Standard way to convert French grades to American system?
Thread poster: Kate Deimling

Kate Deimling
United States
Local time: 15:17
French to English
+ ...
Jan 9, 2010

This goes out especially to French-to-English translators: is there a standard way of converting the French 20-point grading scale to the American scale (A,B, etc.)? I have translated diplomas and transcripts before as is, but now I have a request to translate and convert the grades because the translation is being submitted to an American university.

Also, an aside: I wonder how effective such conversion can be, given that A's and B's are very prevalent in American colleges, while grades of 18-20 are practically impossible, and grades of 16-17 very difficult, to obtain in France. Has anyone doing such conversions tried to indicate the rarity of the high grades in France through a translator's note or something?

Any ideas or resources would be much appreciated!


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William [Bill] Gray  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 21:17
Member (2006)
English
+ ...
Not the translator's job... Jan 9, 2010

Personally (and I teach at a university college) I wouldn't trust a translator's interpretation of grades from one country to the next. I think you have to leave them as they are, and it is up to the educational institution which is interested in these grades to have them "interpreted" in the light of careful academic standards. Here in Norway, when I presented my qualifications when applying for my present job, the papers were sent to a central body in Oslo to be evaluated, and then sent back to the college. I can assure that it was not a translator body either!

I have had countless requests from both staff and students to comment an comparative gradings/qualifications, but it is a nightmare and a minefield.

Just my two kroners' worth!!

Bill


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Joel Pina Diaz  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 16:17
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Here you can find answers. Jan 9, 2010

I do not want to be involved on discussions whether the French or the American education system is better. So, please find your answers here, I pass thru this before as a Medical Student long ago at Claude Bernard, Lyon. I hope this can be useful for you.

Guys have an excellent 2010!

Hint> GPA (Grade Point Average)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_(education)

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/hsts/howgpa.asp


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not our job Jan 9, 2010

There are organizations whose entire job is assessing and converting academic credentials. It's not our place to do it since we're not qualified.

I'm willing to add a translator's note explaining that in X country, the grading is done on a certain scale. But beyond that, I don't comment for the same reason I don't give clients medical or legal advice.

[Edited at 2010-01-09 16:04 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:17
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Equivalency services Jan 9, 2010

Steven said just what I wanted to say. As a translator, you should leave the grades as they are, the only thing you can do is indicate in a footnote what the scale is (in Hungary, for example, there are 5 grades, where 5 is the best and 1 is failing, in other words, the lowest passing grade is 2).
There are services specializing in evaluating diplomas, professional certificates, transcripts etc., and write an analysis about them, explaining what level and type of education those would be equivalent to in the US.
This is often done not only for university admission purposes, but also for immigration purposes.
Katalin


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Kate Deimling
United States
Local time: 15:17
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
See your point, but what are the qualifications and standards of these agencies? Jan 9, 2010

Katalin and Steven,

I see your points, but I just wonder...what are the names of these organizations whose job it is to evaluate foreign academic credentials? I've never heard of such a body. I don't think the U.S. has an authoritative body such as Bill had in Oslo! Is it the U.S. academic institution's obligation to contact some qualified grade-converter? My potential client is under the impression that she is expected to have the grades converted by a translator. In the past I've referred such requests to a translation agency where a friend of mine works which does "translate" the grades as well as the transcript. I assumed that they applied some kind of accepted standards, but, as far as I know, this agency is staffed with translators just like myself and perhaps they are just applying a crude equivalency?

I understand that this could be a minefield. In fact, when I studied abroad in France as an undergraduate and took classes at the French university, my study abroad program did what was in my opinion a pretty poor job of converting my grades into the American system. While the students who had taken the simplified courses the program offered for foreigners had A's and B's, I received something like a B- or C+ when I had actually done quite acceptably well according to French standards. I would have preferred my grades to have stayed in the French numeric system with some kind of explanation.

So I agree that it is better to avoid conversion and give a translator's note indicating the French grading scale. But is it really inappropriate to indicate that the highest grades are extremely rare in France? It seems to me that my cultural knowledge enables me to provide this analysis and that omitting to do so is doing a disservice to the client.

[Edited at 2010-01-09 18:16 GMT]


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Gisela Greenlee  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:17
German to English
+ ...
Conversion of grades Jan 10, 2010

I have actually translated transcripts for an organization that converts the grades from foreign schools to the American system, but can't recall their name. As the others have already pointed out, it's not our job to do that since we're not qualified. I would guess that most major universities with a large number of foreign students already have that information available. They may also refuse to accept the conversion if its done by a translator rather than a qualified body. If you do a Google search on "foreign education evaluation", you'll find enough sites that your potential client could contact for more information.

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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:17
Flemish to English
+ ...
Ask your alma mater's MBA-admissions office Jan 10, 2010

Given that you live in New-York, why don't you ask the Admissions office of the M.B.A.-program of your former alma-mater or the admission office of the M.B.A.-program at the Stern School of Business. I toyed with an M.B.A.-idea once and I went to the admissions offices of a few American business-schools and asked them that question?
Many Europeans apply to these schools.
From what I was told, they get a grade-bonus, because they are aware that the European system is tougher and that in France a B+ is quite good.


[Edited at 2010-01-10 20:15 GMT]


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Kate Deimling
United States
Local time: 15:17
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Update on grades: not converting Jan 12, 2010

Hi everyone,

Thanks for your input. I thought I'd just let you know the outcome: I recommended to the client that she search for foreign academic credentials evaluators online if necessary (thanks for the tip, Gisela!), but suggested that she contact the American institutions first and see if they would accept non-converted grades with an explanation of the grading system. They agreed, so I will just add a translator's note regarding the French grading system. All's well that ends well.

Kate


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