Grading System in the UK – Everything You Need to Know

Global Ed


A glimpse of history – The grading system did not come into existence in the previousgeneration; it was there from the early seventeenth century. One fine day in 1785, Ezra Stiles, an American educator at Yale University implemented the grading system based on four descriptions: Optimi, Second Optimi, Inferiores, and Perjores; from that day till today grading system has been part of almost all the educational institutions.

Each country has their own grading system and pattern. So, today let us explore the grading system in the UK and see how it is unique from all the other grading systems.

At present, our education and performance are evaluated purely based on the grades that we secure. Be it applying to an international university or a competitive examination, grades are considered the primary selection criteria. Each country has its own grading system to evaluate a student’s performance, and it is great to get familiar with the grading system of the respective country before applying to a university of your choice.

The UK is one of the leading global ed destinations and home to the world’s most prestigious universities like Oxford, Cambridge and University College London. The UK is also famous for the world-class quality of education it offers with the rich learning experience for international students. The UK has a different and unique grading system compared to other global ed destinations.

English, Northern Ireland and Wales have a similar grading system in the UK, while the Scottish grading system is a little different. The UK grading system encompasses Honours, letters and percentages, which is additional to the GPA, and it has its conversion scheme.

The grading system for Honours degrees and Foundation degrees are different in the UK. An honours degree will not only give you a degree, but it will mention your level of achievement and speciality in the subject by providing the classifications. It also has higher employment opportunities when compared to the foundation courses.

Now let us take a look at the difference between the Honours degree and foundation degree grading systems :

Percentage Grade Grade Definition Foundation Degree Honours Degree
70% – 100% A Excellent to Outstanding Distinction First
60% – 69% B Good to Very Good Merit Upper Second 2:1
50% – 59% C Satisfying Pass Lower Second 2:2
40% – 49% D Sufficient Pass Third 3
30% – 39% E Unsatisfactory Fail Fail
0 – 29% F Unsatisfactory Fail Fail

The UK grading system focuses mainly on your academic strength and specific skills that are indicators of your talent and educational qualifications. These grades are also markers of your overall performance and skills, which are important in the employment sector. When it comes to the Honours degree, depending on your academic achievement, undergraduate degrees are classified into four different categories, and they are as follows :

  • First-class Honours (70% and higher)
  • Second-class Honours, upper-division (60 – 69%)
  • Second-class Honours, lower division (50 – 59%)
  • Third-class Honours (40% – 49%)

First Class Degree


A first-class degree is considered to be the highest academic achievement at the undergraduate level in the colleges in the UK. This means your overall score is above 70%, or you have a grade -A. This also means that you have demonstrated an excellent and outstanding level of knowledge in the course that you have studied.


Second class degree


The second class degree is further divided into upper and lower divisions. The upper division means that you have scored between 60 % to 69 %, and the lower division means you have scored between 50% and 59%.

NOTE: In most UK universities, Upper second class is the minimum requirement to enrol for a master’s program.


Third Class Degree


This is considered to be the lowest academic qualification with a pass mark. The third-class degree means your score is between 40% to 49%. It will be hard to find a good job or a seat for a master’s program if your grade is the third class

Watch this space as we dive deeper into the grading systems of other top global ed destinations.



Date added
17.03.2022

Filed under:

Global Ed

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