Guest blogger Produced by

Below postgraduate student Martina describes the differences between grades in the UK and what they actually mean.  Something many of our international students find a challenge in the first term. For more information about what courses we offer at Bournemouth University UK, please see our website or follow our instagram to hear more from our international students.


My name is Martina Gardeva and I am a Bulgarian postgraduate student in MSc Tourism Management and Marketing. A possible confusion when going to study in another country is how your projects and exams will be marked and what is required from you in order to successfully graduate.

The grading system in the UK for a masters degree is quite different from the one we are used to in the universities in Bulgaria. For example, according to our system, the grades are between 2 (which mean you have failed) and 6 (for excellent work). Here in England, universities use percentages between 0 and 100. Here are the different grades you can get:


In order to pass an exam, a coursework or a unit in a subject, students need to get 50% and over if they are doing a Master’s degree. If you get below that grade, it means you have failed and you need to retake the exam. Scores from 50 % to 59% will give you a “pass”, also known as 2ii or second class honours  lower division classification. It means that you have some understanding of the specific topic, can make arguments and can use different information sources. In Bulgaria, the equivalent of the passing grade is 3 – 4.


Students get a “merit” with scores from 60% to 69%. The score means that you can critically analyze a problem, can construct good arguments and use wide range of information source. If you have a “merit” on your diploma, it indicates that you graduated with 2i, as known as second class honours upper division classification. This is a really good score, as most of the employers require you to have that kind of grade and above. For the Bulgarian system, it is equivalents to 4.50 – 5.


If you get a “distinction” mark, which means getting 70% and above, it suggests that the student has excellent critical thinking, excellent knowledge on the topic and uses numerous information sources and references from theory and practice. Getting such a high score requires a great effort and time spent researching, however, it is not impossible. To get a “distinction” on your diploma it requires getting  70% and above on your dissertation. Also, this would mean you have the prestigious 1st class degree. In Bulgaria that assumes getting 5.50 and above as your final score.

The road to a 1st degree classification

My tip for getting a higher grade when doing your assignments would be to plan ahead and schedule the process, spend enough time reading and researching the topic and use as many resources and references, both offline and online, as possible, so you can demonstrate you know what you are talking about. Also, always proofread it at the end, as misspelt words can be quite annoying!

By Martina Gardeva, Bulgaria, MSc Tourism Management, 2017/18