United-Kingdom Grading System

High School Grade Scale

The United Kingdom’s grading system for high secondary education (often referred to as GCSEs for ages 14-16, and A-Levels for ages 16-18) is distinct and widely recognized globally. Below is a table outlining the main grade scales used, along with comparable English terms, equivalent percentage ranges, and GPA (Grade Point Average) where applicable. Note that variations such as ‘+’ and ‘-‘ within certain schools are used to provide more granularity but are not officially part of the national grading system.

United-Kingdom GradesComparable English TermsEquivalent Percentage RangeEquivalent GPA
A* (A-star)Excellent90-100%4.0
AVery Good80-89%3.7
DBelow Average50-59%2.3
FFailBelow 40%1.0

College Grade Scale

At the college or university level, the grading system in the United Kingdom can vary more significantly between institutions, but a common framework is the First, Upper Second, Lower Second, and Third class honors system for undergraduate degrees. Here’s a breakdown of these grades:

United-Kingdom GradesComparable English TermsEquivalent Percentage RangeEquivalent GPA
First-Class Honours (1st)Outstanding70-100%4.0
Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1)Very Good60-69%3.3-3.7
Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2)Good50-59%2.7-3.2
Third-Class Honours (3rd)Satisfactory40-49%2.0-2.6
FailFailBelow 35%0.0

It’s important to keep in mind that some universities and courses may also use a more detailed letter grading system (similar to the high school scale) or a numerical system (0-100) for individual modules or assessments, with the overall degree classification based on a weighted average of these grades.

Understanding Grades in United-Kingdom

Delving deeper into the meaning behind each grade in the United Kingdom’s education system can provide students, parents, and international observers with a clearer picture of academic performance standards. Here’s what each grade generally signifies:

🌟 A* (A-star) – Excellent

The A* grade is reserved for exceptional achievement, indicating a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter, along with the ability to apply knowledge in a way that exceeds the standard expectations. Students demonstrating creativity, critical thinking, and the skill to tackle complex problems typically earn this grade.

🎓 A – Very Good

This grade signifies a very high level of understanding and accomplishment in the subject area. It reflects strong knowledge and the ability to apply concepts effectively, though with slightly less perfection than the A* grade.

👍 B – Good

A ‘B’ grade indicates a good understanding of the course material, with the ability to apply relevant skills competently. It suggests that the student has met the main objectives of the course with a solid performance.

✔️ C – Average

Earning a ‘C’ grade means the student has achieved an average understanding and ability to apply key concepts of the subject. It’s considered a satisfactory level of performance, meeting the basic requirements.

✏️ D – Below Average

This grade points to a below-average understanding of the subject, with limited ability to apply concepts. It suggests that the student has struggled in certain areas, though some grasp of the material is evident.

🚩 E – Poor

An ‘E’ grade indicates poor performance, where the student has met only the minimum criteria at best. It shows significant gaps in understanding and application of the subject matter.

❌ F – Fail

A failing grade means that the student has not met the required minimum standards of the course. It indicates a lack of understanding and insufficient application of the subject material.

Understanding these grades in the context of the United Kingdom’s education system is crucial for accurately interpreting academic performance. Each grade reflects a range of skills and understanding, providing a detailed picture of a student’s strengths and areas for improvement.

United-Kingdom Grade Comparison

To place the United Kingdom’s grading system in a global context, it’s helpful to compare it with the grading systems of other countries. This comparison can be particularly useful for international students, educators, and professionals who are navigating between educational standards. Below is a table that compares United-Kingdom grades with the grading systems of the US, UK, India, Australia, Canada, and China.

United-Kingdom GradesUS GradesUK GradesIndia GradesAustralia GradesCanada GradesChina Grades
A* (A-star)A+First-Class HonoursAbove 90%High Distinction (HD)A+A+
AAUpper Second-Class Honours (2:1)75-89%Distinction (D)AA
BB+Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2)60-74%Credit (C)BA-
CBThird-Class Honours50-59%Pass (P)CB
FFFailBelow 40%Fail (F)FF

Notes on Comparison:

  • US Grades: The US grading system often uses letter grades with pluses and minuses. The A+ grade corresponds to exceptional performance, similar to the UK’s A*.
  • UK Grades: This column reflects the higher education grading system in the United Kingdom itself, emphasizing the distinction between undergraduate honours degrees.
  • India Grades: India’s grading system can vary significantly between institutions, but generally, grades above 90% are considered excellent.
  • Australia Grades: Australia uses a combination of letters and terms like ‘High Distinction’ and ‘Distinction’ for high achievements.
  • Canada Grades: Canada’s grading system resembles that of the United States but can vary between provinces and institutions.
  • China Grades: The grading system in China typically ranges from A+ to F, with a strong emphasis on examination performance.

This comparison should be taken as a general guideline rather than a strict equivalence, as grading standards and interpretations can vary widely even within countries based on the institution and specific program of study.

