Japan Grading System

High School Grade Scale

In Japanese high schools, the grading system can vary slightly from school to school, but a common scale used is as follows. Note that some schools might implement ‘+’ and ‘-‘ to further distinguish the grades within these categories.

Japan GradesComparable English TermsEquivalent Percentage RangeGPA (on 4.0 scale)
AExcellent80-89%3.0 – 3.9
BGood70-79%2.0 – 2.9
CSatisfactory60-69%1.0 – 1.9
DPassing50-59%0.0 – 0.9
FFailureBelow 50%0.0

It’s important to note that the ‘S’ grade is not universally used and might be found in more rigorous or competitive institutions.

College Grade Scale

At the college or university level, the grading system becomes slightly more nuanced, often including plus and minus grades to provide more granularity. Here is a general overview:

Japan GradesComparable English TermsEquivalent Percentage RangeGPA (on 4.0 scale)
BGood70-79%3.0 – 3.9
CSatisfactory60-69%2.0 – 2.9
DPassing50-59%1.0 – 1.9
FFailureBelow 50%0.0

Some universities use the plus/minus system (e.g., A+, A, A-) to provide further differentiation within these categories. The GPA values might also adjust slightly depending on the institution’s specific policies regarding these variations.

It’s important for students to understand that these grades not only reflect their academic performance but also play a significant role in their future opportunities for scholarships, further education, and employment. Different schools and universities might have specific grading policies, so it’s always a good idea to check the institution’s guidelines for the most accurate information.

Understanding Grades in Japan

Grades in Japanese educational institutions, from high schools to universities, serve as a crucial metric for evaluating students’ academic performance. Let’s delve into what each grade typically signifies about a student’s understanding and mastery of the subject matter. 📚✨

S – 🌟 Excellent+

  • High School: Rarely used, an ‘S’ grade denotes exceptional performance, significantly surpassing the standard expectations. Students achieving this grade demonstrate a profound understanding of the material, often going above and beyond in their assignments and examinations.
  • College/University: While not commonly used at this level, an ‘S’ could indicate extraordinary achievement in some institutions, showcasing innovative thinking or research.

A – 🏅 Excellent

  • High School & College/University: This grade reflects a high level of comprehension and ability to apply concepts proficiently. Students with an ‘A’ have mastered the course content and can tackle complex problems effectively. They actively participate in class discussions and produce high-quality work consistently.

B – 👍 Good

  • High School & College/University: ‘B’ signifies a good understanding of the course material, with the ability to apply learned concepts correctly. These students perform well in exams and assignments, though they may occasionally struggle with more challenging aspects. They are above average in their cohort and show a solid grasp of the subject.

C – 👌 Satisfactory

  • High School & College/University: A ‘C’ grade indicates a satisfactory level of understanding. Students at this level grasp the fundamental concepts but may have difficulty with more complex ideas or applications. Their work meets the basic requirements, and they are considered to have passed the course adequately.

D – 🚧 Passing

  • High School & College/University: Students receiving a ‘D’ demonstrate a minimal understanding of the subject, barely meeting the course requirements. They may struggle significantly with the material and need additional support or study to achieve proficiency.

F – ⛔ Failure

  • High School & College/University: An ‘F’ grade signifies that the student has not met the course requirements and has failed to demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the material. This grade often requires the student to retake the course or seek significant additional help to progress.

Understanding these grades is vital for students, as they reflect not just academic performance but also areas for improvement and strengths. Each grade serves as feedback, guiding students on their educational journey toward achieving their goals and understanding where they might need to invest more effort or seek additional support. 📈📘

Japan Grade Comparison

Comparing the Japanese grading system with those of other countries can provide valuable insights, especially for international students or those looking to study abroad. Here’s how Japanese grades generally align with the grading systems in the US, UK, India, Australia, Canada, and China.

Japan GradesUS GradesUK GradesIndia GradesAustralia GradesCanada GradesChina Grades
SA+First-Class HonoursAbove 90%High DistinctionA+A+
AAUpper Second-Class75-89%DistinctionAA
BBLower Second-Class65-74%CreditBB
CCThird-Class Honours55-64%PassCC
DDOrdinary Degree/Pass50-54%Pass ConcededDD
FFFailBelow 50%FailFF

Notes on Comparison:

  • United States: The US grading system often includes plus and minus grades (e.g., A-, B+) for more granularity. The GPA system (on a scale of 4.0) aligns closely with the Japanese scale for equivalent letter grades.
  • United Kingdom: The UK uses classifications for its degrees, with honours degrees divided into first class, upper second class (2:1), lower second class (2:2), and third class. The Japanese ‘S’ grade can be likened to achieving first-class honours, reflecting exceptional academic performance.
  • India: India’s grading system can vary significantly between institutions, with many using a percentage-based system. The grading scale provided aligns with common benchmarks for performance levels in India.
  • Australia: Australia’s grading system includes High Distinction, Distinction, Credit, Pass, and Fail. The comparison is based on general academic standards and performance expectations.
  • Canada: Similar to the US, Canada’s grading system varies by province and institution but generally follows a letter grade system with a GPA scale.
  • China: The grading system in China typically uses a percentage scale or a letter grade system similar to the US. The conversion provided aligns with general equivalencies in academic performance standards.

