunities to improve their scores through remediation measures such as retaking exams, submitting additional work, or participating in tutoring sessions. Policies on improvement options vary by school.

Q: How does the grading system affect students transferring from abroad?
A: Students transferring from abroad may have their previous grades evaluated and converted into the Icelandic grading system. This process takes into account the differences between educational systems to ensure a fair assessment of the student’s academic achievements.

Q: Is there a significant difference between public and private school grading in Iceland?
A: While both public and private schools adhere to the national curriculum, there might be slight differences in grading policies and standards. Private schools may implement additional criteria or maintain a different grading scale to distinguish their academic programs.

Q: How are plus and minus grades used in Iceland?
A: Plus (+) and minus (-) grades are used by some schools and teachers in Iceland to provide more detailed feedback on student performance within the main grading categories. However, their use and interpretation can vary, and not all institutions apply them.

Understanding these frequently asked questions can provide a clearer view of the Icelandic grading system and its nuances, helping students, parents, and educators navigate the educational landscape with more confidence.

Additional Resources

For those looking to delve deeper into the Icelandic education system and its grading scales, several official and authoritative resources can provide extensive information and guidance:

  1. The Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture ( As the primary government body overseeing education in Iceland, their website offers comprehensive details on educational policies, including grading standards. It’s an essential resource for understanding the regulatory framework of Icelandic education.
  2. The Directorate of Education ( This website serves as a portal for various educational resources in Iceland, including curricula and assessment guidelines across different levels of education. It’s particularly useful for educators seeking detailed insights into the national curriculum and grading criteria.
  3. University of Iceland ( As the largest university in Iceland, its admissions page provides valuable information on how grades from secondary education are assessed for university admissions. This can be a helpful resource for prospective students planning to pursue higher education in Iceland.
  4. Reykjavik University ( Another major higher education institution, Reykjavik University offers insights into its grading system and how it compares to international standards, useful for international students considering studying in Iceland.
  5. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) – TOEFL ( While not specific to Iceland, ETS provides information on English language proficiency testing, which might be relevant for non-Icelandic speakers looking to study in Iceland. Their resources can help in preparing for necessary language proficiency tests.

These websites offer a wealth of information for anyone interested in understanding more about the Icelandic educational system, from grading scales to admissions processes and beyond. Whether you’re a student, educator, or simply curious about education in Iceland, these resources can provide authoritative insights and guidance.