la joie de vivre

From California to Lyon, France: living & studying abroad…and coming back!

The French Grading System

…from the point of view of an American, it’s pretty wacky!

  • A standard test is out of 20 points.
  • 20 is impossible to attain; 19, 18, 17 are pretty rare.
  • 16 is really good.
  • 10 is considered passing, and I’ve been told that people are pretty happy with anything above that.

Some classes do a 10 + 10 point system: out of 10 points for the midterm and out of 10 points for a final. Other classes have assignments and papers out of either 10 or 20.

From my experience at the hyper-competitive high school of Mission San Jose High and my experience in college at UCSB, students (unless under the super strict curves of Economics) are used to getting a B and above (80%+) if they went to lecture, did the work, and paid attention.

As you can imagine, getting a 10/20 in the French system gives quite an initial terrible shock to the American student.

Honestly, I think the difference goes back to a lot of cultural differences: the American need to boost self-esteem (ever heard of vanity sizing?), the strictness of the French hierarchical system, and the norms of niceties, respect, and rapport between a learner and a teacher.

My last semester here, we had classes that were supposedly on the French scale, but it was really on American standards (meaning: 20, 19, 18 were common on tests and assignments).

So since I’ve transferred into thereal French educational system this semester, my expectations were based off rumors but not experience.

We received our midterms for psycholinguistics yesterday – and I was so nervous! The papers are all laid out by alphabetical order, so you can see the grade that every person got. I saw a lot of 1s! But then I find my paper. My heart drops. 6 out of 10?

I show my friend who’s in my class. “Congratulations!” she smiles.

Wait what? That’s good? She was in the real French educational system last year, so she’s been through midterms, finals, papers, presentations, and the like, and she’s seen what her raw scores have transferred back into grades for the UC system.

As I’m going into finals now, I’m trusting my friend that everything will work out OK in my classes. The transfer of the raw score in the French educational system to the letter grade in the American educational system is, after all, quite a complex one.

I hope all goes well with my finals and anything else these last few weeks throw at me!


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This entry was posted on April 18, 2012 by in Student Life abroad.
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