While grades aren’t everything, they tend to be important at every part of the education system at least in the UK. If you choose to study at university, this is no different.
The grading system is a little different to the A’s and B’s of the lettering system that you may be used to. It isn’t even similar to the new 9-1 GCSE grading system of English exam boards. At undergraduate level, the grading system is completely different. Universities use the degree classification system.
In short, a degree classification is a grade that you can get from doing an undergraduate degree or a postgraduate degree in the UK. There are four main grades in this system: first-class honours degree (1st), upper second-class honours degree (2:1), lower second-class honours degree (2:), a third-class honours degree (3rd).
|Degree Classification||Percentage Grade|
|First-Class Honours (1st)||70% +|
|Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1)||60%-69%|
|Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2)||50%-59%|
|Third-Class Honours (3rd)||40%-49%|
These percentage grades typically come from a weighted grading system. This is where universities will use a small portion of your Year 1 and Year 2 grades, as well as your last year grade to calculate your final grade.
Continue reading for more information about what a degree classification actually is and the different types. This can be particularly useful to you if you want to take an undergraduate degree or if you are already taking your degree and want to know more about how it is graded.
Table of Contents
What is a Degree Classification?
At university level, the grading system is completely different to what you would have experienced during the A-Levels or even BTECs that you would have previously studied. Instead of a grade between A and E or distinction and passes, you will receive a degree classification.
A degree classification is a grade that you can get from an undergraduate degree or postgraduate degree such as a master’s degree. The degree classification system is used to show and differentiate between different rankings of grade that a student has achieved in their degree. For more information about what a degree classification is check out this article.
The main grades within this system are a first-class honours degree (also known as a first), an upper second-class honours degree (also known as a 2:1), a lower second-class honours degree (also known as a 2:2) and a third-class honours degree. For more information about these degree classifications check out this article.
What is a First-Class Honours Degree?
A first-class honours degree is a grade that you can get at universities in the UK. It is the highest grade on the degree classification system. To receive a first-class honours degree (or a first) students will need to gain a minimum of 70% as their final grade.
At many universities in the UK, this grade is often calculated from a weighted grading system. This means that to get a first-class honours degree students will need to work hard and score well on assessments or exams as well as any coursework that they are given in their second and third years as it will contribute to their final grade. For more information about the weighted grading system and how it relates to getting a first look here.
You may want to check with your specific university about what system they use to calculate your final grade, this is especially if your degree course runs for more than 3 years. For more information about what a first-class honours degree is check out this article.
What is an Upper Second-Class Honours Degree?
An upper second-class honours degree is another grade in the degree classification system that you can get at universities in the UK. It is the second highest grade in the degree classification system. It is also known as a 2:1 (which is said “two one”).
To gain an upper second-class honours degree or a 2:1 you have to get at least 60% as your final grade. As mentioned above, this final grade is often calculated via a weighted grading system that will generally have your year 1 and year 2 grades at a much lower weighting than your year 3 grade (or final year if it is longer). For more information about this system look here. For more information about upper second-class honours degrees in general check out this article.
What is a Lower Second-Class Honours Degree?
A lower second-class honours degree is another grade in the degree classification system. It is the next grade level after an upper second-class honour’s degree (or 2:1) as you could probably tell from the name. It is also known as a 2:2 (which is said “two two”).
In order to gain a lower second-class honours degree, students need to get a final grade of at least 50%. Once again, this grade is typically calculated via a weighted grading system, but it is best to check with your university to be sure. Many universities have this information on their websites, but you may also want to check in-person. For more information about a 2:2 click here.
As you need to get a final grade between 50% and 59% to get a lower second-class honours degree, it is comparable to the C grade of A-Levels. This is because while it will depend on the grade boundaries of the paper, a C grade is typically within that region. For more information about percentage A-Level grades look here.
What is a Third-Class Honours Degree?
A third-class honours degree is another type of grade that you can get in the degree classification system at UK universities. It is the grade below a 2:2. It is also the lowest level of honours degree that you can get in the UK. A third-class honours degree can also be known as a third or 3rd.
