Your parents, teachers and peers use the number to judge you, no, not your weight or age - your grades. Grades have historically defined a student's success, and that practice doesn't seem like it's going to change anytime soon. So, to help you better understand the system you're stuck in, here's our guide to the American grading system.
An Overview of the US Grading System
Although one might already be acquainted with the grading system, the education industry follows. Typically, student's academics are evaluated by marks, which are displayed as grades or percentages, but the American grading system is not as similar as it seems.
The American grading system is a composition of GPA (Grade Point Average) to evaluate academic performance. The GPA system is obeyed for all levels of education in the country, and one of the widely used types of GPAs is the 4-point grading system.
What are the Types of US Grading Systems?
Getting acquainted with the American grading system will be the first step to learning how to ace your exams. In the US, there are two different grading systems used. The numerical system is the first, while the alphabetical system is the second. Here is a quick and easy breakdown of the different types of American grading systems.
Numerical US Grading System
The numerical approach of the US grading system is fairly straightforward to understand. In this system, students are marked on a numbered scale pre decided by their university or school. Depending upon how well they do, they will receive a numbered grade to assess their performance. For example, you could be scored on a percentage system and be given a grade anywhere from 0-100%
Letter US Grading System
Letter grades are obtained by students in routine tests or term exams, for example, A, B and C. It is also known as the A-F grading system. Every letter grade denotes the numerical performance of a student by a number. Students can further convert the grade into a GPA. Here is a basic breakdown of the meaning of each letter.
- A – Excellent
- B – Good
- C – Average
- D – Below-average
- F – Fail
The US grading system also incorporates a few different letter grades into their grading scale. These do not exactly denote your grades, but instead are used to highlight the status of your course. However, these still show up on your transcript. So to ensure that these random letters on your mark sheet don’t confuse you, here is what they mean.
- IP: IP is an acronym for 'In Progress. If students haven't finished parts of a subject within the stipulated time to earn the regular grade, they will probably be given this grade. Upon completion, this grade is converted to the regular grade.
- NC: NC stands for 'Not Complete'. If a task or homework assigned to a student is not complete or the student fails to complete the same, then this grade is given to the student on the transcript.
- W: W here means 'withdrawn'. When a student is present or attends the classes but drops out midway, this grade is awarded to such a student.
How are the Letter & Numerical Systems Related?
Every letter grade corresponds to a number or percentage, which is then used to calculate your GPA. Your numerical grade is used to obtain your letter grade. Each college will have its exact denotation of which grade corresponds to what letter, but here is a general breakdown of the different letter grades and their corresponding grade range. In the United States, academic performance is evaluated using 5, 6, to 7-letter grades. The conventional grading scale includes A+, A, A-, B+, B-, B-, C+, C-, D+, D, D- and F, with A+ being the highest grade and F being the lowest. Here is a quick and easy breakdown of the US grading systems.
What is GPA?
GPA is an abbreviation of grade point average, and this is the primary marking system of the US grading system. Your GPA, as the name suggests, is the overall average of all your grades for a specific time period. For a full breakdown, check out our detailed guide on what is GPA and how to calculate it.
How to calculate GPA
In the US grading system, the aggregate quality points gained in each unit are added to calculate GPA. The final result is divided by the total number of course credits or units (or credit hours) you attempted to arrive at your average GPA. It is not just the average of all your grades but determines your final GPA at graduation. The amount of semester hours determines how much weight it has. To get a better understanding of how your final grades will be calculated. You can also read our blog on how to improve your GPA.
Types of GPA
Now that we've covered grades and how they're represented in the US grading system, let's look at another crucial aspect of the American grading system: the GPA. The Grade Point Average (GPA) is used throughout the country to describe students' performance. It is divided into three categories that represent different levels of study. The three categories are:
- Class GPA
- Semester GPA
- Cumulative GPA
Types of Honors
Students who meet the requirements for any level of study may receive a gratuitous honor based on their GPA. Based on other prerequisites, honors can differ from university to university. The Latin language is used for all distinctions. Relevantly, the student with a better GPA will automatically be given all three honors.
- Cum laude: With Honour
Cum laude, which in Latin means "with acclaim" or "with honor," denotes a certain level of academic success. Educational institutions use the phrase to describe an academic degree given to someone with honorable distinction in academic courses.
- Magna cum laude: With Great Honor
Students who graduate "with great distinction" are given the honorific Magna cum laude. In terms of Latin honors, it is the second-highest. The qualifications differ by institution, but it's often reserved for students who rank in the top 6–15% of their class or who have a GPA of 3.7–3.8.
- Summa cum laude: With Greatest Honour
The greatest academic honor, summa cum laude, which translates to "with the highest honor," is given to pupils who rank in the top one per cent of their class or who have a GPA of 3.9 to 4.0. The prerequisites for summa cum laude can differ by institution and department, just as the magna cum laude distinction. If you want to have one of these honors plastered on your degree, it's time to learn how to improve your GPA!
UK vs US Grading System
The UK grading system uses a class grade order, unlike most grading systems, including the US one, which uses the alphabet to show the student's accomplishments. This system mirrors the paradigm of the British class system and dates back to the institution's founding. The UK utilizes letter grades similar to the American grading system, although not in the same way. In the UK, an "A" is defined as anything above 70% rather than each letter denoting 10%. Every additional letter results in a 10% reduction. To know more about this, refer to our detailed guide on the UK grading system which will help you acknowledge all the aspects of this system.
That was our full breakdown of the American grading system. While the US grading system isn't too hard to understand, adjusting to a new structure can be tough, so we've tried to make your transition as smooth as possible. We hope you've found this blog helpful and wish you all the best on your student journey! Also, if you are planning to move to the USA, you must be worried about finding an ideal accommodation. Don't worry; we provide some amazing student accommodation in the US to make your path less stressful.