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US vs AU Grading

posted Jun 26, 2014, 3:17 PM by Ezra Lockhart
I imagine at some point I am going to be asked to clarify the marks I receive on my graduate transcript. There are companies that translate foreign degree transcripts for students transferring between international grading system.  However, this point is more directed to employers, potential employers, and those generally interested. Here I will provide a few points of clarification.

Differing Terms
Firstly, in the United States a single university-level class is called a course while in Australia it is called a unit. Additionally, in the U.S. you are admitted to a degree program compared to a course or coursework in a particular study area. In the U.S., a study area would be equivalent to a major.

Grading System
Secondly, Australia follows the British Grading System. University of Sydney, like most European universities, use the distinction grading system. For example, a "credit" at an Australian university is generally equivalent to a "B" letter grade in the United States. Here is a table comparing the two systems:


Generally, only 2-5% of students who pass may be awarded a High Distinction grade. High Distinction is awarded based on the following criteria:
  • Treatment of material evidences an advanced synthesis of ideas
  • Demonstration of initiative, complex understanding and analysis
  • Extensive knowledge in the required area beyond that exposed to through unit of study based learning and teaching activities
  • Work is well-written and stylistically sophisticated, including appropriate referencing, clarity, and some creativity where appropriate
  • Creativity of ideas, solutions to problems and/or presentation
  • Ability to apply knowledge to novel situations or specific situations in novel ways
  • All criteria addressed to a high level
Credit Contact Hours
Lastly, University of Sydney uses a credit point system (cp) compared to the U.S. credit hour system (cr). This is easy to confuse, but simply 6cp equals 4cr. It is not common knowledge, but the general guideline is that 50-minutes of class time translates to 1 contact hour. Furthermore, 15 contact hours translates to 1 credit hour. Each of the units in my course (using Australian terms) is 6cp.

Semester 1 Marks
Hopefully this clears up a few things. In the upcoming week I will be receiving marks on the final assignment for my first semester. This unit is divided into following assessments: 1) Online discussions (20%), 2) Assignment 1-Literature Review (30%), and 3) Assignment 2-Case study and analysis (50%). I received High Distinction for online discussion and Distinction for my literature review. If I can obtain at least 43.5 on my case study I will complete the unit with the highest mark possible. Wish me luck!
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