Secondary education study results

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, schools assess study results as follows:

  • GCSE England: 9 to 1, where 9 is the highest and 4 to 6 are good passes.
  • GCSE Wales: A * to G, where A * is the highest and A, B and C are good passes.
  • GCSE Northern Ireland: both systems are used (numbers and letter grades).
  • GCE: A * to E, all of which are sufficient. The A* has been used at the GCE since 2010.

In England, the assessment system has been adjusted in recent years. Schools have switched from letters to numbers. In 2017, only the subjects English language, English literature and mathematics were graded. The rest of the subjects followed gradually. Since the summer of 2020, all GCSE subjects have been assessed with numbers as grades.

Numbers Letters Meaning
9, 8, 7 A* of A Very good to good
6, 5, 4 B of C Good pass
3, 2, 1 D, E, F, G Weak pass
U Ungraded Not assessed

Source: GCSE new grading scale: factsheets (UK government).

Valuation of study results

Check out more information (in Dutch) about the valuation of study results achieved.

Secondary education documents

Secondary education diplomas state the subjects that the student has passed, with the examination results. In some cases, a pupil may have attained different diplomas at different points in time and/or from different examining boards. This is because pupils are permitted to sit subject-specific exams for both the GCSE and GCE exams and can add examination subjects by sitting additional exams each year.

Checking Cambridge certificates online

To verify the authenticity of Cambridge certificates, consult the CIE Direct database, which is available free of charge for higher education institutions. For more information about the use of this database, read the CIE Direct - a guide for Universities.

Secondary vocational education study results

BTEC Level 3 programmes assess results of students with a letter grade:

  • Distinction (D)
  • Merit (M)
  • Pass (P)
  • Near Pass (N)
  • Unclassified (U)

The assessment applies to the programme as a whole. The letter grade is based on the total number of points attained for all units of the programme.

You can find more information about these assessments in ‘Grading for units and qualifications’ of the PDF Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Certificate in Business.

Higher education study results

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland higher education institutions use A to D to assess study results, with D being the lowest pass. There is no national standard, but many universities use this system. See also the table below.

Please note: at the end of a bachelor's programme, all assessments (i.e. grades) are converted into an honours classification system, meaning the student is awarded a class. In the British system, classes are associated with Bachelor (Honours) degrees only, and are not used for Bachelor (Ordinary) degrees. Neither are classes awarded for master’s and doctoral degrees, with the exception of the integrated master's programmes.

Letter grade Percentage Class Meaning
A 70% en hoger first class good to very good (cum laude)
B 60-69% upper second class/second class division (abbreviated as 2:1) more than sufficient to good
C 50-59% lower second class/second class division 2 (abbreviated as 2:2) more than sufficient to sufficient
D 40-49% third class just sufficient

Compensated pass (CP)

Subject to specific conditions, students can obtain a 'compensated pass' for a subject or module which they formally failed. Their score should not be lower than 30% and they must reach a certain average for the other results achieved (e.g. 45%). The original result for the subject or module concerned is stated on the list of marks, qualified by ‘CP’.

Study hours in credits

British universities have their own system for expressing the study load of a programme: CATS (Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme). In handbooks and course catalogues, universities in the England, Wales and Northern Ireland often list the number of credits not only in CATS but in ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) form as well.

  • ECTS is based on 60 points per year;
  • CATS is based on 120 points per year.

Bachelor's programmes at British universities consist of 60 ECTS credits per year (120 CATS). While most of these programmes are 3-year programmes, some do last 4 years.

Please note: for master's programmes, they assume students obtain 90 ECTS (180 CATS) per year. This is because British universities do not present a 1-year master's programme as a single academic year, but rather as a 12-month calendar year. A programme of that duration therefore qualifies for more than 60 ETCS.

Higher education documents

Higher education diplomas:

  • always state the name of the degree or certificate;
  • do not always state the name of the degree programme.

It is important to check the information concerning the programme and the subjects taken. Usually you can find this information in:

  • a list of subjects, the academic record (transcript);
  • a diploma supplement; or
  • a Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).

In the list of subjects from a recognised degree programme:

  • 'awarding institution' features the name of the institution that granted the degree;
  • 'teaching institution' features the name of the institution that taught the programme.

Please note: these can be 2 different institutions. See also Collaboration with partner institutions.

Diploma supplement

The international diploma supplement has not yet been implemented everywhere. The British version of this is the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).

You can find more information about the Diploma Supplement (DS) on the Europass website, including examples of diploma supplements.

Checking diplomas online

If you have doubts about a diploma, you can ask the British higher education institution where it was obtained to verify its authenticity. In most cases however this does require written permission from the graduate concerned. There are also a number of other possibilities for verifying diplomas online:

  • Via the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) website, you can check whether a given institution is government-recognised, free of charge. You can also use the website to find more information on name changes of and mergers between educational institutions since 1990. It is also possible to purchase additional information, such as to check which diploma was awarded to a particular student.
  • For information on professional qualifications, you can consult professional bodies and registers such as those for teachers, nurses or engineers.