Part 3 of School Daze in Holland: Grades

Getting straight A's is not a thing here in the Netherlands. School's here give you grades on a 10 point scale. Anything above a 5.5 is passing, anything above a 7 is considered good. I was told to never expect a 9. This took some adjustment as my whole life until I moved, I was on a number system, and then A's were 4 points, B's were 3 and so forth. 

I remember when I received my first grade of the year. It was a respectable 7.5 on a group project. The problem was, I didn't know how to feel. My group of very hard workers were all congratulating each other on a job well done, I wasn't  sure how much I should celebrate. I wanted to make it fit on my letter grade scale. Then my brain went to a 75, which would be a C where I am from. Who celebrates a C? 

That was when I was explained the you should be proud of a 7 and think of it more like a B. Because no one every gets 9's. Well, I am happy to say that thus far, I have received four 9's and even a completely unheard of 9.5. 

It is all about adjusting your expectations. 7.5 is my happiness limit, if I get below, I am pretty upset. It is important to note that the only grades received are those at the end of the period. Each period has one project, perhaps a portfolio or two and a few final exams. 

My grades are something I am pretty proud of this year, however I have failed an exam. I could go on with excuses about what all was going on in my life, (I was pretty depressed about all the deaths of people I cared about) but really I didn't study as much as I know that I could have. Now, if I was pursuing a degree in the States, this would mean that I would have to take the class over. In the Netherlands, it just means that I have to retake the exam. You can retake the test up to 5 times. You have to reach a certain number of points to make it out of each year, but if you fail one class it is not going to impact you that much, If you don't have enough points to pass the first year, you can not continue with that major. 

How does this compare to when and where you were in Uni?

Don't forget to check out:

Part One of School Daze in Holland: MBO, HBO or WO, Higher Education Levels or TV Channels?

Part Two of School Daze in Holland Series: You Better Like Your Classmates, You See Them Everyday.



Congrats on your grades! I wouldn't know how to feel about a 7.5 either! I'm too crazy about grades. glad I'm not in school anymore! ha! Keep up the good work! :)


It is hard to compare grades internationally, for sure. The idea of a straight-A student is completely  foreign (ba-dum-tishh) to me.
There is a fixed expression that exists about Dutch grading habits, which I heard a lot when I was younger: "Ten is for God, nine is for the teacher and eight is for the best student in class." 
Now this doesn't hold true entirely, but it comes pretty close. I once has a classmate who sometimes received work back with a 9. She had a double major in undergrad, then pursued two Masters degrees and is now working on a PhD. My highest grade during both undergrad and grad school was an 8.5 and I was considered an above average student (although not an excellent one). 
Grading for papers also tends to differ from grading exams. Obviousy, if you get a multiple choice test, you can score 10/10, but papers are generally graded in such a way that a ten (or even a 9.5) is unattainable. 
Then, there is the difference between 'HBO' (or: University of Applied Sciences, as they like to style themselves) and an 'universiteit', which can be a difficult distinction for someone who comes from the British-American system. I studied at both, myself and had the idea that grading on the HBO level tended to give higher scores than university grading. However, that may be particular to the schools I went to. 
Still, a 7.5 is a wonderful grade, and a 9.5 must mean they're very impressed with your work, so good for you :)