In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, educational institutions usually assess a student’s performance by numbers or letters.

Secondary education grading system

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, schools assess performances 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 vocational education grading system

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 ‘Section 9 Understanding the qualification grade’ of the PDF Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Certificate in Business.

Higher education grading system

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland higher education institutions use A to D as assessment system, 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.