【明報專訊】Conversing with my UK friends last night over Zoom, I remarked the difference in our workload. While I moaned about having to sit six exams and other various forms of assessment in just one semester, my friends rolled their eyes and said ''Alice, you don't need to work in your first year.'' I was puzzled, then I realised why this is; the US and the UK have completely different grading systems.
In the UK, like in Hong Kong, most degrees are classified as first class (70+%), upper second class (60-69%), lower second class (50-59%), third class (45-49%), ordinary or fail. In most courses, as long as you score over 40% in your first-year exams, the results won't count towards your final degree classification. The second year counts, but not as much as the final year.
In the USA, on the other hand, EVERYTHING counts. The average student takes four to five classes in a semester, and for each class you'd usually have two or three exams (or equivalents). These exam results, along with your assignment scores, quiz scores and attendance, make up your grade for that class. This grade is then translated into a number out of 4.0 (or 4.3), adjusted according to the number of credits for the class, which count towards your GPA (grade point average). Your final GPA at graduation will be a weighted average of all the grades throughout your degree, which is important for graduate school and employment. This means that unlike the UK system, every class counts in every year. The GPA system can be a source of stress, since there are so many assessments to study for and virtually anything you do will be graded and stick with you.
Nonetheless, I am personally more in favour of the GPA system, because I think the material you learn in the first year matters just as much, and I know for a fact that I wouldn't be motivated to work hard if I knew my grade didn't count for anything.
Alice is a freshman at Cornell University intending to major in Economics and Computer Science, having previously studied in the UK for six years. A lover of languages, she studies French, Italian, Japanese and picks up bits of other languages when she can.