A Guide To The US Grading System In 2024

us grading system

The US grading system is crucial for students’ academic journey and future opportunities. Understanding how it works is essential for students, parents, and educators. The most common form of grading uses letter grades from A to F, reflecting a student’s performance in a specific course or subject. These letter grades are typically assigned based on a percentage scale or a points system. A indicates excellent performance (90-100%), and F represents failing grades (below 60%). 

This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the US grading system.

Key Takeaways On US Grading System

  • The US grading system primarily uses letter grades (A-F), with each letter corresponding to a percentage range. For example, an A represents 90-100%, while an F is below 60%.
  • The Grade Point Average (GPA) is a crucial metric in the US education system. It converts letter grades into a numerical scale (0.0 to 4.0) and is pivotal for college admissions, scholarships, and academic standing.
  • US schools may use different grading methods, including letter grades, numerical grades, and pass/fail systems. Some institutions also grade on a curve to adjust scores based on overall class performance.

US Grading System Scales

In the United States, schools use different grading systems. One common system uses letters like A, B, C, D, and F. These letters often link to percentage ranges showing how well students perform. Another system uses numbers from 0 to 100. This number-based system provides a detailed view of grades, including plus and minus distinctions.

Letter Grades (A, B, C, D, F) 

Schools in the USA use letter grades to show how well students do in their courses. These grades go from A to F. A stands for excellent, whereas F is considered to be poor. Usually, the grades given are A, B, C, D, and F. Some schools use more detailed grades like A+, A, A−, B+, B, B−, C+, C, C−, D+, D, and D−. An A means excellent work. A B means very good work. A C is average. A D is below average but still passing. An F means failing the course.

Numerical Grades 

Another type of US grading system uses numbers from 0 to 100. These grades usually come with a letter grade. The percentage shows how many questions a student answered correctly. The US grading system also breaks down into plus and minus grades. An A is from 93-100, an A- from 90-92, a B+ from 87-89, and so on.

Grade Point Average (GPA) 

The Grade Point Average (GPA) shows how well a student is doing in school in the United States. Schools turn letter grades into numbers on a 4.0 scale. Let’s see what each grade says about your studies: A = 4.0;  = 3.0; C = 2.0; D = 1.0, and F = 0. The GPA is key in the US grading system. Universities use it to judge applicants. There are three types of GPA: class GPA, semester GPA, and cumulative GPA.

Curved Grading 

Some schools and professors grade on a curve. This means they base grades on how the whole class does instead of using a fixed scale. In a curved system, the top students get A’s, the next group gets B’s, and so on. This happens no matter what their actual scores are. This method helps account for hard material and ensures a normal spread of grades.

Pass/Fail Grading 

Some US schools and courses use a pass/fail grading system. In this system, students get a “pass” or “fail” grade instead of a letter grade. This method is often used for elective courses, seminars, or classes that focus on learning rather than grades. Pass/fail grading does not impact a student’s GPA.

Letter GradeNumerical GradeGrade Point Average (GPA)
A+97-100 4.0
FBelow 65         0.0

How Is GPA Calculated?

In the United States, the GPA (Grade Point Average) shows how well a student is doing in school/college. It’s a number on a 4.0 scale. Each letter grade has a matching number value.

To figure out your GPA, multiply each grade by the credit hours for the course. Then, add up these numbers. Finally, divide the total by the number of credit hours you’ve tried. For instance, let’s say a student gets these grades in one semester:

 In the above case, the GPA calculation would be:

  • English: 4.0 x 4 = 16.0
  • Maths: 3.0 x 3 = 9.0
  • History: 2.0 x 2 = 4.0

Total grade points: 16.0 + 9.0 + 4.0 = 29.0

Total credit hours: 4 + 3 + 2 = 9

GPA = 29.0 / 9 = 3.22

Hence, the student’s GPA for that semester would be 3.22 on a 4.0 scale.

Various Types Of GPA 

ConceptClass GPASemester GPACumulative GPA
DefinitionFind out the average grades in a certain course or subject.The average of grades in one academic term (semester or quarter)The average of all grades a student earns during their academic journey.
Calculation    Add up all the grade points earned in a class and then divide that sum by the number of credits attempted in that class.Adding up all the grade points earned and then dividing that total by the number of credits attempted in that semester.Adding up all the grade points and then dividing that total by the number of credits attempted.
ScopeConsiders only grades in a single class Considers only grades in a single semesterConsiders all grades from all semesters
PurposeIndicates performance in a specific subject areaIndicates performance in a single academic term          Indicates overall academic performance and progress
Used For         Determining eligibility for advanced courses, honours, etc. in that subject Determining academic standing, eligibility for activities, etc. each term Determining graduation eligibility, academic honours, college admissions, scholarships, etc.

