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The U.S. grading system and 5 Things you need to understand about it

The U.S. grading system and 5 Things you need to understand about it

Students' academic standings are determined by the number of credits or classes completed, and their grading points average (GPA).And education institutions have always used grades to measure the quality and quantity of what their students have learned.

Various countries or states have developed different grading systems in the process of adjudging the students’ graspingand reciprocating ability. Some countrieshave extensively relied on several methods while others use percentages or points grading to show test scores, among other grading systems.

What is a grading system?

A grading system is a process used to assess students' educational performance based on the points garnered by the student. In other words grading based on scores.

According to Oxford English and Spanish dictionary, a grading system is ranking, classifying, and measuring students' performance on a particular scale.

What are the types of grading systems?

The grading systems may dramatically differ depending on where you are. The following are the different types of grading systems.

a)  Percentage grading

This is the use of a percentage scale in grading the appraisal of student’s performance. The percentage ranges from 0-100%

b)  Letter grading and variations

Letter grading is the use of a series of letters to categorize performance.Often ranges from A-F, or sometimes the letters may have a minus or plus as an ordered category scale.

The grading can be done in a standard manner or non-reference grading where students are compared to each other while using class standing as the basis for assigning the grades.

c)  Masters grading

Students are graded as 'masters' or 'passers' when they reach specific standardizedmeasurements or pre-specified performance levels.It usually allows a different amount of time for various students to attain mastery.

d)  Pass or Fail grading

This involves using a common scale with two levels (pass or fail). No letter or percentage recorded on the students grading. However, students earn credit a ‘pass’when they do satisfactory work.You can learn more on the tips to help you pass exams for better grading.

e)  Absolute standard grading

Absolute or standard grading involves comparing the students’ performance to a pre-established level of performance. It also means grading regarding different content standards as per the pre-established performance levels.

Additionally, there can be narrative grading where students’ achievements are written as comments either in addition to other grading systems or different techniques.

Whatis involved in the U.S grading system?

The United States of America has two basic grading systems. Namely;

  • Letter grading system
  • Numerical grading system with a grading scale from 0-100

The letter grading system in the U.S. grades is calculated in percentages with letter equivalents and further expressed in grades points.

In identifying the students’ performance, a students’ grade point average is reached by multiplying the number of the units done or attempted in a course by the grade points earned per period.

Additionally, all the grade point totals are added together. The sum is divided by the total number of credits to create a final mean value.

The grades awarded for course participation in the U.S. grading system involve numerical and letter grades ranging from the highest to the lowest. The grade levels include A, B, C, D, E, and F. Besides; there are individual variations that allow for awarding A+, A, & A-; B+, B, & B-; C+, C, & C-; D+, D & D-, and F.

In both the primary and the secondary schools, a D is always the lowest passing grade. However, some schools consider C the lowest rate. Therefore the general grading standard is that anything below 60 or 70 is a fail. This depends on the grading scale used.

A mean grade of D is considered an unsatisfactory passing grade in the United States colleges and universities.Though students will still get credit on a D grade in most cases, a C is better and is required to count for some central units towards a degree or to satisfy prerequisite requirements for a class.

How does U.S calculate grades based on the percentages?

Most public United States high schools and colleges or universities may use different grading systems.

Below is a U.S. grading system used by most high schools.

Letter grade


Grade Point Average (GPA)
















Most colleges and universities in the U.S. adopt the below type of grading system.

Letter grade


Grade Point Average (GPA)



4.33 or 4.00





































5 Things you need to understand about the U.S. grading system

Here are some of the factors to consider before you enroll in the U.S. school grading system,

1)  Where and what to study in the U.S.

It should never be all about the program you are going to learn. It would help if you also thought of where you'll be staying or how you will live.

Do some research on the university you are to studyat. Find out its location for you to have a general idea of what your life would be like. Get to learn about the environment. Also, get to know how the city or town treats outsiders whether there are discriminations against some sexual orientations or ethnicities.

Well, research of the institutions’ location may relate or influence what you are going to study.


Identifying the location will help you see the kindof internships or job opportunities you could take during or while studying in the U.S.

You can also start networking as a student, among other things.

2)  The U.S letter grading system

You should be aware of the U.S. grading system. Every time you finish your assignment, course, or study, your instructor put a letter at the top of your work. The letter grading tells you how you have performed.

It’s recommended you know the grading system from A to F with the percentage behind them. Knowing the grading system helps you monitor your study’s progress.

The percentage help guides you to identify the questions you answered correctly or the number of the requirements you met during the course or assignment execution.

For instance, be aware of the following;

A is the highest or greatest grade you can receive/get on any assignment, and it ranges from 90% to 100%, whileF is the failing grade. And F indicates you need to study harder

3)  The U.S. university grading system.

Most universities in U.S. grades don't stand on their own. However, they correspond to a quality point. The universities use a grading scale to calculate the student's GPA. So you will you’re your grades through your overall performance.

A quality point can be the quantity that your grade has and calculated towards your grade point average.

Every university in the United States or other higher learning institutions may have a different scale for letter grades. However, most of them always correspond to either four or a multiple of 4. Therefore, it is your responsibility to check with your school administrations and registrars to understand how the quality points match up at the university you have registered in.

4)  Overall grades provides a Grade Point Average (GPA)

Your GPA is everything in the U.S. It makes up essential numbers for any student.It’s used for everything, be it applying for scholars, graduating, applying for other schools, and joining clubs, among other importance.

Your GPA should show the kind of student you are. Whether you have passed most of your courses or classes or indicate, you are an average student. Finally, whether you are a student with some difficulties in class but is learning the ropes to improvement.

As mentioned earlier, your university average GPA is calculated by taking the quality point from each grade, adding them together, and finally dividing them by the total number of course credits you attempted.

5) There is no grade E in U.S grading system

Maybe you have wondered why the A-F U.S. grading system does not contain the letter E. In 1897 the United States had the earliest record of a letter grade system, which had the lowest E grades. However, students and most parents began to understand that 'F' stood for failed and assumed E' could mean excellent rather than failed.

Therefore letter F has universally been used to mean ‘Failed’ in U.S. it has incidentally become that letter that every learner fears.


In determining students’ academic standings,the Unites States has developed standardized measurements. Also known as the grading system, which enables them to track all the registered learners' performance within the state.The grading system comprises of different types, namely, letter and variation, percentage, masters, pass and fail to grade, among other styles.

For any student who is to enroll in any university or higher learning institution in the U.S., you must; research where and what you are going to study andunderstand the U.S. letter grading system. Besides, you must be aware of the university grading system and understand how your Grade Point Average is achieved.

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