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How does the UK University grading system work?

Alex Riches

The UK grading system is unique, but what is a 2:1 and what does it mean?

How does the UK University grading system work?

Making the grade... When it comes to UK universities, how good is 'good'?  Photo: Keith Parker (Flickr)

OUR grading system is not terribly different to the grading systems in China, India, USA or the EU. The top grades go to the people who excel and get very high percentages and the pass grades are given to anyone who manages to achieve the minimum grade percentage required. But that is where the similarities end.

Whereas other systems use the alphabet to demonstrate the achievements of the student, the UK system uses a class grade order. This system dates all the way back to the invention of the university itself and reflects the archetype of the British class system, which you will need to understand before you come over here. (link)

In our class system there is a first class, a middle class and a working class. First is for the very rich, powerful and influential. Middle class (or second class) is for people who are not poor, but not as rich as the first class people. They make up the majority of the UK. Working class (or third class) is for people who work in manual labour, and are not very wealthy. They usually work for the second class people. Here are the differences in grades explained:

First (1st): The best grade you can get. The student has got higher than 70 per cent on their course/assignment. An almost perfect piece of work. You should be very happy with it. The markers definitely were...

2:1(upper second class): Student achieved between 60-69 per cent. The work was at a very good level, but there was still room for improvement. Kick back, smile and relax. You’ve done a good job! You will need to get a 2:1 or higher if you’re planning on staying on for a masters or post-graduate degree.

2:2 (lower second class): If you got 50-59 per cent on an assignment, then you have this grade. You should still be happy about getting this mark.

Third: Getting between 45-49 per cent is when you need to start thinking about where you went wrong. Not the worst mark, but perhaps some tutoring might help next time.

Ordinary degree: The absolute minimum you need to pass the course. Getting between 40-44 per cent is not where you want to be. Extra help is almost essential to pass the course well. Or maybe cut down on the time spent in the pub...

Fail: Anything below 40 per cent will be a fail and you will need to take the course again to pass.

So there you have it, the UK grading system in a very short summary. Obviously, there will be some differences depending on what course you do, but so long as you stay above 40 per cent, you will have nothing to worry about at all.

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