If you are aiming to study in the UK, you must know how the university or academic process functions. The UK’s grading system varies from location to location; not all places have the same grading criteria. You may find some commonality within the marking schemes in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. However, the marking scheme in Scotland is entirely different.

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Academic Grading System in the UK

The academic system in the UK can be divided into four sub-sections: primary, secondary, further education, and higher education. The following is a detailed overview of the academic system in the UK: Obtaining a basic education is mandatory for all children aged between 5 and 16 years. The students are assessed regularly throughout these stages of education. The GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) are an essential part of UK students’ lives. They appear for these exams once they are 16 years of age. As soon as a student has completed their GCSEs, they can opt for further educational studies and then higher educational studies. Or they could complete their schooling and move on to their professional lives.

Primary Education

The Primary Educational phase takes place within 5 to 11 years of age in a student’s life, including the first and second key stages of their academics. You can visit the British Council website for further assistance.

Secondary Education

Moving on to the ages of 11 to 16, the students then move onto their Secondary Educational phase which includes key stages three and four for their academics. In this stage, the students begin prepping for their GCSEs. Keep in mind that these educational stages are compulsory for all students – once completed, further education is based upon preference.

Further Education

As the child finishes the stage of Secondary Education, they can then choose to move on to the Further Education stage. This includes your A-Levels, GNVQs, BTECs, etc. If you are a student in the UK and intend to attend college, you will need to complete your Further Education first.

Higher Education

If you are an international student and are looking for some clarity regarding the higher education area in the UK, then you have come to the right place. International students can apply to higher education in the UK with a degree that is equivalent to further education in the UK.

It is important for you to familiarise yourself with the UK grading schemes and systems if you plan on completing your Higher Education here.

We have prepared a detailed review of the UK grading system below:

Available Degree Options in the UK

An undergraduate degree within the UK gives you two options: you can choose to do an ordinary degree or an honours degree.

Now you may wonder what is the difference between the two.

The ordinary degree is your regular UK degree that lets you take up to 15 credit hours in total and 3 years, such as a BA or BSc degree.

However, an honours degree requires you to choose a specialisation area along with a few other subjects and is a total of 20 credit hours making it 4 years long.

Grading system in the uk universities - ahz associates

If you are opting for an ordinary degree, you must ensure that you clear all the subjects that you have chosen. If you fail to pass a subject, you will fail to receive admission. Whereas an honors degree is more evaluative, it focuses on you clearing your subjects and assesses your performance throughout the duration to give future employers a clear assessment of your skills. Hence, this makes an honors degree of more value than an ordinary one.

ETCS Grades and the UK Grading Scheme

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System is how European states go through the process of converting international grades to UK grading. The table below defines percentage scores that are equivalent to the ECTS Grade in the UK:

First-Class Degree70% -100%A
Upper Second-Class Degree60% – 69%B
Lower Second-Class Degree50% -59%C
Third Class Degree40% -49%D

Although ETCS is an optional measure, some universities can have their own grading criteria and policies. Normally an international student’s grade transcript holds an extra column for the ETCS grading.

First-class Degree

As the name suggests, a first-class degree is offered to students who perform exceptionally and score 70% or higher. This makes the student’s overall grade an A, and it is the highest grade attainable.

Most students strive for an A grade, and if not in one subject, they can opt to specialize in multiple subjects through a joint honors degree. Such degrees are called ‘double firsts’ in the UK and are widely offered at the University of Oxford, Cambridge, and Glasgow.

A first-class degree reflects your performance throughout your academic tenure and also reflects really well on your overall potential to land great opportunities in the corporate world.

Upper second-class Degree

Equivalent to a B grade, an upper second-class degree is awarded to students who manage to obtain a percentage between 60 and 69%.

Being in the upper second class depicts that you have high knowledge of the subject and good command – it places you right under the first-class degree holders. Most top hiring firms have an upper second-class degree as their minimum eligibility set-off.

Lower second-class Degree

Suppose you have achieved anywhere between a 50-59% which places you within the Lower second-class degree, and it accumulates to a C grade. An A-C grade is the minimum grade requirement for a student to meet any employment opportunities or even a post-graduate degree.

Third-class Degree

The third-class degree is the lowest on the tier. It accumulates to a D grade and means that the student has managed to receive a total of 40-49%, which is considered to be very poor.

While not many students end up getting a D grade; if you do, your employment options or choices for higher education are very limited. A D grade is the lowest of all grades, and you should in no circumstance be aiming for it.

While some universities in the UK have a policy that if students fail to achieve even a D grade by a small margin, then they are given an ordinary degree instead of an honors one. This way shows that the students have completed the necessary undergraduate education and obtained a degree but have not qualified for honors.

Final Thoughts

Before deciding on an international higher educational degree, it is important for you to understand the university’s policies and grading criteria. It is of utmost importance when it comes to comparing your local grades with the university grading system and how to convert them efficiently.

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When it comes to the UK, it is one of the top five most preferred locations for an undergraduate degree. This is why it has become essential for all international students to be aware of the grading scheme system for undergraduates within the UK.

If you are looking for any help or assistance regarding your UK course application, reach out to our team of experts.


Is 70% an A in the UK?

Earned an A+ or A and graduated with honors. Simplified, this indicates that your cumulative grade point average is at or above 70% of the maximum grade point possible for your undergraduate degree program.

Which grading system is used in the UK?

The GCSEs in England use a numeric grading system (starting with the lowest possible grade 1, the highest possible grade 9, and the average passing grade is 4.) The GCSE grading scale in Northern Ireland and Wales uses letters, with A* being the highest attainable grade and F being the lowest.

How does the grading system work in the UK?

In England, a passing GCSE grade is 4, on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest). There are four possible grades for the Spoken Language section of the GCSE English Language exam: Pass, Merit, Distinction, and Unclassified.