This comparison offers a broad overview and should be used as a guideline. Specific institutions may have their grading policies, so always check with the relevant educational authorities for the most accurate information.

Special Grading Considerations

In Japan, as in many countries, there are variations in the grading system that depend on the region, type of school, and even individual teachers’ preferences. Understanding these nuances can help students and educators alike navigate the academic landscape more effectively.

Variations Across Prefectures and Schools

  • Regional Differences: While the Japanese Ministry of Education provides general guidelines, local education boards in each prefecture can have their specific rules that influence grading practices. These variations ensure the system accommodates regional educational goals and cultural differences.
  • Public vs. Private Institutions: Private schools and universities may adopt more flexible grading systems compared to their public counterparts. This flexibility allows them to tailor their educational programs to specific pedagogical philosophies or student needs.

Teacher Discretion

Teachers in Japan often have a significant amount of discretion when it comes to assigning grades. Factors such as class participation, effort, improvement over time, and extracurricular involvement can influence final grades alongside exam scores. This holistic approach aims to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of a student’s performance.

Handling of Failing Grades

  • Remedial Support: Students receiving failing grades are typically offered additional support, such as remedial classes or tutoring. These interventions aim to help students address their weaknesses and improve their understanding of the subject matter.
  • Retake Policies: In some cases, students may be allowed to retake exams or complete supplementary assignments to improve their grades. This policy reflects a commitment to mastery learning, where the focus is on achieving a certain level of understanding rather than merely penalizing failure.

Grading in University Admissions

University admissions in Japan can also reflect unique grading considerations. Entrance exams are a critical component, often carrying more weight than high school grades. However, some universities are starting to adopt more holistic admissions processes, considering a broader range of achievements and qualifications.

Understanding these special grading considerations is crucial for students navigating their educational pathways and for educators looking to support their students effectively. Despite the complexities and variations, the overarching goal remains to provide a fair assessment that encourages learning and improvement.


Q: What does a grade of ‘S’ mean in Japan?
A: In the Japanese grading system, an ‘S’ grade stands for “Superior” or “Excellent+” and is above the standard A grade. It indicates exceptional performance, often awarded for extraordinary achievement beyond the regular criteria for an A.

Q: How does the Japanese grading system compare to the GPA system in the US?
A: The Japanese grading system can be roughly translated into the US GPA system, with A (excellent) being equivalent to a 4.0, B (good) to 3.0, C (satisfactory) to 2.0, and D (passing) to 1.0. An ‘S’ grade, where used, would also correspond to a 4.0 but signifies even higher achievement than a standard A.

Q: Can students improve their grades in Japan if they are not satisfied?
A: Yes, students often have opportunities to improve their grades through additional assignments, re-taking exams, or participating in remedial education. The specific policies for grade improvement can vary by school or university.

Q: How are failing grades handled in Japan?
A: Failing grades typically result in the student receiving additional support, such as tutoring or remedial classes. Some institutions may allow students to retake courses or exams to achieve a passing grade.

Q: Do all schools in Japan use the same grading scale?
A: While there is a general framework for grading in Japan, specific scales and the use of grades like ‘S’ can vary between institutions. Private schools, in particular, may have their unique grading policies.

Q: How important are grades for university admissions in Japan?
A: Grades are an important part of university admissions in Japan, but entrance exams play a crucial role as well. Some universities also consider other factors, such as personal statements, interviews, and extracurricular activities, especially with the introduction of more holistic admissions processes.

These FAQs aim to clarify common questions about the Japanese grading system, providing students and educators with a better understanding of academic evaluation in Japan.

Additional Resources

Finding reliable and comprehensive information about the Japanese grading system can be crucial for both local and international students, educators, and parents. Below are some valuable resources, primarily from educational and governmental organizations in Japan, that offer detailed insights into the grading standards, policies, and practices:

1. Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT): http://www.mext.go.jp/en/

  • MEXT oversees education in Japan and provides extensive documentation on educational policies, including grading standards. Their site is a primary source for understanding the educational framework in Japan.

2. Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO): https://www.jasso.go.jp/en/

  • JASSO offers resources for students studying in Japan, including guides on the Japanese education system, scholarships, and living in Japan. Their materials can help international students navigate the grading system.

3. National Institute for Educational Policy Research (NIER): http://www.nier.go.jp/English/

  • NIER conducts research on education in Japan and provides reports and publications that can offer insights into the grading system and its impact on student learning and outcomes.

These websites are authoritative sources that provide reliable information on the Japanese grading system and educational policies. Whether you’re a student planning to study in Japan, a parent trying to understand the academic environment your child will be entering, or an educator looking to compare grading systems, these resources can offer valuable insights and information.