How the Spanish Grading System Works

How does the Spanish Grading System work?

Education vastly varies around the world and Spain is no exception to this. When starting your study abroad process in Spain, you may want to think about the customs of the university you’re attending. One of these customs, the grading system for how you will be graded, may be very different than what you are used to. So let’s break down the grading scale and make it simple to understand! 

First, it is important to note that the Spanish university grading system may differ slightly between universities and even across different faculties within the same institution. While there are similarities, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the specific guidelines and expectations of your chosen university. 

Components of the Spanish Grading System

The grading system in Spain consists of two main components: continuous assessment and final examinations or essays. Continuous assessment spans the entire academic year and evaluates your performance through multiple assessments, such as projects, presentations, and class participation. These assessments provide a comprehensive view of your progress throughout the course. However, it is important to emphasize that some courses rely heavily on final exams or essays as the main way of evaluation. This means, there may be fewer continuous assessments than you are used to. Instead, the examinations happen at the end of each semester and academic year, and they play a significant role in your overall assessment. 

Fortunately, if you don’t pass your final exams on your first try, you have the opportunity to retake the exam without having to retake the class or any penalty on your grade. This allows students to have a second chance to demonstrate their understanding of the subject and improve their performance. However, you always aim to do well in the initial assessment as it will show up on your transcript that you retook the exam and may be more challenging than the original exam. So, you should try your best at the initial attempt with consistent effort and effective study strategies. 

Grading Scales: 10-Point GPA Scale and 4-Point GPA Scale

Now, we can consider the grading scales that Spanish universities will use. These will tell you how well you did in your classes. There are two commonly used systems – the 10-point GPA scale and the 4-point GPA scale. 

The 10-point scale is widely used and consists of four main categories: Sobresaliente (excellent), Notable (Good), Aprobado (Pass), and Suspenso (Fail). Each category corresponds to a specific range of grades. For instance, a grade of 9-10 is considered Sobresaliente, indicating exceptional performance. A grade of 7-8 is categorized as Notable, representing a solid level of achievement. A grade of 5-6 is considered Aprobado, indicating a pass, while a grade below 5 falls into the Suspenso category, indicating a failure to meet the required standards.

On the other hand, the 4-point scale is less commonly used but still employed by some universities. This scale consists of five categories. At the top is Matrícula de Honor, which is a 4 and represents the highest honor. This grade is reserved for exceptional performance and is not commonly awarded. Following that, there is Sobresaliente, which is a 3 and is considered excellent. Notable is the next category, with a grade of 2, indicating good performance. Finally, there is Aprobado, with a grade of 1, indicating a pass. Anything below Aprobado is considered a failure.

Spanish Grading System Conversion to US and UK Systems

If you are from the US or the UK, you may be wondering how these grades translate to the grades you usually receive. Generally, when converting to the US system, the 10-point scale is often correlated as follows: Sobresaliente (excellent) is typically considered an A or A+, Notable (good) is equated to a B or B+, Aprobado (pass) is considered a C, and Suspenso (fail) is typically regarded as a failing grade. Similarly, when converting to the UK system, Sobresaliente can be seen as an equivalent of First-Class Honours, Notable may correspond to Upper Second-Class Honors, Aprobado may equate to Lower Second-Class Honors, and Suspenso may be considered as a fail. 

Understanding Grade Distribution in Spanish Universities

It's important to understand that the distribution of grades in Spanish universities may differ from what you are accustomed to. Generally, higher grades such as Sobresaliente and Matrícula de Honor are less commonly awarded than lower grades. This means that achieving top marks requires exceptional performance and a thorough understanding of the subject matter. While it may initially seem challenging, it's essential to remember that the study abroad experience encompasses much more than just grades. Welcome the opportunity to engage with the local culture, develop new perspectives, and gain valuable life experiences.

Additionally, it's worth mentioning that some universities may have specific regulations regarding the Matrícula de Honor grade. This honor is often limited to a small percentage of students, typically the top performers in a given course. Achieving the Matrícula de Honor grade is a significant accomplishment. 

When adapting to the Spanish university grading system, it's crucial to communicate with your professors and academic advisors. They can provide valuable insights, clarify any doubts, and offer guidance to help you navigate the Spanish education system successfully. Take advantage of office hours, seek feedback on your performance, and actively engage in discussions to enhance your learning experience. 

In conclusion, the grading system at Spanish universities may differ from what you're accustomed to, but with some understanding and adaptation, you can navigate it successfully.  Although this may seem scary, remember that the study abroad experience extends beyond grades. Embrace the study abroad journey and make the most of your time in Spain! 

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Education System Guide

Written By

Isabella Gambatese

International Student, 2023

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