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grades in USA
Thread poster: iwoniak
Polish to English
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Oct 14, 2004

What's the scale of grades in Universities in USA?

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Gayle Wallimann  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:10
Member (2001)
French to English
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Some info about universities in USA Oct 15, 2004

First, of all, welcome to proZ, I see that you are a new member and this is your first posting.

Second, here is a link that might help you. It has the credit system and grade scale for universities in the USA.


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:10
German to English
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Grades... Oct 15, 2004

Welcome aboard!

A = 4.000 points (being the best and pronounced "four point oh")
A- = 3.667
B+ = 3.333
B = 3.000
B- = 2.667
C+ = 2.333
C = 2.000
C- = 1.667
D+ = 1.333
D = 1.000
D- = 0.667
F = 0.000 (being the worst)
I = incomplete (can be finished for a grade at a later time)

[Edited at 2004-10-15 12:27]

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:10
English to Spanish
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The system can vary Oct 15, 2004

The grading system used in universities in the USA can vary quite a bit. Gayle and Derek have supplied you with the most populsr system but it is not the only one.

In my own case, I graduated from a university that used 1 = A, 2 = B, 3 = C, 4 = D, etc. But when I gave out my grade point average to the rest of the world, you can be sure that I translated it into the A = 4, B = 3, etc. system. Otherwise my record, which was fairly good, would have looked pretty dismal!

The next school I graduated from used the conventional A = 4, B = 3, etc. system, but I believe an "A' was 93-100%, a "B" 85-92%. a "C" 77-84% or something like that; below 70% was "F" (failing).

I recall that the high school my daughter attended also had different percentage breaks between grades and below 70% was also an "F" (failing).

On college transcripts it should indicate the scale of grades used. So bear in mind that there is no one system used.

Most universities are on a semester system (two terms for a normal academic year), but some are on a quarter system (three shorter terms for a normal academic year). This factor will affect the value of credit hours.

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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:10
Member (2011)
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varying grade scales Oct 16, 2004

Grade Point Average (GPA):
I have not only seen grades on the scale of 1 (low) to 4 (high) but also 1 to 5. Most people refer to the 4 point Grade Point Average (GPA) scale. But you have to be very careful with that because a 2.5 GPA on a 5 point scale is obviously lower than for the more widely used 4 point scale.

The inverse one mentioned by Henry is certainly one I have not yet encountered in the US, but it doesn't surprise me that it exists.

The reason for this is simple. The US Dept of Education does not manage and standardize everything for the USA. Each state regulates its own standards. This can be seen even in different numbers of units of math, arts, sciences, etc that are required for school years 7-12 (sometimes called Jr High and Sr High, but in other places corresponds to the last part of Middle School and then High school. Some states require 4 units of this and that subject, whereas others require 3 units or 5 units. It is not standardized across the nation.

Also to add to this is dealing with public vs private schools. The acceptance or non-acceptance of a degree depends on the school. For example, when I did my second Bachelors degree at a public university, they accepted my first Bachelors degree from a local college in the same city and only required 1 extra year of credits to complete the second one. Then the next year, the university was refusing to accept Bachelor's degree equivalents from that local college, (which by the way is one of the top recognized colleges in its field). This is often an issue of accredidation (see below).

Also to consider is that all colleges and universities are affiliated with different types of accreditation bodies. There can be state-based, regional or national. There are lots of them. Any transfer from one school to another within the same accrediting body is supposed to be accepted. Going between the different bodies is when problems in acceptance/non-acceptance are usually encountered.

Quarter vs Semester systems:
Also as mentioned by Henry is the division between the semester credits and quarter credits systems. I have not seen that one is more standard than the other. In my experience of having degrees from several schools, and having considered and applied to many more than that, I have seen that private colleges and universites "tend" to be based on the semester system and public ones tend to be the quarter system, but this is not a rule. I've also seen public ones on the semester system. As mentioned by Henry there are 3 quarters during the normal academic year. There is also the summertime quarter, yet even some universities will break that 4th quarter up into 3 sub units so that a very intensive course at 2 hours x 5 times per week during a short subunit time period of about 3 weeks will equal the 1 hour x 3 times per week course over the regular 10 week period during an academic year quarter.

In general, a 3 quarter hour course will correspond to a 2 semester hour course. The good match only happens when the quarter hour units are higher in number and (30 higher) than the semster ones. This poses problems for students who transfer in the middle of their college studies, or even (post-)graduate studies, from one college under one system to a college under the other. They can easily lose transfer credits.

When I worked as graduate assistant of a Franco-American student exchange program for a year or so in France, we had this issue all the time because the French public university system is yearly based, with 2 semester time periods. Yet the US students studying in France came from several universities/colleges based on the quarter system. I was even doing a master's degree at one of the US universities at the time. Many of the students (including myself) lost coursework credits within the exchange program that was intended to be fully transferable (especially for the amount of money it cost to pay for the year spent abroad in the program). We had to invent courses in the US university to correspond to the courses the students were taking in France, but then the depts in the US would refuse to give the same number of credits for a course, or would say that the course should only be a 1st or 2nd year level course in the US, although it was a Masters or doctoral level course in France.

Thus, the transfer of credits from semester to quarter or vice versa is not always easy.

The US quarter system is around 9-10 weeks. The semester system is usually 12-14 weeks. Again, those numbers are not standard and all simply depend on what the school itself or its accrediting body decides should be the number of weeks.

I hope that provides additional info for the original question.


Jeff Allen
Paris, France

Henry Hinds wrote:

The grading system used in universities in the USA can vary quite a bit. Gayle and Derek have supplied you with the most populsr system but it is not the only one.

Most universities are on a semester system (two terms for a normal academic year), but some are on a quarter system (three shorter terms for a normal academic year). This factor will affect the value of credit hours.

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different in China Oct 16, 2004

In China we sometimes use A B C,but it just depends on what the teachers look, the poorest one only comes to C.We use marks mostly to deversify our grade,things are different,actually.

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