Weighted Vs. Unweighted GPA 

Weighted and unweighted GPAs are calculated differently. To find an unweighted GPA, average the numerical equivalents of letter grades from all classes. Weighted GPAs, however, consider course difficulty and give extra points for advanced courses.

Colleges use both types of GPAs to evaluate applicants’ academic abilities and achievements. Weighted GPAs show a student’s academic commitment and readiness for challenging coursework. This can boost their chances of getting into schools that value academic consistency.

Unweighted GPA

  • Straightforward numerical representation of academic performance
  • Treats all courses equally without considering difficulty levels
  • Follows a standard 4.0 scale (A = 4.0, B = 3.0, etc.)
  • Provides a general overview of academic achievement
  • May undervalue students who undertake more challenging coursework

Weighted GPA

  • Factors in the difficulty of courses
  • Assigns extra weight to grades in advanced classes (honours, AP, IB)
  • Acknowledges the rigour of coursework
  • Allows students to earn more than a 4.0 on the scale
  • Reflects a student’s willingness to challenge themselves academically
  • Valued by colleges that emphasise rigorous coursework

High School Vs. College Grading In The US

In the United States, high school and college grading systems differ a lot in criteria, expectations, and outcomes. Let’s see the key differences between high school and college grading:

Types of Honours In The US Grading System 

In the United States, students with outstanding academic performance during their university studies can earn Latin honours when they graduate. These honours depend on a student’s overall GPA and come in three levels: cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude.

Cum Laude (With Honour) 

Cum laude is a Latin honour in the US grading system. It is the lowest level of such honours. To earn cum laude, a student usually needs a GPA between 3.5 and 3.7 on a 4.0 scale. This honour shows that the student has done well in their studies. It means their GPA is among the top in their class.

Magna Cum Laude (With Great Honour)

Magna cum laude is the second-highest honour you can earn in the US grading system. To get this honour, students need a GPA between 3.7 and 3.9 on a 4.0 scale. This honour goes to students who have done very well in their studies. It shows they are among the top students in their class.

Summa Cum Laude (With Greatest Honour)

Summa cum laude is the top Latin honour in the US grading system. To earn this, a student usually needs a GPA of 3.9 or higher on a 4.0 scale. This honour is for students who excel academically and rank among the top in their classes. Summa cum laude is a prestigious award that recognises outstanding academic achievements.

Comparing US Vs UK Grading System

Understanding the grading systems in the United States and the United Kingdom is essential for students involved in international education. Here’s a clear comparison of the key differences between the US and UK grading systems, presented in a table format.

PointUnited StatesUnited Kingdom
Grading Scale Uses GPA (Grade Point Average) on a 4.0 scaleUtilises a numerical or alphabetical scale
Passing Grade70% and above is considered a passing grade  Varies by institution and programme, typically 40% and above for undergraduate degrees
Letter Grades A, B, C, D, E/F with variations (+, -) A*, A, B, C, D, E with A* being the highest grade
Significance of Grades 90%-100%: Excellent; 80%-89%: Good; 70%-79%: Satisfactory; Below 70%: Fail70% and above: A; Each 10% decrease corresponds to a lower letter grade
Postgraduate Degrees Uses letter grades and levels of distinction like Distinction, Merit, Pass     Graded using levels of distinction, similar to honours levels
MBA Passing Mark       Often 50%      Usually 40%, but varies by institution
Assessment Weight     Continuous assessments throughout the semesterFinal assessments and dissertations play a significant role
Grading CriteriaFocuses on exams and final semester work  Focuses on holistic development of students

For international students wanting to study in the US, it’s important to understand the grading system. It plays a big role in admissions, scholarships, and academic status. Though it’s different from systems in other countries like the UK, the US grading system clearly and consistently measures student performance.


What Is The Purpose Of The US Grading System?

The US grading system helps teachers and schools measure how well students are doing. They use it to report student performance in schools and universities.

What Are The Main Letter Grades Used In The US?

The primary grades are A, B, C, D, and F. An A is the best grade. An F means you failed.

How Are The Letter Grades Converted To Percentage?

A typical conversion is: A (90-100%), B (80-89%), C (70-79%), D (60-69%), F (0-59%).

How Does Weighted Differ From Unweighted GPA?

A weighted GPA gives extra points for honours/AP classes, while an unweighted GPA does not.

How Important Are Grades For College Admissions?

Grades are one of the most important factors, along with test scores, extracurriculars, and essays.

We hope this article on US Grading System helped you understand the complete differences here, read similar articles here, 

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A Guide To The US Grading System In 2024

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