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Difference Between High School and College Grades

written by: Brenda Barrett•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/7/2011

College and high school are very different places. Going to college, though an exciting prospect, also includes learning to look at things from a different perspective and that includes your grades. If you are interested in knowing the difference between high school vs. college grades…read on.

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    Many students have commented, upon entering college for the first time, that it is like an alien country. There are many different ways of doing things. Even the grading system seems to be relatively different than the system that you may be familiar with in high school, hence, potential college students may be concerned about the difference between high school grades and college grades.

    The fact is there is no standardized system of grading for universities, colleges or high schools. Most high schools and colleges use a letter to represent a number grade and these assignments of letter grades may vary from school to school. Hence, 95 might represent an (A+) at high school but is a mere (A) at college.

    Both high schools and colleges use a student’s grade point average (GPA), which is a mathematical formula to arrive at an average grade. Where colleges and universities differ on GPA may be the assignment of ranges for a letter grade. Example: 4.0 may be an (A) in high school whereas 3.5 may represent an (A) in college.

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    Letter Grades, Percentages and GPA Values

    A typical 4.0 rating scale may look like this for both high school and college. The differences between high school and college grades are explained below:

    A....... ......90-100........ ...3.5-4.0....... ...Excellent

    B............. 80-89............. 2.5-3.49........Above average

    C...... ......70-79............. 1.5-2.49........ Average

    D...... ......60-69............. 1.0-1.49........ Below Average

    E / F........ 0-59 ..................0................Failure

    In high school (A’s) and (B’s) are sometimes easy to get because of the many assignments and coursework encouraged by a teacher. Even a (C) sometimes in a difficult class may be welcomed.

    However, in college the grading system is a little different and takes a bit of getting used to, (A’s) and (B’s) are not as easy to get, in fact, there are some professor’s who will declare that they do not give (A’s).

    (C’s) and (D’s) are average grades, and for some colleges a (D) is considered to be a sufficient grade to pass a course. An average of (C) is needed for a college student to graduate. Whereas, for most high schools an average of (C) is required to pass a course and to graduate.

    There are other letters that are used to represent grades in some colleges such as: (P), which means pass, and (I) for incomplete, if all relevant coursework is not submitted for a specific time period.

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    Assignments vs. Homework Grades

    In college, grades are not necessarily assigned for all the work that you do. As a matter of fact, your professor may give you assignments just to test your research skills or to increase your knowledge about a certain area in your course. In some cases, your professor may not even look at your work.

    This is contrary to high school assignments; once you do your assignment, your teacher will mark your work and assign you a grade. You may even get a grade just for effort.

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    Coursework Grades

    In college, professors give an outline of the grade allotment of each course, so students will see something like:

    Coursework- 40%

    Project- 20 %

    Exam- 40%

    On this same document, the coursework and project are usually outlined along with due dates and instructions. You are responsible for completing your coursework and projects and handing them in before the due date. There are some professors who may not even remind you about the lion’s share of your work.

    However, in high school you may get tests and mock exams to help your grade along during the school year, teachers are prone to remind you about your assignments every time you have class and may even request to see your project in process if there is one.

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    What to Look For

    In high school if you receive a bad grade on a test you may redo the test or even make up for it with consistently good homework grades, which can raise your overall grade. In college, pay close attention to tests. They may account for a substantial part of your overall grade and will affect your final grade. The course outline, which allots percentage points to tests and assignments, should be watched keenly to ascertain exactly where you are in the grading scale. Many new college students are shocked when they get their first overall grades because they do not pay close attention to the percentages.

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    The difference between high school vs. college grades is easily resolved after being in the college system for a while and familiarizing yourself with the 'college way' of doing things.