American grading system in school


Grades play an important role in school life. Globally, assessment systems all over the world operate in the same way – successful students receive high scores, and those who lag behind in the program receive a well-deserved conditional “deuce”. However, each country has its own characteristics. Let’s get acquainted with how the grading mechanism works in US schools!


How do American students live? Judging by the films, the main problems are: sports (qualifying for a football team or a cheerleading group), parties (invited or not invited, whether parents allow it or not), and college admission (receiving cherished letters with offers is probably present in every second movie about high school students). Have you ever seen an episode where a teenager in America gets upset about a grade? Me not! Of course, we will not make serious judgments on the cinematic cut, but, nevertheless, this is in some way significant. School grades in the United States are not as important as, many other countries. Let’s talk about the American grading system in school!

Grading scale in US schools

US schools use a five-point grading system. The American grading scale includes a full 5 points, which are indicated by letters, namely: A (excellent), B (good), C (satisfactory), D (poor) and E (unsatisfactory). Additionally, “+” and “-” are used, but officially these marks are not taken into account.

Clear criteria are used for grading, each score corresponds to a certain percentage of the student’s assimilation of educational material.

A (EXCELLENT) 90-99%
B (GOOD) 80-90%
D (BAD) 60-70%

In many states, the letter designation of an unsatisfactory grade is different: instead of E, F (Fail, i.e. “complete failure”) or grade U (for Unsatisfactory) is often used.

In American schools, a semester system has been adopted, i.e. Students and their parents receive progress reports every six months.

You can see the results of the semester in the parent’s personal account in the school Internet portal. In addition to the scoring system, educators use the opportunity to provide additional brief comments, which usually include praise or recommendations for further study. The commentary may also indicate points requiring special attention.

Privacy is the norm

In American society, human rights are of paramount importance. Privacy and respect for personal boundaries are already cultivated at school – a teacher in the USA never gives a student any evaluative comments in the presence of other students. Marks for control, oral answers or written work are confidential information, only the student himself and his teachers know how well or poorly he studies.

There is no such thing as parent-teacher meetings in the usual sense for some other countries, when a class teacher scolds lagging behind students and sets excellent students as an example. If parents get together, then just to chat informally, watch a school concert, meet teachers, and possibly make donations to charities.

American parents are not called to school in case of academic problems. Students are expected to take responsibility for their own successes and failures.

Distinctive features of the American school

In high school in the United States there is no such thing as a class, study groups are formed for each discipline separately. That is, for example, some guys will be your classmates in mathematics, and others in computer literacy. There are both pros and cons to this approach. First of all, the absence of a “class” as such allows you to communicate with all the peers of the stream, not limited to a team of 25-30 people. The need to constantly adapt to different groups develops communication skills and facilitates easier adaptation to a university or college in the future. In addition, the average American student, as a rule, has a fairly wide circle of contacts, because every day you have to communicate, get acquainted, and complete educational projects with a large number of other children.

The downside is the lack of a kind of chamber community – a class in the usual sense for other countries, because you can only communicate closely with a limited number of people. A warm annual meeting of classmates who have studied together for 10-11 years and know almost everything about each other, is unlikely in America.

The curriculum in the United States involves the possibility of choosing a number of subjects. Required to study – mathematics, English, natural (biology, chemistry and physics) and social sciences (history, geography and economics). In addition, depending on their interests, middle school students have the opportunity to choose to study such subjects as: business fundamentals, accounting, marketing, entrepreneurial skills, programming, graphic design, music production, creative writing, the art of debate, cooking, housekeeping economy, foreign languages, etc. The list is far from complete; from 30 to 90 subjects are given to choose from, depending on the capabilities of a particular school.

The American student decides not only what subjects he will study, but also at what level. So for most items there is a gradation for Regular, Honor and AP, where:

  • Regular – studying the subject at the basic, standard level of the school curriculum;
  • Honor – the study of the subject at an in-depth level, a teacher’s recommendation is required to join the group. Honor level courses distinguish the candidate when applying to universities;
  • AP – studying the subject at an advanced level, any student can enroll in an AP course, but not many succeed in getting credit. AP courses allow you to earn credits, which will later be credited at universities.

What do ratings affect?

Although estimates are not given as much attention in the US as in other countries, they are certainly important. First of all, those who are going to get higher education. GPA, or grade point average, must be high.

According to statistics, about 10% of graduates receive a High Honors diploma (with honors) at the end of school. These are the “cream” of the school community, who have every chance of entering the best universities in the country. Another 20% of the guys are awarded the Honors mark in the certificate, which is also commendable, and allows them to apply for university students. The remaining students receive a standard High School Diploma and, as a rule, continue their education in numerous US colleges, the so-called Community Colleges, where you can both complete a bachelor’s degree and get a professional education in your specialty.

It is important to understand that when giving final grades, not only knowledge is taken into account. The situation with discipline is also very strict, so you can skip classes without a good reason no more than 5 times in the academic year! Failure to complete homework is a serious misconduct that results in an automatic F grade.

You can improve your academic performance by participating in extra-curricular social or volunteer programs, as well as olympiads of various levels and electives.


So, we got acquainted with the American grading system at school. Of course, it is not perfect, but the differences with many other country’s system are obvious. What did you like about the American experience? What features do you consider possible to adopt? In my opinion, the cardinal difference between a school in the USA, first of all, is that literally from the primary grades, it is not the teacher, not the parents, but the student himself who takes responsibility for education. What do you think?

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