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I'm trying to figure out the equivalence between grade schemes in different countries.

According to some Google results:

  1. If you are a U.S. citizen, you need a GPA of 3.2+ (it varies, some say 3.2 and some others say 3.6, etc) to apply for a position in the UK (job or university) where the prerequisite is to have a minimum grade of 2:1.

  2. In UK 2:1 is earned if you have a 60-69% of the points. I've read that 2:1 is the same as 67%.

  3. In Spain we use a grading scheme of 10 points. So according to (2), for have a UK 2:1 you need to have 6-6.9 points.

  4. If you are Spanish and have 6.7, when converting it to GPA the result is 1.5.

However, if you take the above points and treat them as a math equation, the final result will be GPA 1.5 = GPA 3.2, which doesn't make any sense.

GPA 3.2 = UK 2:1
UK 2:1 = Spain 6.7
Spain 6.7 = GPA 1.5

Replacing now...

UK 2:1 = GPA 1.5    
GPA 3.2 = GPA 1.5

My question is if someone has a better explanation on converting grades obtained in different countries.

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It's not clear what you are actually asking. Could you please expand? Are you asking about equivalence of grades in the countries, or about degrees, such as MSc.? –  walkmanyi Apr 2 '13 at 13:38
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Related (duplicate?): academia.stackexchange.com/q/8170/102 –  Charles Morisset Apr 2 '13 at 13:47
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@CharlesMorisset not duplicated –  yzT Apr 2 '13 at 15:30
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The spelling is "grade"; "grad" is short for "graduate" (as a noun) and is confusing in this context. –  Nate Eldredge Apr 2 '13 at 15:41
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I realize that you mainly mention translating grades between Spain-UK-USA but the final statement of your question is about converting grades in general, so that's what I will refer to.

Most countries have their own system which doesn't really make sense as you try to "translate" them to some other system.

For example in Sweden two grading systems exist at university level:

  • U/G/VG which stands for fail/pass/pass with distinction
  • U/3/4/5 which stands for fail/pass with grade 3/4/5 (5 being the best possible grade) used primarily in technical (such as engineering) universities/faculties

Our neighbouring Denmark however seems to have a 7-grade system with a scale from -3 to 12. In Germany, however, the best grade you can get is a 1, thus you would want a "GPA" as low as possible. So much so that if you apply to an institute with 4+ GPA from a Swedish engineering school, they don't even bother to reply (personal experience).

To add to this grading madness, consider the effect of the curve bell; in some countries university exams are graded based on a bell curve, so a certain percentage of students get the best grade no matter how many points they get. In other words if you are in a class of overambitious students, well, your 80% in the exam might be barely enough for a pass.

Note that a standardised grading system was attempted in the EU (with some extra countries) in connection with the Bologna Process, with the ultimate goal of facilitating internationalization amongst European countries. But it died out due to the resistance from many different institutes. When the standardised grading system introduced with the Bologna Process was trashed later on (at least in Sweden), the solution was to supply a diploma supplement, for instance upon enrolment in exchange program, where statistics (how many students were enrolled, how many passed with what grade etc) for each course the student has taken is denoted.

To sum it up, what the grades are supposed to reflect typically gets lost in translation. Trying to convert them back and forth does not make any sense, and even if it did, there is no guarantee that country A and country B will value a certain grade G from a country C the same way. In clearer terms your 6.7 Spanish GPA might not weigh equal when judged by the American and the British authorities/companies.

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"If you apply to an institute with 4+ GPA from a Swedish engineering school, they don't even bother to reply (personal experience)." Of course; saying you're 4+ means you're one of the worst students! –  Joe Z. Apr 11 '13 at 14:13
    
@JoeZ. japp, the irony is that a 4+ GPA from my program in Sweden is actually pretty good. Unfortunately my faculty did not make it clear how our grading system works, and our German friends figured everyone knew about/used the same grading system as them. The moral of the story is, whenever you send/submit a transcript/GPA always attach some form of a diploma supplement, so that they can judge the grades accordingly –  posdef Apr 25 '13 at 10:57
    
+1 for discussing the problems of the ECTS grading scale. –  non-numeric_argument Nov 11 '13 at 15:31
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There is no clear answer for conversion between grading schemes in different countries. Sure, you could numerically try to convert using ratios and proportions as you are currently tying to do but they don't really mean anything because of the following two salient reasons:

  1. Grade Inflation and Deflation: Grades mean differently in different institutions across different disciplines and in different courses. For instance, certain highly ranked universities in the USA are very well known for grade inflation. A 3.5 overall GPA is what almost everyone gets. On the other hand, certain other highly ranked universities suffer from grade inflation where getting a 3.0 GPA in certain courses and in certain majors is very different. Hence, merely using some base metric to convert between grading schemes of different countries is not a very good idea.
  2. Differential grading within the same country: Not every country has a standardized grading system. For instance, India has at least 5 different grading schemes that I am aware of including but not limited to absolute CGPA's on a 4.0 scale, a percentage system on 100 and a relative CGPA system on a 10.0 scale.

tl;dr

Don't convert between different grading schemes unless it is explicitly mentioned what minimum grades you need for your own country. Just apply and hope for the best.

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In Spain, examinations are graded in 0-10 (with 0 being failing everything, and 10 a perfect score), but then the actual marks for each subject at universities is in a 4 degrees scale: 0-fail, 1-pass, 2-remarkable, 3-outstanding, 4-outstanding with honors. Marks are weighted by the number of credits (equivalent 10-hour blocks of study, including class attendance, labs, and estimated self-study) of each subject.

People with non-Spanish degrees have to convert their marks to this 4 point system, with the help of the following algorithm (in pseudo-code; you can find how to use it, for instance, in this form from the Spanish Council of Scientific Research):

Ti = 0;
Mi = 50+50*(Ci-Nmin)/(Nmax-Nmin)
if Mi >= 50 and Mi < 69.9 then Ti = 1
else if Mi >= 70 and Mi < 89.9 then Ti = 2
else if Mi >= 80 and Mi < 99.9 then Ti = 3
else if Mi > 99.9 then Ti = 4

and the final average is the total sum of the weighted average (Ci times Ti) divided by the total sum of credits (Ci), where:

  • Nmax = maximum note in the source system
  • Mmin = minimum note that gives a pass in the source system
  • Ci = number of of credits for subject i
  • SMi = source mark for subject i
  • Mi = intermediate 0-100 mark (with 50 being the first note that gives a pass)
  • Ti = final mark in the Spanish system

You can use that kind of intermediate step to go from any mark system to any other. The only thing you have to change is:

  • Nmin and Nmax; it even works for system such as the German, where Nmax = 1,0 and Nmin = 4,0
  • the brackets and marks for converting from the 100-point system to the target system.
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