Understanding university grading, credits, Dean's list and more

A + student
A + student

The shift from high school to university is big in many ways. From the changes in class time and the increase in workload to the new freedom, it's a whole new ball game. Some of these things you'll come to learn and understand by yourself, but it's best to get the formalities out of the way so you can get a head start on the path to success. 

Without further adieu, here is how the academic achievement system works at university level: 

Credit system at university

In order to obtain your bachelor's degree, you need 360 credits.

You choose your modules (unless your course has prerequisite modules for obtaining the degree), and each module has a certain number of credits. So, in order to obtain your degree, you need to build up your credits. For example, some modules may have 10 or 20 credits and you'll need to build up those credits as you go along in order to have enough to pass by the end of your final year.

Your chosen tertiary institution will have all the relevant information about modules for your course on their website. Look under the faculty categories, or search for their Calendar 2019.

University grading and symbols 

Here's how uni and school differ:

High school grading:

80-100%: code 7 (A symbol)

70-79%: code 6 (B symbol)

60-69%: code 5 (C symbol)

50-59%: code 4 (D symbol)

40-49%: code 3 (E symbol)

30-39%: code 2 (F symbol)

0-29%: code 1 (FF symbol)

University grading:

80-100% (A+ symbol)

75-79% (A symbol)

70-74% (B+ symbol)

65-69% (B symbol)

60-64% (B symbol)

57-59% (C+ symbol)

54-56% (C symbol)

51-53% (C symbol)

50% (D symbol)

0-49% (Fail)

As you can tell, university grading is quite different from high school grading. If you score below 49% for an exam, you do not pass that module, so anything below a D symbol at university level is considered a fail.

In the instance that you do not pass an exam but fall within the bracket of almost passing (usually obtaining 45%+), you will be eligible to write a supplementary exam. There may also be other factors that influence whether you qualify for the supplementary exam though, so it is not a guarantee and is entirely dependent on your university.

In high school, in order to obtain an A symbol you need to get 80%+ for a subject. At university, you need a minimum of 75%. Just a heads-up: it doesn't mean that getting an A is any easier, though!

A lot of South African universities don't really work with the "+" grading, so an A+ would simply be an A or a B+ would simply be a B, etc. 

CAM: Continuous assessment mark or coursework mark

The accumulation of your marks from assignments, tests, tutorial work, practicals or anything else your course comprises throughout the term up until examinations.

Some universities use the term "CAM", others "coursework mark", and perhaps your university uses a different term still; ultimately it is all the same concept.

Your CAM or coursework mark makes up a percentage of your final mark for each module, but differs from module to module. For example, your CAM could count for 40% of your final mark for one module but could count for 60% of your final mark for another module.

Your CAM needs to be a certain percentage for you to qualify to write the exam for that module.

What you need to make the Dean's list

Each faculty at University has its own Dean, and each Dean has a Merit Awards list for the top achievers in the course or faculty. It is the highest form of achievement at university level.

The list usually comprises students who obtain an A aggregate and above for their course.

If you qualify, you get invited to attend a Dean's List Merit Awards ceremony, where you receive a certificate (and some bragging rights).

Honour Society in South Africa

An honour society is an organisation that recognises top achievers in the respective university faculties. Being a part of an honour society can open many doors for you as it is pretty advantageous when it comes to searching for jobs, plus it looks great on your CV.

The main honour society in South Africa is the Golden Key International Honour Society, usually with students who achieve within the top 15% of their faculty.

You only get invited to join the society if you are eligible.

The requirements to become a member, according to the the Golden Key Honours Society website:

  • Only students studying a degree programme may qualify.
  • Students must have completed at least one full academic year of study at an university (all modules that are part of the first year level).
  • Top 15% of students per field of study in any undergraduate and post-graduate degree course.
  • Full and part-time students can be eligible.
  • Local academic average cut-off is set by the university and varies from faculty to faculty.

Is there anything else about university academic life, campus life or studies you feel is important to know? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

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