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Hello, my name is Patrycja and I am studying BA (Hons) Computer Animation Art and Design at Bournemouth University. I’m from Poland and one of the biggest differences between studying in Poland and the UK are the university grading systems. This was quite a surprise for me and it was something I had to get used to quickly.

Most common grading systems in Poland

In my home country, primary, secondary and high schools always grade on the scale of 1 to 6: 1 being the failing grade and 6 being excellent. Getting a grade above 4 is desired because having higher average grades gives students the opportunity to attend better schools or achieve scholarships etc. Student knowledge and skills are usually checked with tests and short quizzes that are marked by points that are later translated into grades on the 1-6 scale.

At Polish universities the scale is a bit different. The grades are 2-5! with 2 meaning that you didn’t pass and 5! meaning excellent job, like 6 in earlier education. There are also half grades between two grades and they count towards your final average. Students are marked primarily by major exams.  However, very rarely, some additional subjects like OGUNs (general subjects shared by many different courses) are marked by presentations or written assignments.

How important are grades for graduating Polish students?

The average of grades is not as important for students at universities in Poland. It counts towards various scholarships, but employers are rarely checking the marks after a student’s graduation; usually all they care about is the degree. Moreover, whether you graduate from Polish universities with a distinction depends on your final dissertation; minor exams and quizzes do not count towards a degree but the dissertation at the end of the Bachelor’s or Master’s course is very important.

Structure of degrees in the UK and the mysterious (Hons) degree in comparison with Polish degrees’ structure

In the UK you can study a regular degree like a BA or BSc, or an Honours degree. When you study an ordinary degree the aim is mainly to pass and achieve this degree. However, for an Honours degree the marks are more important and when you graduate you get your level of achievements specified. So, for example, you can get a First, Second or Third degree that is mirroring the final grade you achieved.  From what I’ve heard, UK employers sometimes care about the degree’s class and it can be very important if you want to apply for a Master’s degree.

In Poland there is nothing like an Honours degree. You can get a distinction on your degree if you are really good but your marks / achievements will not be specified on your diploma. Moreover, most of the courses are uniform Master’s degrees, so you are studying for around 4-5 years without a clear separation from the Bachelor’s course. There exist separate Bachelor’s studies but most students do a Master’s degree afterwards, regardless, as having it on your CV is usually very important for Polish employers.

Grading system at the UK universities

The projects, presentations, essays and tests are marked in percents with 40% being a pass or Third class grade, everything above and including 70% is a First (the highest qualification), 50% being the Second and everything below 40% is a Fail. The grades can be also further divided into Upper Second, Lower Second, and High First etc.

How important are the grades for UK students during studies and after graduation?

Students in the UK care a lot about their grades during studies. In my course, the grades from our first year do not count towards your final degree grade, but still people strive to achieve their best. The marks achieved throughout the second and final year constitute a percentage of the whole degree mark, so unlike Poland, it’s not just the major dissertation or final project that counts. The criteria that students are marked for are also different. In the UK, the skills and how to use them are highly important, rather than just memorised knowledge.

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