Postgraduate grades can seem like a whole new world, especially when compared to undergraduate ones. But they’re actually not too different. You will still be scored out of one hundred for any assignments or essays that you submit during your studies.

The major differences between the undergraduate and postgraduate grading systems are the wording used to describe the grades. Read on to find out more and clear up any confusion you may have around the masters grading system.

A brief on differences of courses

Taught Masters courses have similar titles to undergraduate courses, for instance, an MA is higher than a BA, an MSc higher than a BSc and so on. Masters degrees by research, such as an MPhil or MRes, and MLitt are different. Research-based masters are often graded either as a pass or a fail. The thresholds and grade boundaries for these will normally be set by your institution. For this masters grading guide, we will be looking at the grading system for taught masters degrees, and how they are similar to but slightly different from undergraduate



A distinction grade is usually anything that has scored 70% or above. Think of this as being equivalent to a first at undergraduate level. This is generally the highest level of award, as well as the hardest one to achieve, that you can get at a masters level.


A merit grade is usually anything that has scored 60-69%. Again, this is an equivalent to a 2:1 grade at the undergraduate level and is the upper-middle grade on the scale.


A pass grade is anything that scores 50-59%. This is equivalent to a 2:2 at undergraduate level.


A fail grade is anything under 50%. Notice that there is no equivalent to a third class grade at a masters level. The pass threshold is also 10 marks higher as well, thereby reflecting the greater difficulty of a masters degree, compared to an undergraduate one.

This is the Masters Grading System

Now you have a better understanding of the masters grading system, you can therefore gain a better idea about what it takes to be a masters student thanks to our masters grading guide.

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