UK Grading System - A Detailed Guide

UK Grading System - A Detailed Guide

Uploaded on
Aug 10, 2022
Last updated on
Mar 9, 2023
Uploaded on
Aug 10, 2022
Last updated on
Mar 9, 2023
UK Grading Sytem - A Detailed Guide
Ace it as you face it!

Were you the one student who worried excessively about your grades? Although we recognise your concerns and anxiety, you should know how different grading systems are in other countries and may also differ from institution to institution within the same nation. Given its prestigious universities, quality education, and assurance of a high standard of grade system to establish a benchmark globally, the UK is a popular destination for students from around the world. In this blog, we decode the UK grading system to help you better navigate through your education in the UK. 

Overview of the UK Grading System 

The grading system in the UK is a numerical or alphabetical scale used to evaluate students' performance in schools, colleges and universities. The British grading system is consistent across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, whereas the Scottish grading system differs from all three. The carefully designed grading system takes into account factors other than academic performance, such as a student's participation in extracurricular activities. Remember that if you plan to study in the UK, you need to know Everything about studying in UK and applying for a UK visa; check out the UK student visa to know more.

Understanding the UK Grading system

Did you know that the UK has a unique education system and grading system? It’s actually one of the reasons why British higher education is so well-regarded around the world. Moreover, many countries have adopted the British Grading system or a variation of it. When you’re looking to study abroad, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the grading system at the university you want to attend. This way, you’ll know how to convert your grades and see how they measure up to the requirements. Don’t stress, though! We’ve got you covered. Here is everything you need to know about the UK Grading System.

What are GCSE?

GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. These are the qualifications obtained by fifteen and sixteen year old’s in the UK at the end of their Year 11 schooling. GCSEs provide a uniform framework for assessment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Schools in Scotland pursue Scottish Qualifications Certificates and Chosen subjects are studied over two years and assessed by final exams or coursework.

While students have the scope to choose some of their GCSE options, several subjects are obligatory. These are known as core subjects and include

  • Maths 
  • English Literature 
  • English Language
  • Science (in varying forms) 

GCSE syllabuses are set, examinations administered, and certificates awarded by five primary examination boards: 

  • AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance)
  • CCEA (Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment) 
  • Edexcel
  • OCR ( Oxford, Cambridge and RSA)
  • WJEC ( The Welsh Joint Education Committee)

These are overseen by regulatory authorities to ensure parity between schools using a different exam board.

How does the 9-1 GCSE grading system work?

In England, the 9-1 grading scheme was implemented alongside a new GCSE curriculum. The highest grade is now a 9, and the lowest is a 1. The U grade, which stands for "ungraded," remains unchanged. The number scale does not correspond directly to the old letter one. This new scale will correspond to key grades on the existing A* to G scale. Approximately the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 1 or higher than currently achieve a grade of G or higher. The UK grading system is used in various fields, including ancient languages (classical Greek and Latin), art and design, biology, chemistry, citizenship studies, combined science (double award), history, and geography.

Undergraduate Degree UK Grading System

The UK grading system is quite particular in how it assigns grades, implying that not all students who achieved an A are in the same class as you. The many components necessary for an individual's entire growth are taken into consideration when evaluating a student's overall performance in view. Although narrowing it down to the grades, it is split into three major categories, which are further explained as follows:

UK Undergraduate Degree Requirements
UK Undergraduate Degree Requirements

UK Undergraduate Degree Requirements

First Class Degree

As per the UK grading system, a First Class Degree is the highest you can score during the undergraduate degree and requires students to have a total score greater than 70%. A first-class degree is highly valued in the UK grading system since it suggests that the student thoroughly understands the subject's material and content. Your prowess in a particular field is crucial to your overall career, especially your course of interest. A first-class degree is also known as the First and is considered the most outstanding achievement in the undergraduate course. 

Second Class Degree

According to the UK grading system, the second-class degree is further segregated into two categories - 

  • Upper Second Class degree, named 2:1, represents that the student has scored somewhere between 60-69%. Though, because of the tough competition in the present times, first-class degree holders captivating the opportunity market. This grading system says that you have performed well but can still work on and strive to develop yourself in numerous ways.
  • ‍Lower Second Class Degree, known as 2:2, comes right after the upper second-class degree, which shows that your score ranges around 50%-59% according to the UK grading system. It indicates that you need to put in a lot of effort to improve your knowledge and understanding of the relevant subject because it is slightly below the upper second-class degree. 

Third Class Degree

In the UK grading system, this is the lowest score an undergraduate candidate can achieve. Students who earn between 40% and 49% receive a third-class degree. Having this degree indicates you have a lot of room to grow, so you should start advancing yourself and your field knowledge. Although we know you're a champ and that you would be scoring more than this and won't fall in this category. 