To achieve a third-class honours degree at the end of your university degree, you will need to get at least 40% as your final grade. This grade will still come from whatever grading system your university uses. Typically, this is the weighted grading system. For more information on third-class honours degrees in general check out this article.
As you need between 40% and 49% in your final grade to achieve a third-class honours degree, it is quite similar to a D grade that you may get while taking A-Level courses. This is because a D grade will typically fall somewhere in-between 40% and 49% although it can vary based on the grade boundaries for the specific exam or course. For more on this comparison between A-Level and university degree classification system grades click here.
What is an Ordinary Degree in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland (as well as some other parts of the world), it is another type of grade that you can get at the end of your university course. It is the grade below a third-class honour’s degree. Although, it is technically not a part of the degree classification system. This is because it is a degree without honours. It may also be known as a pass or an unclassified degree.
You may be awarded an ordinary degree (or a pass or an unclassified degree) if you fail to achieve a third-class honours degree by a small margin. For more information on degree grades in the UK and their percentages check out this article.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you would typically have registered for the honour’s degree programme. The entire process including the choosing of modules is exactly the same as an honour’s degree. The only way for you to enter the ordinary degree programme in this way is if you aren’t doing too well in the honour’s degree programme.
At some universities, they will pick this up from Year 1 if you pass only 100 credits instead of the needed 120. You will then transfer to an ordinary degree. However, you will still take 120 credits in Year 2 and if you pass all of them then you will be able to get back onto the honour’s degree programme. Please note that this may vary depending on the university you go to. For more information about the process of ordinary degrees check out this guide. It may also be useful to check the website of your university (or any university you’re interested in going to) to find out their own process for ordinary degrees.
What is an Ordinary Degree in Scotland?
An ordinary degree in Scotland is quite different to that of the one in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is because in Scotland, an ordinary degree is a qualification in its own right. It is once again a degree without honours. Due to this, in Scotland according to the SCQF grade levels, it is a level 9 qualification. This is one grade lower than an honours degree according to these levels as one is a level 10 qualification. For more information about these levels look here. An ordinary degree can also be known as a designated degree.
The process of getting an ordinary degree is much like the process of getting an honours degree which you may be more familiar with hearing about. The difference being that you sign up to a different course altogether. The ordinary degree will last 3 years regardless of if it is a bachelor’s degree or a Master of Arts degree. For more information about the process of getting an ordinary degree in Scotland check out this article.
A Master of Arts degree is once again not the same as ones in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. This degree is instead an undergraduate qualification that has a slightly different structure and will take 4 years to complete instead of 3. It is the equivalent of a normal bachelor’s degree not an integrated master’s degree. For more information about Master of Arts degrees in Scotland look here. On an ordinary degree, the lack of the word “honours” or its abbreviation “hons” will indicate that it is an ordinary degree. For more information about Scottish ordinary or designated degrees in general look here.
What Even is an Honours Degree?
Now that you have hopefully learnt about all these different types of degree classification and about what an ordinary degree is in both England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as in Scotland, you may feel slightly less certain about what an honours degree even is.
In the UK, an honours degree is a type of degree that is at a higher level of achievement than an ordinary degree. The difference between these degree types is that with an honours degree you will need to complete a larger number of credits throughout your course than if you were doing an ordinary degree. For more information about honours degrees look here.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, this can be referred to as a sort of grade as ordinary degrees are still at the same level as honours degrees as they are both level 6 qualifications. For more information about these levels click on this guide. However, in Scotland, honours degrees are the level above ordinary degrees as they are two quite separate qualifications. This is very clear as an ordinary degree will only take 3 years although a typical Scottish degree will take 4.
How Do You Write Your Degree Classifications?
Having done all that hard work to get your degree classification, it is important for you to know how to write it in the most professional, impressive and clear way. This is particularly for your CV, but you may also want to write it onto other applications. If you are looking for a job or to continue to a higher level of study, then this will be an especially useful skill to learn.