Special Grading Considerations

In the United Kingdom, the grading system can exhibit variations across different states, regions, and types of schools, as well as among individual teachers within a school. Understanding these nuances is crucial for a comprehensive grasp of how grades are awarded and what they signify.

Variations Across States and School Types

The UK is composed of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, each with its own education system and, consequently, grading scales. For example, Scotland uses the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) system, which differs from the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and A-levels found in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. These differences are not just nominal but extend to the structure of the curriculum, the assessment methods, and the grading scales.

Teacher Discretion

Within schools, teachers may have some discretion in grading, especially in subjects that involve subjective assessment criteria (e.g., essays in English or history). However, this discretion is typically guided by marking schemes and moderation processes to ensure fairness and consistency.

Handling of Failing Grades

Failing grades are handled with a particular sensitivity in the UK education system. Schools and universities often provide support mechanisms for students who are struggling, including feedback sessions, additional tutoring, and the opportunity to retake examinations or submit coursework. The aim is to support learning and improvement, rather than merely penalize failure.

Grading Practices

Grading practices can also vary depending on the level of education. For instance, at the university level, grades are often determined by a combination of coursework, examinations, and final projects or dissertations. The weighting of these components can vary significantly between courses and institutions. Additionally, some universities use a more granular grading scale for assignments and exams, which can then be translated into the broader classification system for final degree awards.

It’s important for students and educators alike to be aware of these variations and to understand the specific grading policies of their institution or region. This knowledge can help in setting realistic expectations, preparing effectively for assessments, and interpreting grades accurately.


Q: What does an A* grade signify in the UK?
A: An A* grade represents exceptional achievement, indicating a comprehensive understanding and application of the subject matter, exceeding standard expectations.

Q: How is the university grading system in the UK different from high school grading?
A: University grading in the UK typically uses classifications (First-Class Honours, Upper Second-Class Honours, etc.) for degrees, unlike the letter grades (A*, A, B, etc.) used in secondary education.

Q: Can I retake my exams if I receive a failing grade?
A: Yes, most schools and universities offer opportunities to retake exams or resubmit coursework to improve your grade, though specific policies may vary.

Q: How does grading vary across the UK?
A: The UK consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, each with its own education system and grading scales, such as GCSEs and A-Levels in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and Nationals and Highers in Scotland.

Q: Are plus (+) and minus (-) grades used in the UK grading system?
A: Officially, the UK secondary education system does not use plus and minus signs with letter grades, but some universities and individual teachers might use them informally to provide more detailed feedback.

Q: What is considered a good grade at the university level in the UK?
A: A First-Class Honours (1st) is considered outstanding, and an Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1) is viewed as a very good achievement and is often a minimum requirement for postgraduate study and competitive job markets.

Q: How do I convert my UK grades to the GPA system?
A: Converting UK grades to the GPA system involves mapping the UK’s letter grades or degree classifications to the 4.0 scale used in the GPA system, though there is no universally accepted method and conversion can vary by institution.

Q: What support is available for students with failing grades?
A: Schools and universities typically offer various support mechanisms, including additional tutoring, feedback sessions, and opportunities to retake exams or resubmit assignments.

Additional Resources

For students, educators, and academic professionals looking to delve deeper into the specifics of the United Kingdom’s grading system or seeking official guidelines and support, several reputable resources are available online. Here’s a list of helpful websites, primarily from .edu or .gov domains within the UK, offering detailed information about the grading scales, comparisons, and educational standards:

  1. GOV.UK Education and Learning Sectionhttps://www.gov.uk/browse/education
    This official government website provides comprehensive information on the UK education system, including grading scales, qualifications frameworks, and guidance for students from both the UK and abroad.
  2. UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service)https://www.ucas.com
    UCAS is the central organization through which applications are processed for entry into higher education. It offers guides on university grading systems, entry requirements, and advice on understanding different qualifications.
  3. British Councilhttps://www.britishcouncil.org
    The British Council provides resources for international students, including explanations of the UK grading system, scholarship opportunities, and tips for adapting to academic life in the UK.
  4. Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) – Now part of the Department for Education, this resource offered detailed insights into curriculum standards and qualifications across the UK. For updated information, visit the Department for Education’s website at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education.
  5. The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)https://www.sqa.org.uk
    For those specifically interested in Scotland’s education system, the SQA website provides detailed information on Scottish qualifications, grading scales, and assessment methods.
  6. Education Authority Northern Irelandhttp://www.eani.org.uk
    This site offers insights into the education system in Northern Ireland, including details on GCSEs, A-Levels, and the grading system used in Northern Irish schools.

These resources can provide valuable guidance and clarification on the nuances of the United Kingdom’s educational grading system, whether you’re a local student navigating your academic journey or an international student or professional looking to understand or integrate into the UK’s educational landscape.