There was a Fourth Class Degree in the UK grading system offered by a few universities there, including Oxford. A student grade who narrowly missed earning a Third Class Degree is now granted an ordinary degree marked Pass.

Master's Degree UK Grading System

Compared to the scheme used for undergraduate degrees, the postgraduate grading system is slightly different. If you are planning your Master's in the UK, make sure you understand their process. The Master's grading system in the UK differs from all the countries worldwide. Like the undergraduate degree, postgraduate degrees offer grades using four levels:

UK Master's Degree Requirements
UK Master's Degree Requirements

Master's UK  Degree Requirements

  • Distinction: When a student receives a distinction, they are considered to have achieved a master's degree score of at least 70%.
  • Merit: Students who receive grades from 60% to 69% are granted a merit grade. 
  • Pass: Passing is defined as having an overall grade between 50% and 59%.
  • Borderline Pass/ Fail: As the name implies, this category includes students who narrowly avoid failing or passing but receive a score between 40% to 49%.

The grading system used for a Master's degree also depends upon the type of Master's course you are pursuing. The three most popular categories of Master's in the UK are as follows:

Integrated Master's Degree

This is an integrated degree that combines both a graduate and postgraduate degree. It generally consists of three years of undergraduate and one-year postgraduate study. This means that when you apply for an undergraduate degree, you are already aware of the Master's you will pursue post that. This is a more specialised qualification and a commitment for four years. The grade is given as follows:

  • Distinction: Minimum 70%
  • Merit: Between 60% to 69%
  • Pass: Between 50% to 59%
  • Borderline Pass/ Fail: Between 40% to 49%

Taught Master's Degree 

The main components of this Master's programme include lectures, seminars, and tutorials. The public speaking requirements of this course may seem intimidating at first, but we assure you that you will become more confident with practice! These courses usually include research and dissertation elements, making it essential for you to work around the year. 

The grades provided in a taught Master's degree typically go as fail, pass, merit, and distinction and usually have the same percentage and markings as mentioned for Integrated Master’s Degree. However, a taught master's degree often calls for 180 credits of study, which includes modules, dissertations, assignments, and research. The number of credits you get for each module varies from 10 to 30, depending on the quantity and quality of the work.

Master's Degree Research (MRes)

Considering pursuing a Master's in research? The Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme, similar to the Taught Master's Degree, is the standard credit structure for MRes. The course's research component might result in 160 credits, 20 of which would be given for training. The overall course may include one single research and dissertation or multiple projects at the same time. The grading is usually done as Pass or fail, but usually, some universities also offer distinction as a classification for students who score higher than 70%.

Want more in-depth information on the degrees in the UK? This Types of Degrees in UK guide will answer every question you have regarding the degrees in UK.

The Difference Between the US vs UK Grading Systems

The main difference is that exams and things like your dissertation or work you produce for the final semester of your course are given a lot more weight than GPA, which is an amalgamation of your marks over the academic year. The United Kingdom uses letter grades, but not in the same way that the United States does. In the UK, an "A" is anything above 70%, rather than each letter representing 10%. And each letter after that represents a 10% reduction. A failing grade is also unique. In the United Kingdom, for example, a score of less than 59% is sufficient to obtain an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. This, however, is not possible in the United States.

UK Grading System and ETCS grades

The UK grading system used in higher education institutions is based on a scale that ranges from A* to E for undergraduate Degrees and A to D for postgraduate degrees. The A* to E scale is further divided into subgrades such as A*, A, B, C, D and E, where A* is the highest grade, and E is the lowest passing grade. 

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) grades are a system used in Europe to facilitate academic recognition to study period qualifications. The ECTS grading scale ranges from A to E, with A being the highest grade and E being the lowest passing grade.

It’s important to note that while the UK and ECTS grading systems may have similar grades, the criteria for earning each can differ from institution to institution and from country to country. Therefore it’s essential for students to understand the specific grading criteria for their program and university.

Top UK Universities

Knowing that the UK is home to some of the most outstanding universities in the world will make your decision to study there worthwhile. They are well known for offering a top-notch education to foster students' personal and professional development. The leading global universities in the UK are listed below.

1. University of Oxford

2. University of Cambridge

3. University College London

4. Imperial College London

5. University of Edinburgh

6. King's College London

7. University of Manchester

8. University of Glasgow

9. University of Birmingham

10. University of Bristol

Top UK universities
Top UK Universities

Thus, the United Kingdom has an intricate grading system for distributing grades and rewarding diligent students. Therefore, even though everything feels overwhelming and too much right now, you won't feel as overwhelmed when you get there if you are well-prepared. We have made an effort to give you the crucial advice you need in this detailed article so that you can prepare and achieve your degree. Wishing you the best for your journey ahead in the UK! We hope you rock it.

Now that you are planning to study in UK make sure you know you do your research on the highest paying jobs in UK and the UK transport to avoid being clueless, it's always better to know beforehand.

Frequently Asked Questions