Grading system in US





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Discus: College Search and Selection: August 2004 Archive: Grading system in US
By Tiffyy (Tiffyy) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 05:02 am: Edit

I am used to the british system of grading, whereby grades are according to your raw score in an exam (i.e. if you get 80% of the questions correct in an exam, your mark is 80%, and you get an A so long as you're above 70 or 75.). What is it like in the US? Why is it that you need 90 or above for an A? Does that really mean you need to answer 90% correctly, or that you have to be in the top 10% in your class?

By Ubercollegeman (Ubercollegeman) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 05:44 am: Edit

Grades in the USA refer to GPA, or grades that the school gives. Most classes in the USA are not entirely exam-based, and exams are usually easy enough to get 90%+ with a bit of effort. There's also a curve, where, say, you answer 80% of the questions right on a 100 question test, but you got the highest score in the class, so you get 100% (80/80). Basically, a 90% is not extremely difficult.

Now, a 90+% on an AP exam is very difficult. A 5 is the equivalent of an A and is usually centered around 65-70% of the possible points, but that goes up and down with respect to each exam.

Class ranking is your GPA relative to everyone else in your grade and high school. For example, if you have a 3.9 GPA, and there are only two kids with 3.91 and 3.95 respectively that are higher, and there are 100 students in the class, your rank would be 3/100, which is good. The standard GPA system out of 4.0 is

A = 4.0
B = 3.0
C = 2.0, etc

and the grades are averaged to yield a GPA. Certain classes, namely Honors and AP classes, are far more difficult than normal classes and are thus sometimes weighted accordingly (i.e. an A in an AP class may be worth 5.0, in which case the maximum GPA would be higher than 4.0). This is why you sometimes see references to both W and UW GPA (weighted and unweighted). There is no "underweighting" that I've ever heard of.

Well, if you have any more questions, post them. In return, I was wondering whether or not you could give a detailed explanation of the whole idea of A-levels and O-levels, since I'm not sure what they mean (I've always likened them to the AP/IB programs in the USA).

By Rums (Rums) on Monday, August 09, 2004 - 07:21 pm: Edit

I can give you an explanation of A-levels and IB Diploma - myself having done A-levels, my siblings the IB Diploma. In the UK compulsary education finishes at age 16 with the completion of a set of public exams called GCSEs (these replaced O-levels many years ago, 'O' for 'Ordinary' - in some countries 'O' Levels still exist, however). After GCSEs at age 16 you can begin working, start vocational training, or go to a sixth form college, where A-levels are studied for two years, which allow entrance to university. At most sixth form colleges you need at least 5 A-C grade passes at GCSE level to be able to study four Advanced Subsidiary subjects ('AS' Levels), three of which are studied to Advanced Level ('A' Level). An entire A-level course takes two years, and consists of six modules. For some A-level subjects you need to have particular GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) eg to study A-level Chemistry, GCSE Chemistry and Maths/Phys/Bio at grade B min. is normally required. Assessment of A-levels is by examination and coursework. For example, in A-level Chemistry there are six modules (which vary depending on the exam body). Exams for the first three modules (eg Organic, Inorganic and Physical) are taken at the end of the first year (the Advanced Subsidiary), the latter three modules are taken at the end of the second year, which also includes the dreaded Synoptic Exam (an exam paper testing knowledge and understanding of the entire past two years of chemistry). The exams are never multiple choice, but consist of structured questions that require extended answers or essay questions (typically, two essays per paper, of which there are six, one for each module). In addition to exams some subjects also include a coursework component. Taking chemistry as an example again, we do coursework in the AS year and the A-level year, so, we would be given a title such as "the synthesis of aspirin" and be expected to carry out a lab practical (ie make the aspirin from its chemical constituents. and then carry out further investigations into the aspirin we've made) and write a piece of coursework. In chemistry courseworks tend not to be too wordy, consisting mostly of calculations and drawings of chemical structures, in Biology i believe my coursework was several thousand words! Furthermore, there are also Vocational A-levels (Eg Engineering, Health Care, Social Care, Tourism, Business etc.) In the UK you need three A-levels to study at university, eg if you wanted to major in Engineering, you'd probably need A-level Maths, Further Maths and Physics. A full IB Diploma (3 HL, 3 SL) is normally accepted in lieu of 3 A-levels. Ok, i've written a bit much, but i hope it's clear and makes sense!


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