The American grading system: between Cliché and Reality…

When the first exam arrived, I was really stressed. Believe me, It is not always easy to be an international student ! So, I decided to write you an article about the American grading system. If the content of an exam depends on the professor and the course, grading is always the same.


Everybody knows this kind of picture… and you probably think we have letters as a grade. I will break the cliché but professors don’t write letters on our papers. Indeed, even if letters are useful, professors assign you a percentage.

Consequently, I got 88% to my first history quizz. My professor gave me his conversion grid in the syllabus for the class. Thus, I got a B+… although it was not indicated anywhere else. At first, I was very surprised: I did not know what the teacher was expected. Finally, I think it is a good system but sometimes very stressful for international students.

 I give you an idea of the grid:

                                     A    :   94-100%                                 C+       :   77-79.9%                                     

A-        :   90-93.9%                           C         :   74-76.9%

B+       :   87-89.9%                           C-        :    70-73.9%

B         :   83-86.9%                           D+       :    67-69.9%

    B-        :   80-82.9%                           D         :    63-66.9%   

D-        :    60-62.9%                    F         :     – 60%

Of course, you are not going to wait more than one month to get your grade. After one or two weeks, the professor will give you your corrected paper.

As you can see, having 50% is not enough in the US because F means Fail. That is why the French grades should be well-converted: if you write just 12 on 20, it will be only a D. At the end of the semester, all your grades are averaged to determine your GPA (Grade Point Average).  For example, « GPA 3,0/4,0 » is a good GPA. Moreover, American Companies may ask your GPA as a selection criteria.

I hope this article will help you to understand the american grading system ! If you have any questions, post a comment under this article.