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How UK University Grading System Works?

Recent statistics have shown that about 452,225 international students turned to the United Kingdom in 2020–2021 to get a university degree. UK is among the top 5 most-preferred destinations for undergraduate studies around the globe. Hence, it has become more important than ever to understand how the undergraduate grading system works in the UK.

If you are planning to study in the UK for a bachelor’s or an integrated master’s degree, it is probably a good idea to get familiar with the UK university grading system and understand how GPA works, which is also applied in many other countries.

So, here’s an overview of the UK grading system and how it works!

UK degree options

When you apply for an undergraduate degree in the UK, you can choose between an ordinary degree and an honours degree.

What’s the difference between an ordinary degree and an honours degree?

The ordinary degree is the regular BA (Bachelor of Art) or BSc (Bachelor of Science) degree, in which you make your own combination of subjects and complete 15 credit hours in 3 years.

An honours degree is a 4-year degree in which you choose a subject to specialize in along with some compulsory subjects and complete 20 credit hours.

Students who enrol for an ordinary bachelor’s degree would need to pass all the chosen subjects to receive a degree. Thus, failing a course would simply mean that you won’t be awarded a degree.

On the other hand, an honours degree does not just specify if you have passed all your courses but also highlights your specialization and performance level during the course of the studies, which helps an employer get a clear idea of a student’s capability. Therefore, an honours degree has a greater value and more popularity in the UK than an ordinary undergraduate degree.

Honours degree classifications

According to the university grading system in the UK, an honours degree is classified into four classes, namely: first, upper second, lower second, and third-class. Each class has an equivalent percentage and grade assigned to it.


Classification Mark Equivalent grade
First-class (1st) 70%+ A
Upper second-class (2.1) 60-69% B
Lower second-class (2.2) 50 – 59% C
Third class (3rd ) 40 – 49% D

First-class degree

First class honours, or a ‘first’, is the highest-level degree classification awarded. Itis awarded to the students who have achieved 70% or greater marks. The equivalent grade is ‘A,’ and this class shows the highest level of achievement. While it has become increasingly difficult for students to specialize in multiple subjects simultaneously, they can strive to get a first-class degree in two different subjects by pursuing a joint honours degree. Such degree is known as “double firsts,” and some prestigious institutions like the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Glasglow are awarding it.

A first-class degree portrays your dedication and interest in the subject of specialization, improving your chances of landing your dream job or admission to your desired university for higher studies.

Find a list of universities in UK

Upper second-class degree

You get an upper second-class degree or a two-one degree when you achieve within 60-69% marks. It is equivalent to a (B) degree. While getting this degree would place you after the first-class degree holders, you’ll still be ahead of everyone else. Universities and employers who wish to get the cream of the crop take this degree as their minimum eligibility criteria. This degree shows that you have a fair degree of command in your subject.

Lower second-class degree

A lower second-class degree, also called Desmond or two-two, equals a grade C, and you get it if you achieve within 50 to 59% marks. It is the minimum grade that you must achieve to become eligible for a normal graduate program or employment opportunity.

Third-class degree

A third-class degree or a third means that you have barely managed to pass the course with 40 to 49% marks or a D-grade. Not many graduates achieve this degree, and those who do, do not have much choice in terms of higher education and job opportunities. Being the lowest of the lot, this is probably a degree you would never wish to be awarded with.

What happens if a student doesn’t achieve any of these honour degrees?

In some UK universities if an honours student fails to achieve a third-class degree by a small margin, they will be awarded an ordinary degree only. In this case, the ordinary degree indicates that the student has completed his or her degree, but without achieving the conditions to gain honours.

Related articles

Education System in the UK

The UK offers a diverse and flexible range of courses in globally ranked institutions.

UK student visa requirements

The visa you need will depend on your age and the type of study you want to do. An overview of study visa types and application requirements is included below, but for more information you should visit the Gov.UK website.

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