The best way to put your degree classification on your CV is to follow this template:
[Degree Type] [Degree Name] (Degree Class), [Years Attended]
[University Name], [University Location]
If you received a first-class honours degree, it can look most professional to simply call it a “1st” in that slot. For more information about this template and more on how to write a first-class honours degree on your CV check out great this article. If you got an upper second-class honours degree you may want to write it in the same way as 2:1.
However, if you received a lower grade you may want to not include what grade you got but remember to include the “honours” or “hons” part unless you received an ordinary degree. For more tips on writing your CV check out this article.
What Does Each Degree Classification Really Mean?
It is all well and good knowing what these degree classifications are. But without knowing this actually means in a wider context this isn’t actually that useful.
First-Class Honours Degree
As the highest level of degree classification in the UK, a first-class honours degree comes with plenty of opportunities (as well as bragging rights). One of these is that a first-class can improve your chances of getting employed. This is particularly because first-class honours degree can show that you know your subject well and also that you are hardworking and dedicated to excelling.
It isn’t 100% certain that you will get the job especially as other very important factors go into the recruitment process, such as work experience and character. But if you are able to get the grade and other important skills experience then it will definitely give your CV a boost. For more information about skills that can make you more employable look at this article.
Upper Second-Class Honours Degree
As the second-highest degree classification in the UK, an upper second-class honours degree or a 2:1 is still really impressive. Getting a 2:1 can be incredibly beneficial to you especially if you want to go on to further studies and undertake some kind of postgraduate qualification. For example, many universities will require you to have a 2:1 as minimum for studying a master’s degree. For more information about master’s degrees check out this article.
Once again, a 2:1 is still an impressive qualification and so it can also make you more employable as it can still show that you are a hardworking and dedicated individual. For more information about the benefits of an upper second-class honours degree check out this guide.
Lower Second-Class Honours Degree
While a lower second-class honours degree isn’t the best qualification, it is still quite a good qualification to have. This is because it means that you got your honours degree and at least 50% as your final grade, which is pretty good.
However, it can be looked at less favourably by employers and higher education institutions, particularly universities. This is because they typically look at upper second-class honours degrees as their standard requirement for hiring or selecting candidates. You may even completely miss the entry requirements for a master’s degree as the minimum requirements is often a 2:1.
While this isn’t the best way to start your career, it isn’t all doom and gloom. First of all, grades are beginning to mean a lot less to employers. There are even many notable ones that employ graduates that have achieved a 2:2. For a list of these employers look here. Also, some universities will only require you to have a lower second-class honours degree to be able to study a master’s degree. For more information about what you can do with a lower second-class honours degree look here.
Third-Class Honours Degree
While you may feel disappointed with a third-class honour’s degree, especially as it may not be the most favourable with employers or to get a postgraduate qualification. There are still many people who got a third-class honours degree yet still managed to be some of the most successful people (particularly on TV). These include Carol Vorderman, David Dimbleby and Hugh Laurie. For more successful people who didn’t get the best grades at university check out this list.
On top of that, there are numerous people who didn’t even go to university or simply dropped out yet managed to be incredibly successful. One key example of this is Steven Bartlett, the new investor on Dragon’s Den. For more information about how he went from university drop-out to millionaire check out this article.
First-Class Honours (First or 1st) (70% and above) Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1, 2.i) (60-70%) Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2, 2.ii) (50-60%) Third-Class Honours (Third or 3rd) (40-50%)
First-Class Honours (First or 1st) (70% and above) Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1, 2.i) (60-70%) Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2, 2.ii) (50-60%) Third-Class Honours (Third or 3rd) (40-50%)
- Multiplying the number of credits for each module by your percentage grade.
- Adding these together.
- Dividing them by the total number of credits.
- Multiplying by 100 to get your percentage average.
A grade of Summa Cum Laude from a well ranked public institution is considered comparable to a UK 2.1, while a Magna Cum Laude is considered comparable to a UK 2.2.What is a 2.1 university degree classification? ›
A 2.1 or an upper second-class honours degree is the second highest grade in the degree classification system. The term 2.1 can also be written as 2:1 but either variation is said as “two one”. In order to gain a 2.1, you will have to get at least 60% as your final grade.What are the 4 types of degrees in UK? ›
- Undergraduate. An undergraduate degree normally takes three years to complete but can take longer if it includes an industrial placement, an additional subject or a year abroad. ...
