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Understanding the Australian Grading System

As an international student continuing your education in Australia, you will undoubtedly encounter some interesting – and possibly confusing – challenges in many areas, including academics. Whether you’re attending university or pursuing practical vocational training, you will need to adapt to a new campus, new courses, and a grading system that likely differs significantly from the one you’re used to.

Although such a high level of change can feel daunting and stressful, have no fear – this list explains the grade codes used by academic and vocational institutions across Australia, what they mean, and where they fall on percentage and GPA scales. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to cut your nerves in half and start your semester on the right foot.

Note that the explanations of the grading system in Australia below are general in nature, and individual institutions might have their own grading systems or percentage scales. If you’re ever in doubt, you can check with your institution directly.

University grading

If you are pursuing an undergraduate, master’s or doctoral degree at an Australian university, you will be assessed according to the higher education grading scheme, which includes the following terminology.

P – Pass

A pass is awarded to students who receive between 50% and 64%. When you receive a pass, you have met the learning requirements for the course and conveyed a satisfactory understanding of the course materials. 

PC – Conceded Pass

A conceded pass is awarded to students who receive 45-49% in a course that’s not a prerequisite for future subjects, nor is it required for any kind of professional accreditation.

CR – Credit

This mark captures the 65-74% range. Students who receive this grade have met the learning requirements and demonstrated a good understanding of the course content. 

D – Distinction

This grade is typically allotted to students who receive between 75% and 84%. It means that you have fulfilled the learning requirements and have conveyed a high-level understanding of the course materials. 

HD – High Distinction

This mark usually falls between 85% and 100% and means that you have not only met the learning requirements but have demonstrated an exceptional understanding of the course materials. 

F – Fail

This mark represents the 0-49% range, meaning the student has not met the learning requirements and does not have an adequate understanding of the course content.

Grade points

In addition to awarding descriptive and percentage grades, some Australian universities use numeric grade points to help students calculate their grade point average (GPA). 

Your GPA is the weighted average of all the grades you received over the course of your semester, trimester or even your entire university career. It is calculated by multiplying the numeric grade you receive in a course by the number of credits the course is worth, adding all these numbers together and dividing that sum by the total number of courses you have taken. 

There are two main approaches to allocating grade points in Australia: the 7-point scale and the 4-point scale. The numeric points matched to each grade in both scales can be found in the table below.

Grade Name Percentage Scale Grade Points (7-point scale) Grade Points (4-point scale)
High Distinction 85-100% 7 4.0
Distinction 75-84% 6 3.0
Credit 65-74% 5 2.0
Pass 50-64% 4 1.0
Fail 0-49% 0 0.3

Honours grading

An honours year is a fourth year added to a three-year degree and focuses on research. If you’re planning to add an honours year to your degree, you might encounter a different set of grades. Here’s a breakdown of what they mean.

Grade  Percentage Scale Description
H1 80-100% First Class Honours
H2A 75-79% Second Class Honours (Division A)
H2B 70-74% Second Class Honours (Division B)
H3 65-69% Third Class Honours
P 50-64% Pass
N 0-49% Fail

TAFE and VET Grading 

If you’re not studying at university, you may have opted for a certificate or diploma program and will be receiving vocational training in Australia. In this case, you will be graded on a slightly different basis. The following section will explain the two most well-known vocational education programs and the grade codes these institutions use. 

Abbreviated for Technical and Further Education, TAFE is a government-run program that provides students with post-secondary training and education in various vocational fields, such as agriculture, beauty therapy, and construction. There are TAFE institutions in every Australian state and territory. 

VET, which stands for Vocational Education and Training, represents all vocational training provided in Australia, including TAFE as well as other programs offered by private providers.  

Most TAFE and VET courses are not graded, meaning students will only be deemed Competent or Not Yet Competent in their training based on how they perform on assessment tasks. However, some TAFE and VET courses are graded; in these cases, students will be awarded Competent, Competent with Merit/Credit, or Competent with Distinction marks. 

CA/CY – Competency Achieved/Competent

Students who receive this grade have demonstrated the capacity to properly perform assessment tasks in their field of study.

CD – Competent with Distinction

This grade is awarded to students who have not only demonstrated competency but have conveyed an exceptional level of proficiency in their chosen area of study. 

CM – Competent with Merit/Competent with Credit

This mark means you have proven your competency and conveyed a high level of proficiency in your selected area of study. 

CN – Not Yet Competent

This mark means you have not yet demonstrated enough practical skill to adequately perform assessment tasks in your chosen field of study.

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