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ECTS Grading System

Grading systems are rooted in the various national educational systems. They differ significantly from each other and are not transparent from outside. Assessments within these national systems play a sensitive role in the learning process and may decide for a student whether or not he/she has passed a ↑module, a course or whether parts or even all the respective examinations must be repeated. The grade achieved may or may not allow for further studies and may even be decisive for being permitted to enter higher education at all. Within the ↑Bologna Process the ↑ECTS tries to improve the situation by introducing a rating system[1] in addition to the national grading system. This should not replace the national system but complement it and is seen as an element to make the national system transparent and comparable so that it can be better understood by outsiders and also facilitate ↑recognition and credit and grade transfer of learners and graduates in contrast to the US credit system which foresees credit transfer only. Whereas ECTS credits are allocated to successful students only, ECTS grades are awarded to all students. For this purpose students are first of all divided into those who have passed and those who have failed according to their national grade. Those who have passed are rated on the basis of a comparison with results which cohorts of students in the same learning area achieved on the basis of the national grading scale in the past 3-5 years (depends on the size of the cohorts). They are rated into five subgroups: the best 10 %, receiving the additional grade "A" next to their national grade, the next 25 % a "B", the following 30 % a "C", the next 25 % a "D" and the final 10 % an "E"-grade respectively. In other words, students achievements, expressed in a national or local grade are rated in the light of past performance of student cohorts in the past achieved as reference group. Those who failed are distinguished according to the degree of failure: "FX" indicates that they failed but that there seems to be the likelihood that with some more work they might be able to pass without having to repeat the whole learning requirement. This is clearly different from those who were assessed as "F", giving the message that these students have considerable shortcomings and that considerable further work is required, which normally means a repetition of the respective learning requirement. Such grades can be awarded for any learning experience or for complete study programmes.[2]
Related term:
↑Diploma Supplement

[1] Also sometimes referred to as grading or marking system.

[2] Directorate-General for Education and Culture: ECTS Users' Guide. European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System and the Diploma Supplement, Brussels, 2005, p. 24; URL: http://ec.europa.eu/education/programmes/socrates/ects/doc/guide_en.pdf (14.5.2006).

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