- Postgraduate. ...
- Taught master's degrees. ...
- Master's degrees by research (MPhil, MSc by Research, MEnt) ...
Masters degree results and classifications
Different universities may have different boundaries but as a general rule: Distinction – 70%+ Merit – 60-69% Pass – 50-59%
University grades often matter most in jobs that are knowledge-specific, competitive, and offer a higher salary. One way to spot them is jobs requiring a 2:1 or a first in the relevant field. However, it does not mean that someone with a first-class degree will automatically get a job over someone with a 2:1.What is a UK bachelor's degree with a first or upper second classification? ›
First-Class Honours (70% and above): a first class degree, usually referred to as a 'first' or 1st, is the highest honours degree you can achieve. Upper Second-Class Honours (60-70%): there are two levels of second class degree. An upper second class, known as a 2:1 or two-one, is the higher of the two levels.
- +70% = 4.0.
- 60-69% = 3.3-3.9.
- 50-59% = 2.7-3.2.
- 40-49% = 2.0-2.6.
- Below 40% = 1.0-1.9 – This is not necessarily a failure; at some universities, it might be equivalent to receiving an ordinary degree in the UK.
National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)
a Level 6 NVQ is the same as a Bachelors degree.
GPA scores of 3.3 and above will be considered to be good scores during a university course, although anything above 2.3 should earn you the equivalent of a UK second class degree.What is a 2.1 degree in USA? ›
A 2.1 GPA is equivalent to76% or C letter grade.What is the GPA for upper second class honours? ›
The class of degree shall be awarded as follows:
Upper Second Class Honours - Weighted GPA of 3.00 - 3.59. Lower Second Class Honours - Weighted GPA of 2.50 - 2.99. Pass - Weighted GPA of 2.00 - 2.49.
A 2:1 also puts you in a good position for employment, graduate programmes and post graduate study. For some institutions and for some employers, this is the minimum grade acceptable. Like a first class honours, the number of students achieving a 2:1 has increased significantly in the past few years.Are UK and US degrees the same? ›
The UK almost exclusively has shorter courses than their American counterparts, and this goes for all levels of higher education. A bachelor's degree in the UK is normally 3 years, to the American 4 years. Taking a master's in the UK will typically take just 1 year, while in the U.S it is 2 years.What are the top 5 hardest degrees in the UK? ›
- 7 - Computer Science. ...
- 6 - Neuroscience. ...
- 5 - Aerospace Engineering. ...
- 4 - Medicine. ...
- 3 - Electrical Engineering. ...
- 2 - Mathematics. ...
- 1- Veterinary Medicine. ...
- Final Thoughts.
UK bachelor's degree courses in England and Wales generally take three years to complete. This is because UK courses focus more narrowly on the main degree subject. While students do have to take some courses outside of their discipline, most of these occur in the later years, particularly with science courses.What GPA is a first class Honours UK? ›
First class honours (70+) = 4.0 GPA. Upper Second Class honours (65-69) = 3.7 GPA. Upper Second class honours (60-64) = 3.3 GPA. Lower second class honours (55-59) =3.0 GPA.
