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Understanding UK Grading System 2023: Beginner's Guide

Yocket Editorial Team

Every country with a globally reputable education system follows a standardised structure for academic grading. The British grading system helps all the stakeholders—institutions, recruiters, policymakers, education loan providers, funding sponsors and, above all, students, to assess academic performance. If you plan to study in the United Kingdom you should know about the UK grading system.

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The UK university grading system helps understand the application requirements and eligibility for the universities you are aiming to get admitted to. For Indian students applying to UK universities, a comprehensive understanding of the prevailing UK grading scale is essential for choosing suitable courses and subjects. Let’s go through this blog to understand the same.

Table of Content

Understanding the University Grading System UK

The British grading system is highly appreciated and effective as it perfectly tests student achievements in terms of skills and academic strengths. Countries like Canada, Australia, and even India (to some extent) follow the UK grading scale for higher studies.

Though, the United Kingdom follows distinct grading methods. Northern Ireland, Wales, and England share mostly the same techniques, whereas the grading system of Scotland is quite different. Let’s understand the UK university grading system in detail.

The UK education system has four distinct stages:



Primary Education

Ends with the Scholastic Attainment Test or SAT.

Secondary Education

Ends with the General Certificate of Secondary Education or GCSE.

Further Education

Ends with an Advanced-Level, International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or University Foundation

Higher Education

Ranges from a minimum of 3-year ordinary bachelor’s degree to Doctorate programs.

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Note: SAT and GCSE are parts of compulsory education in the UK. GCSE is taken at the end of secondary education. Students of England, Northern Ireland, and Wales typically take this course.

UK Grading System in Compulsory Education

UK Grading System in Compulsory Education

The UK GCSE grading system follows two different types of grading scales.

  • In England, the GCSE grading system is numerical (starting with the lowest possible grade 1, the highest possible grade 9 and the average passing grade being 4).
  • In Northern Ireland and Wales, GCSE follows a letter-based grading scale with A* being the highest possible letter grade and F being the lowest possible grade. In the letter grading system, D is usually a minimum passing grade.

Students from India mostly join the best universities in the UK for studying in graduate, post-graduate, and professional programs. Besides, many Indian students appear in International Baccalaureate (IB) for the global acceptance of the diploma in higher education.

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Next, let’s explore the UK grading system higher education.

Grading System for Higher Education in the UK

Pre-university and subsequent higher education courses in the UK are highly selective. So, the university grading system UK put strong emphasis on accurate assessment and evaluation of students’ performances. Let’s explore the grading systems used for this education.

UK Advanced Level Exam Grading System

Advanced Levels or A-Level is a school-leaving qualification in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

  • The majority of universities accept A-Level for suitability-test of applicants for subjects, courses, and programmes.
  • The minimum passing grade is 40%. Advanced level grades are A, B, C, D, E in descending order.
  • The grade below E is unclassified or U. From 2010, the grade A* is assigned to students scoring 80% in all the six modules and 90% in at least two modules.
  • The minimum percentage equivalent of grade E is approximately 40%.

Grade Letter

Percentage Score

Grade Definition



















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Undergraduate Grading System in UK

A bachelor’s degree in the UK can be of two types: Ordinary degree or Pass degree and Honours degree. The classification or gradation of undergraduate (with Honours) degree and ordinary degree are:

  • First-class - distinction
  • Upper second class - merit
  • Lower second class - pass
  • Third class - pass

Let us go through each classification one by one to develop our understanding better of UK undergraduate grading system:

First-class Degree

It is the highest possible grade in undergraduate courses signifying excellent achievement, and carries a percentage equivalent to a minimum of 70% or higher. In terms of letter grade equivalent, it is equivalent to A. The number of students receiving first-class has gradually increased in the last 60 years. In 2019, roughly 29% of students were awarded first-class. In the 1990s, the number was as low as 7%.

Upper Second-class Degree

The upper second-class degree (labelled as 2:1) is usually equivalent to 60% - 69%. This UK grading scale recognises students to be quite good but needs improvement in some subjects.

Lower Second-class Degree

This grade boundary is equivalent to a score of 50% to 59%. The lower second class shows lower academic achievement without any sign of quality in an academic sense.

Third-class Degree

It is the lowest academic grade boundary and approximately equivalent to 40% to 49%. It is the minimum criteria to pass degree courses. Informally, the third-class is also popularly known as a “gentleman's degree.” Students receiving third-class have very few choices available at the post-graduate level or in equivalent professional fields.

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Masters Grading System in the UK

Except for integrated master’s programs, all other master courses in UK follow a different UK grading scale compared to bachelor courses. University grading system UK boundaries are:

Grading Remarks

Percentage Equivalent


above 70%

Merit or Commendation

60% to 69%


50% to 59%

Borderline Pass

40% to 49%

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Do UK universities use the GPA system?

The 4-point GPA system is mainly unique to North America. UK universities do not follow the GPA grading system. However, you can roughly compare it to the university grading system UK. The First class is approximately at par, with a GPA of 4.0.

UK Module marks

UK degree classes


Above 70%

First-class Honours


60% to 69%

2:1 Upper second class

3.3 to 3.7

50% to 59%

2:2 Lower second class

2.7 to 3.0

40% to 49%

Third class

2.0 to 2.7


Academic Grading System in Scotland

Academic Grading System in Scotland

The Scottish Qualifications Authority follows a separate gradation system at the Scottish school-passing board level. The standard grades are:


Grade Remarks


Highest grade


Very strong pass






No award

Britain is traditionally a top higher education destination for Indian students. We have tried to give a bird’s eye view of the UK uni grading system at different levels of education in Britain.

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Percentage to GPA in the UK

The top Indian universities today mostly follow a 10-point GPA system.

UK Module marks

UK degree classes

10 point GPA

Above 80%

First-class Hons


75% to 79.99%

First-class Hons


70% to 74.99%

First-class Hons


60% to 69.99%

2:1 Upper second class


50% to 59.99%

2:2 Lower second class


45% to 49.99%

Third class


40% to 44.99%

Third class


From the Desk of Yocket

Pursuing education in UK universities is a sure way of securing your future. The top universities in the UK ensure that the program curriculum is constantly evolving and adhering to the needs of the present business industry. The UK's grading system offers a unique approach to evaluating student performance. From A-levels to university degrees, it prioritises a holistic understanding of subjects and encourages critical thinking. The variety of assessment methods and the focus on independent learning contribute to a well-rounded education. Understanding the grading system in the UK can empower both local and international students to navigate their academic journey with confidence, knowing that their hard work and dedication are valued and recognised.

But with so many grading systems, one can get confused easily. If you, too, need guidance from our expert counsellors, subscribe to Yocket premium. They can surely help you choose a suitable course or university, and help in many other study abroad formalities as well. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is a 70% an A in the UK?

What is the grading system in England?

Does the UK grade on a curve?

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