Grading in education

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Grading in education is the process of applying standardized measurements of varying levels of achievement in a course. Grades can be assigned as letters (for example, A through F), as a range (for example, 1 to 6), as a percentage, or as a number out of a possible total (for example, out of 100).[1]

In some countries, grades are averaged to create a grade point average (GPA). GPA is calculated by using the number of grade points a student earns in a given period of time.[2] GPAs are often calculated for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, and can be used by potential employers or educational institutions to assess and compare applicants. A cumulative grade point average (CGPA), sometimes referred to as just GPA, is a measure of a student's performance for all of his or her courses.


Yale University historian George W. Pierson writes: "According to tradition the first grades issued at Yale (and possibly the first in the country) were given out in the year 1785, when President Ezra Stiles, after examining 58 Seniors, recorded in his diary that there were 'Twenty Optimi, sixteen second Optimi, twelve Inferiores (Boni), ten Pejores.'"[3] Bob Marlin argues that the concept of grading students' work quantitatively was developed by a tutor named William Farish and first implemented by the University of Cambridge in 1792.[4] That assertion has been questioned by Christopher Stray, who finds the evidence for Farish as the inventor of the numerical mark to be unpersuasive.[5] Stray's article also explains the complex relationship between the mode of examination (oral or written) and the varying philosophies of education these modes imply to both the teacher and the student.[5] As a technology, grading both shapes and reflects many fundamental areas of educational theory and practice.

Grading systems by countryEdit

Most nations have their own grading system, and different institutions in a single nation can vary in their grading systems as well. However, several international standards for grading have arisen recently, such as the European Baccalaureate.

England and WalesEdit

In the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exam taken by secondary school students in England and Wales, grades generally range from 9 (highest) to 1 (lowest). These replaced earlier A, B, C... grading. However, in GCSE Science, Mathematics Statistics, and any Modern Foreign Language, there are two tiers (higher and foundation). In the higher tier, grades 9 to 4 can be achieved, while in the foundation tier, only grades 5 to 1 can be awarded.[6] The new 9–1 qualifications saw some more subjects such as English language and English literature go 'tierless,’ with the same paper covering all levels of demand. Generally, a 4 or above would be considered a pass and a 3 or below would be considered a fail by most institutions: for Mathematics and English Language and English Literature, and possibly Science, this would require a resit.

If a candidate does not score highly enough to get a grade 1, their results slip will have the letter U for "ungraded", meaning no grade was secured. Other letters such as X also exist in special circumstances.

In Wales, the grading is still from A* (highest) to G (lowest) with U a fail.

United StatesEdit

Most colleges and universities in the United States award a letter grade A (best), B, C, D, or F (fail) for each class taken (potentially with + or - modifiers). These letter grades are then used to calculate a GPA from 0 to 4.0 using a formula, where 4.0 is the best.[7] The average GPA is 3.3 at private institutions and 3.0 at public institutions.[8]

Various colleges, such as Evergreen State College and Hampshire College, do not use traditional grades. Brown University, an Ivy League school, does not calculate grade point averages, and all classes can be taken on a pass/fail basis. Additionally, several high schools have decided to forgo grades. A notable example is Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, which was ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the number one high school in the country for having the highest percentage of graduating seniors enroll in Ivy League and several other highly selective colleges.[9]

GPA in the United States job marketEdit

According to a study published in 2014, a one-point increase in high-school GPA translated to an 11.85% increase in annual earnings for men and 13.77% for women in the United States.[10]

College students often wonder how much weight GPA carries in their employment prospects. In many fields, work experience (such as internships) gained during one's time in college are the most important factors that employers consider. Other factors include choice of major, volunteering, choice of extracurricular activities, relevance of coursework, GPA, and the reputation of one's college. The relative importance of these factors do vary between professions, but for a graduate's first job out of college, GPA is often quite high on the list of factors that employers consider.[11] There is also criticism about using grades as an indicator in employment. Armstrong (2012) claimed that the relationship between grades and job performance is low and becoming lower in recent studies.[12] Grade inflation at American colleges over recent decades has also played a role in the devaluation of grades.[13]


Different educational boards use different metrics in awarding grades to students, along with the marks obtained in most cases. Central Board of Secondary Education follows positional grading system where grades are given on basis of the position of the student, if the student is in top 1/8th ranks the grade is A1, next 1/8th A2, next 1/8th B1 and so on.. This grading system is based on relative position of student rather than the actual marks by the student, it compares marks of different students and then a grade is given.


In Nepal, grading systems are of two types. In SEE Board, the grade point is calculated on the basis of range of marks obtained by students. For instance; Two students who score 86 and 89 respectively out of 100 full marks, then they are both included under A grade. While in NEB (National Examination Board), the grade points are awarded according to the actual marks obtained by the student but not according to range. For calculating GPA, the average of ranges of marks obtained is taken in SEE while, only average of marks is taken in NEB. This process is irreversible in case of SEE if someone wants to convert GPA to Percentage.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Salvo Intravaia (7 November 2009). "Il liceale con la media del 9,93 "Sono il più bravo d'Italia"". (in Italian).
  2. ^ grade point average. (n.d.). WordNet2.0 Retrieved 3 October 2011, from website: point average
  3. ^ Pierson, George (1983). "C. Undergraduate Studies: Yale College". A Yale Book of Numbers. Historical Statistics of the College and University 1701–1976. New Haven: Yale Office of Institutional Research. p. 310.
  4. ^ Postman, Neil (1992). Technopoly The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 13.
  5. ^ a b Christopher Stray, "From Oral to Written Examinations: Cambridge, Oxford and Dublin 1700–1914", History of Universities 20:2 (2005), 94–95.
  6. ^ "Pearson qualifications – Edexcel, BTEC, LCCI and EDI – Pearson qualifications".
  7. ^ "Academics – US-UK Fulbright Commission".
  8. ^ Rampell, Catherine (19 April 2010). "Want a Higher GPA, Go to a Private College". The New York Times. New York: The New York Times Company. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  9. ^ 2 April 2004 Wall Street Journal, Cover Story (Personal Journal)
  10. ^ Berman, Jillian (23 May 2014). "Female 'A+' Students End Up Making As Much As Male 'C' Students". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014.
  11. ^ Lindsay, Samantha. "What's the Average College GPA? By Major?". Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  12. ^ Armstrong, J. Scott (2012). Natural Learning in Higher Education. Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. pp. 2426–2433. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_994. ISBN 978-1-4419-1427-9.
  13. ^ Katsikas, Aina (13 January 2015). "Same Performance, Better Grades". The Atlantic. Retrieved 5 November 2015. Ultimately, grade inflation has severe consequences. Not only does it make it difficult for employers to vet the caliber of an applicant, but it also misleads students, who often use their grades as benchmarks to help diagnose their strengths and weaknesses.