United States Grading System 

grading system in usa

The United States is home to many educational institutions of all levels. Some countries in the US are even known for being the first to set educational goals for schools all over the world. Studying in the US means you will have access to different kinds of education systems, such as public, private, and homeschooling. Nevertheless, the overall educational system in the US resembles that of other countries worldwide. 

The United States educational system, similar to the rest of the world, begins the process of education with primary school which they call ‘elementary school’, followed by secondary education which includes middle and high school. And lastly, students usually attend higher education after graduating high school. Different institutions in the U.S. use a variety of grading systems depending on the individual school and the department of education in charge. 

Below you can see the most common grading systems used by US educational institutions:

Primary and Secondary School Grading System in US 

The earlier education system in the US includes 12 years of studies. Primary or as you may recognize it as ‘elementary school’, begins at age six and continues for another five to six years before attending secondary school. Preceding high school is what they call Middle school or junior high school as the first part of the secondary school. Upon finishing high school you will be awarded a diploma which grants you the possibility of applying to higher education. 

Most of the schools in the US use the pass-fail system when grading their students. This system has shown results especially in the fields of arts and music where a standardized test is not a proper method of grading. Another method of evaluation in US schools is the non-graded evaluations. Because many countries in the US believe that numeric or letter grades are a big disadvantage to students’ personal development, they find an equivalent method of measuring the student’s performance. 

US Grading System in Elementary and Middle School 

The grading system in elementary schools follows a nine-week guideline. Within one year, students go through four of these nine weeks, and by the tenth week, they are required to show their report cards to their parents. Normally, the top 10% percent of the class receive a mark of excellence, an A.

In a class of 100 students, only 10 of them may get an A depending on the subject and class. The grades lower than an A (Excellent)  include B (Good), C (Average), D (Pass), and F (Failure). The grouping by performance system has been established to make a difference between students and their productivity. The goal is to be able to easily distinguish students who are hard-working and have plans to study more difficult subjects. 

Us Grading System in High School 

The high school curriculum and classes in the United States are solely focused on helping students for the next step of their lives, which is higher education. Because of the big competition in the application to universities, the GPA in high school is very important. Whether you are a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior in high school, you should pay attention to your grades.

In most cases, the ages that attend high school in the US range between 14 to 18 years old, depending on the country. In some cases, they enroll in high school at 15 years old as the final step of their secondary school education. In terms of grades, some high schools run from 9th to 12th grade, whereas in some countries high school runs from 10th to 12th grade. The majority of US countries combine middle school with high school into one institution, from 6th grade until the 12th grade. 

The usual assessment method in American high schools is by implementing a credit system. Credit is the mirror of 120 hours of instruction that students receive within a year. Different states require a different number of credits for students to graduate high school. It also depends on the curriculum and the subjects they are required to take. Subjects that students are obligated to take and have the higher credit include English/language arts, Social studies, Mathematics, and Science.

For each elective that students decide to select, they earn more credit depending on the subject which helps them in future higher education studies. Most high schools allow students the opportunity to arrange their own classes timetable, depending on their preferences and how they manage their time throughout the entire school year.

US Grading System in Higher Education 

Accomplished students have always been at the top of the list for admissions at the best universities in the United States. However, for the admission committee to understand more about the candidate and their personality, additional information about their interests and hobbies may be helpful to make a decision. Considering the majority of the students applying are successful students with a great GPA, the extracurricular activities may help them stand out. 

The education system in universities and colleges is continually changing and adapting to the new modern teaching and learning methods. However, students still go through four years of studies to get either a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree upon graduation. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree is only a part of the student’s educational journey. Most of the fields they major in, require further advanced studies for specialization. 

American vs UK Grading System 

Educational institutions in both the US and UK, use the same language of instruction to teach students in any level of education they are currently enrolled in. However, when it comes to the system of grading, curriculum, and teaching methods, they make a visible difference. Even countries within the UK have different grading systems. For example, Scotland has a completely different system of grading from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland that follow the National Curriculum guidelines. 

In contrast to the education system in the UK, US schools avoid key-stage examinations until the end of secondary school, with the completion of high school. In the US, students finish their high school education at the end of 12 grade, whereas in the UK high school ends with Year 13.

The most common education system in the US divides levels of education into three: elementary, middle, and high school. Some countries include a junior high school for grades 7 and 8, which normally belong in the middle school. Upon finishing high school, US students apply to universities or colleges which may take up to four years to complete.

On the other hand, students notice a big difference in the education system between the UK and the US, however, the transition from one to another can be easy and successful. To avoid getting surprised by the grading system in the UK, you must do your research before enrolling in any level of education. 

In comparison to the US grading system, the UK evaluates students by percentages instead of letters. Here is a table that describes more clearly the differences between the two nations: 

UK GradeUS Grade

It is important to note that the UK does not use the system of the GPA as in the US. Instead of the GPA, the UK divides the grades into Firsts which is the equivalent of 4.0 in America followed by 2.1 and 2.2 which equals the 3.0 GPA in the US.