A GPA of 3.67 or higher on a Masters may be equivalent to a UK Distinction.What is the average grade for a Masters in the UK? ›
A typical masters degree will be graded using four terms: Distinction: A final grade of 70% or above. Merit: A final grade of 60-69% Pass: A final grade of 50-59%What level is a PhD in UK? ›
Level 8 qualifications are: doctorate, for example doctor of philosophy ( PhD or DPhil ) level 8 award.What percentage of the population has a PhD in the UK? ›
So it seems like a PhD is pretty rare – but how rare is it where you are? In the UK 2 per cent of the population has a doctorate. Slovenia and Switzerland have the highest percentage of the population with a doctorate at 5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. This data has been taken from the most recent OECD report.What does merit mean in UK degree? ›
The grade is given as follows: Distinction: Minimum 70% Merit: Between 60% to 69% Pass: Between 50% to 59% Borderline Pass/ Fail: Between 40% to 49%How do I calculate my degree classification? ›
To calculate your average grade, use the following formula: [CREDITS OF THE UNIT]/90 x [UNIT GRADE], and add them all together. For example, if you got the grades 68, 72 and 79 in three 30 credit units in final year, you would calculate the average grade as follows: (30/90 x 68) + (30/90 x 72) + (30/90 x 79) = 73.What is the GPA system in the UK? ›
Another change is there are no GPAs in the UK like 4.0s. The GPA is replaced by Firsts, 2.1, and 2.2. A “First” would be similar to a 4.0 GPA, while 2:1 and 2:2 would be similar to a split of the 3.0 GPA range.How do degree classifications work? ›
A degree classification is a grade that you can get from an undergraduate degree or postgraduate degree such as a master's degree. The degree classification system is used to show and differentiate between different rankings of grade that a student has achieved in their degree.What degree is first class UK? ›
A first class honours degree, often just called a first, is the highest grade you can achieve on an undergraduate degree in the UK. The benchmark for a first is an average of 70% or more throughout your studies, which will be calculated across the exams, essays, and projects you receive a grade for.What is UK upper second-class equivalent to? ›
|Upper second-class (2.1)||60-69%||B|
|Lower second-class (2.2)||50 – 59%||C|
|Third class (3rd )||40 – 49%||D|
One of the obvious benefits of earning a degree with upper second-class honours is that it may help you compete with other students for a place in a post-graduate program. For post-graduate studies, most universities require an undergraduate degree with a minimum of upper second-class honours.What grade is American GPA in UK? ›
|US GPA||UK module marks||UK classification|
|3.7||65 - 69||Merit|
|3.3||60 - 64||Pass|
|3||55 - 59||Pass|
American degrees are considered valid in many Commonwealth countries. Whether the purpose is continuing education or applying for a job, your degree earned from a US college or university won't go to waste.What is the GPA for Oxford University? ›
GPA Range: 3.4 - 4.0. Average MCAT Score: 514. MCAT Range: 499 - 522.Do American jobs accept UK degrees? ›
Employers normally recognise UK qualifications. This is highlighted by the fact some US nationals travel to the UK to study before returning home to work. However, it's worth checking that a UK degree will be accepted before you apply for a job.Is it cheaper to study in UK or US? ›
Cost. The cost of education in both countries is far from cheap, but in the United States it is generally higher. According to a law passed in 2012, universities in England may charge up to £9000 (approximately $14,300) per year. Of course, this applies only to citizens of the UK and the EU, not international students.What is bachelors called in UK? ›
Bachelor's degrees: BA, BSc, MB and more
See the latest examination and assessment advice about COVID-19 for students in higher education. A bachelor's degree is a course of academic study leading to a qualification such as a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BSc), or bachelor of medicine (MB).
