Explained: UK Grading System (Undergrad)

With some variations, you’ll probably all be used to the good old fashioned American GPA system. An “A” is four points, a “B” is three points, a “C” is two points and so on down to F – nice and easy so it’s probably the same in the UK right? Nope.

Although many secondary schools in the UK do use the traditional A-F system (though they don’t use GPAs) this is not the system employed by universities. Instead, there are different classifications that correspond to what marks you get. Though the grade boundaries may vary based on your course and university, the basic system works like this:

Classification

Abbreviation

Mark Range

First Class Honours

1st

70%+

Upper Second Class Honours

2:1 (read “two-one”)

60-69%

Lower Second Class Honours

2:2 (read “two-two”)

50-59%

Third Class Honours

3rd

40-49%

Ordinary/Unclassified (No Honours)

35-40%

Fail

<35%

Under this system your marks in each class will be put through some sort of formula to determine an overall classification for your degree. So rather than saying, “I have a BA in History with a 3.9 GPA,” you would say “I have a BA in History with First Class Honours.” Or perhaps more colloquially, “I got a first in History.” Any degree that is third class or higher is an “honours degree” and so you will also see people write, for example, that they studied for a “BA (Hons) History”.

One important point to note is that the first year of university is almost always assessed pass/fail and thus does not count toward the classification of your overall degree. Typically second year is weighted less than third year, and so on, with the idea that you should be given more credit for more difficult material. Yes, you read that right, first year doesn’t count.

Another key difference between the US and UK systems is that for most arts and humanities subjects your grade for any given class will probably be determined by a single, hand-written exam. The concept of midterms and finals (and multiple choice tests with Scantrons) is not really a thing in the UK. Instead it all rides on that one exam. This may not be the case at every university or for every course, but it is a good indicator of the general trend.

If those percentages are making you feel complacent then be careful! Getting a 70 on a test in the US might not be difficult (and wouldn’t be much to brag about either) but in the UK a mark of 70% is much harder to obtain, hence it corresponds to a grade much better than the C it would get you at an American school.

For reference, here’s a rough table of how the UK classifications equate to a range of American GPAs:

GPA

UK Module marks

UK degree classification

GPA

4

70+

First class honours (First)

4

3.7

65-69

Upper-second class honours (2:1)

3.7

3.3

60-64

Upper-second class honours (2:1)

3.3

3

55-59

Lower-second class honours (2:2)

3

2.7

50-54

Lower-second class honours (2:2)

2.7

2.3

45-49

Third class honours (Third)

2.3

2

40-44

Third class honours (Third)

2

1

35-39

Ordinary/Unclassified

1

0

<35

Fail

0

Source: The US-UK Fulbright Commission

[NB: This is not an official conversion chart. Neither the US-UK Fulbright Commission nor Tales of Tier 4 are credential evaluators and cannot guarantee how individual UK universities will interpret US qualifications.]

This post should have given you a rough idea of how grading works for undergraduate degrees in the UK but if there’s something you’re still confused about please do leave a comment below!

 

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