The Difference Between the UK and US Grading Systems

writer icon

Samir Badawy

calender icon

06 March, 2024

time icon

4 mins read

time icon

Tips and Advice

Share NOW

fav icon
main topic image

The United States and the United Kingdom are well known for their high-quality institutions, large research outputs, and excellent educational standards. In addition, both countries are hot destinations for students, as they have some of the world’s most prestigious universities and some of the world’s best post-graduate work opportunities. In the following sections, we’ll explore the differences between UK vs US grading systems and other factors, such as the differences in academic systems and assessment methods.


UK Grading System Explained

Before getting into the UK’s grading system, knowing the difference between an honours degree and an ordinary one is essential. A standard degree is a three-year programme where you need to get 15 credits to graduate. You will also have some flexibility in choosing your subjects. An honours degree is a four-year degree where you’ll have to graduate with 20 credits and pass in all core subjects. Additionally, honours degrees will require you to specialise in a particular subject. 

In the UK, most UK universities have the following grading scale and letter grade equivalent:


Letter Grade Equivalent 

70% and above 




50 – 59%


40 – 49%


Less than 40%


In the UK uni grading system, you will notice that a 70% grade is equivalent to an A letter grade, which shows a great understanding of the subject. This is unlike many different education systems worldwide, where an A starts at 90%. In the UK, 90% to 100% is uncommon to obtain.

Significance of Each Grade

For ordinary degrees, each letter grade has significance; these are the most common ones:

  • 70% – 100 %: Excellent to Outstanding

  • 60% – 69 %: Good to Very Good

  • 50% – 59%: Satisfying 

  • 40% – 49 %: Sufficient

  • 39% – 0 %: Unsatisfactory

For honours degrees, each of the aforementioned grades has significance, for instance:

  • 70%+ earns you a First Class distinction, which is the highest distinction.

  • 60%–69% earns you an Upper Second-Class Distinction.

  • 50%-59%  earns you a Lower Second-Class Distinction

  • 40% – 49% earns you a Third-Class Distinction


Masters Grading System UK

Masters programmes in the UK are graded similarly to UK bachelor’s programmes; however, categories differ and are as follows:

  • 70% – 100%: Distinction (with some universities having 75 as a minimum)

  • 60–69%: Merit or Merit for Commendation

  • 50–59%: Pass

  • 40–49%: Borderline Pass 

  • Below 40%: Fail

US Grading System Explained

Unlike the UK, bachelor’s studies are completed in the USA in four years. Each semester earns you a minimum of 15 credit hours. The USA uses a GPA, which stands for “Grade Point Average,” which is generally a four-point scale calculated at the end of each term and progressively compounded until you get your final GPA upon graduation.

The USA also uses letter grades and percentages to determine your current academic standing. The USA also adds variations to letter grades, including (+, -, or no sign), to determine where you stand academically. Grades at US higher education institutions are as follows:


Letter Grade Equivalent 

GPA Equivalent 


































Below 65



Significance of Each Grade

In most US higher education institutions, each grade has the following significance:

  • 90%-100%: Excellent 

  • 80%-89%: Good

  • 70%-89%: Satisfactory

  • 65%–69%: Less Satisfactory

  • Less than 65: Fail

How to Calculate my GPA

To calculate your GPA, multiply your grade by one credit hour. For instance, multiply 4 (grade) x 3 (credit hour) if you have received an A in a subject that has 3 credit hours. Each result is called a grade point. 

Do this step for each of your courses and combine the grade points that you have earned so far. Then, combine all the credit hours that you have obtained for each course so far.

Lastly, divide your total grade points by your total credit hours to get your cumulative GPA, which is the latest GPA that you have obtained. This system is the one predominantly used by US institutions. Some variations in calculations may occur. 

Regarding improving your GPA, it is always the easiest to improve your GPA the lesser the subjects obtained are, meaning that it gets hard to drastically improve your GPA by your final year, for instance, so always make sure that you build yourself a solid base. You can also check out more information on how to improve your GPA.


Academic Honours and Awards in the USA

Similarly to the UK, the USA also has awards for high-achieving students; these include the following:

  • Summa cum laude: This stands for "with highest honours” in Latin. Students with this award have achieved the highest academic standing and often account for the top 1% to 5% of the graduates or students with GPAs above 4.0. 

  • Magna cum laude: This award applies to the top 10% to 15% of students or students above a GPA of 3.8 to 3.9.

  • Cum laude: This award applies to the top 20% to 30% of students or students with GPAs between 3.5 to 3.7.

  • Honour Student: These are awarded to students who have taken several honours subjects and done well. 

  • Dean’s List Award: These are often awarded to students with strong academic achievements and are awarded with certificates during graduation ceremonies. These may not apply to all institutions. 

Other awards include:

  • Valedictorian: student with highest academic achievement in class. 

  • Salutatorian: second-best performing student in graduating class.

How Do Assessments and Their Weight Differ?

When looking at grades and comparing the US GPA system with the UK uni grading system, it is also important to know how assessments typically occur in US and UK universities. In US universities, assessments are typically continuous, meaning that you’ll have many small assessments, projects, and small tests throughout the semester that all contribute to your final grade, whereas in the UK, final assessments and dissertations play the biggest role in your grade. 

This does not mean, however, that UK universities do not have coursework and other forms of assessments during the semester; rather, the weight of this coursework differs in comparison to the USA. This is the general comparison between both countries; however, regional differences and course differences may impact how assessments are conducted and weighed. 

To know more about education in the UK and the USA, we have created a large list of resources that can provide great information before heading to any country to study. Among these are guides such as The Cost of Living in Australia vs UK: A Comprehensive Guide and UK vs USA vs Australia: Where Should You Study Abroad? 


Subscribe to download

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a 70 an A in the UK?

down icon

If you get 70% or above, this will award you the letter grade “A” and place you in the category of excellent to outstanding for your bachelor’s study and distinction in master’s degrees.

What is an A+ in the UK?

down icon

The UK equivalent of A+ is the 75% to 100% grade range.

What is a 3.0 GPA in UK?

down icon

A 3.0 GPA is the equivalent of the 60–69% range in the UK grading system, which is the upper second-class distinction.

What does P mean in grades UK?

down icon

A “P” refers to a pass, meaning you have been given a passing grade. A P is mainly given in post-graduate studies and is the minimum to be awarded your diploma.