In general, universities evaluate applicants based on the following criteria: Secondary school exams/grades/GPA and scores on standardized tests like the SAT and AP. Personal statement. Letters of reference.Do British universities use GPA? ›
UK universities do not follow the GPA grading system. However, you can roughly compare it to the university grading system UK. The First class is approximately at par, with a GPA of 4.0.What are American grades in England? ›
|Age||UK Years||US/International Grades|
|6 - 7||Year 2||1st Grade|
|7 - 8||Year 3||2nd Grade|
|8 - 9||Year 4||3rd Grade|
|9 - 10||Year 5||4th Grade|
|UK Grade||US Grade*|
If you have a “merit” on your diploma, it indicates that you graduated with 2i, as known as second class honours upper division classification. This is a really good score, as most of the employers require you to have that kind of grade and above.What is a 3.0 GPA in UK A levels? ›
|UK module marks||UK degree classification||GPA|
|70+||First class honours||4.0|
|65-69||Upper-second class honours||3.7|
|60-64||Upper-second class honours||3.3|
|55-59||Lower-second class honours||3.0|
Honours I (First Class Honours): Honours GPA of 6.20 to 7.00. Honours IIA (Second Class Honours, Division A): Honours GPA of 5.65 to 6.199.What GPA is a distinction? ›
First-class honours (1st): this is the highest degree classification. Usually, the average overall score of 70%+ Second-class honours, upper division (2.1): usually, the average overall exam score of 60%+ Second-class honours, lower division (2.2): usually, the average overall score of 50%+Is a 2.1 from Cambridge good? ›
For most purposes, 2.1 is as good as a first except in cases of competitive admission to another top university for postgraduate degrees.Is Level 7 a degree in UK? ›
Level 7 qualifications are: integrated master's degree, for example master of engineering ( MEng )What is a level 6 degree UK? ›
The Undergraduate Advanced Diploma (UGAdvDip or UGAD) is a FHEQ Level 6 award (not equivalent to Special Diploma), the academic level is the equivalent to the final year of a bachelor's degree and they are generally accepted as equivalent to a Bachelor's degree or a Graduate Diploma.What is a 2.1 degree or above UK system? ›
Upper Second-Class Honours (60-70%): there are two levels of second class degree. An upper second class, known as a 2:1 or two-one, is the higher of the two levels. Lower Second-Class Honours (50-60%): a 2.2 or two-two is the lower level of the second class degree.
|GPA||UK module marks||UK degree classification|
|3||55-59||Lower-second class honours|
|2.7||50-54||Lower-second class honours|
|2.3||45-49||Third class honours|
|2||40-44||Third class honours|
Level 7 refers to a level of education equivalent to a master's degree, and is generally attained in a centre for further education. Examples of Level 7 qualifications include: Master's degree. Integrated master's degree.What is level 5 in university? ›
Level 5. Level 5 is the equivalent to the second year of a Bachelor's Degree programme. It is also equivalent to a HND diploma. The Level 5 course also has 10 modules and 8 assignments, which also provide the student with 120 university credits upon completion.What is the difference between a level 7 and 8 degree? ›
They are generally three years in duration and students mainly apply for these courses through the CAO with some private colleges also offering level 7 courses. A Level 8 is known as an honours degree and are completed mostly at universities. They are generally four years in duration, with some exceptions.Is Level 6 equivalent to a Masters? ›
3) A student studying a Level 6 Diploma (120 credits) will study a course equivalent to year 3 of Undergraduate Degree standard and is also a qualification which can be used for entry on to a Postgraduate Diploma or Master's Degree programme.What is level 9 qualification? ›
Examples of qualifications at SCQF Level 9
Bachelors/Ordinary Degree, Graduate Diploma, Graduate Certificate, Graduate or Technical Apprenticeship at SCQF Level 9, SVQ at SCQF Level 9, and a wide range of other courses available in the workplace and community (see SCQF Database).
There are generally four categories of college degrees: associate degree, bachelor's degree, graduate degree, and doctorate or professional degree. Each category comes with its own particular subcategories, and there are some subtle differences between a doctorate and a professional degree.What is a 2.1 degree equivalent to in the US? ›
according to that website a 2:1 is the equivalent of 3.3-3.7 US GPA. In the US, there is no direct equivalent to a 2:1 BEng (honors) degree from a UK university. This is because the UK degree classification system is different from the GPA system used in the US.What is the American equivalent of a 2.1 honours degree? ›
Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1).
Equivalent to grade B. You need an overall grade of 60-69% to receive it. This degree type is a common admission requirement when applying for a Master's programme.
GPA scores of 3.3 and above will be considered to be good scores during a university course, although anything above 2.3 should earn you the equivalent of a UK second class degree.
|UK Module marks||UK degree classes||10 point GPA|
|70% to 74.99%||First-class Hons||8|
|60% to 69.99%||2:1 Upper second class||7|
|50% to 59.99%||2:2 Lower second class||6|
|45% to 49.99%||Third class||5|