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What Dutch grades actually mean

Date:24 January 2020
Author:Asmo
The Dutch grading system can be quite confusing sometimes...
The Dutch grading system can be quite confusing sometimes...

Many international students come to the Netherlands with very high expectations of the university but also of themselves. It is only natural that you want to do well in your studies and show off some good results to your friends and family. However, the Dutch grading system is unique as it is quite strict, which may be a surprise for some. While students from the UK or the US are used to getting A’s, the Dutch system is geared towards preventing an ‘inflation’ of good results which would eventually cause good grades to lose their meaningfulness. For instance, while the grades range from 0 to 10 here, the vast majority of students are only awarded grades between 6 and 8. So what do Dutch grades actually mean? Before you have a nervous breakdown, or your parents disown you for ‘only’ getting a 7, make sure to read this blog. 

0 - 5,4 = Nice try, but you’ll have to go again!

Within the Dutch system, any grade between 0 and 5,5* is a failing mark which means that you will have to complete that course again. If you ever happen to fail, don’t worry too much about it. At university, you will always have a 2nd chance in the following block to retake the exam/assignment in order to pass. Don’t forget that failing an exam is part of most students’ study experience, which should be seen as a lesson in life rather than an existential crisis. Maybe you just ran out of time, or you were simply having a bad day - just remember to keep calm and carry on. 

*A 5,5 will be sufficient to pass. Depending on your study program it may be rounded up to a 6. 

6 = All you need

First of all, congratulations on passing your exam/assignment! A 6 within the Dutch grading system is the lowest passing grade and means that you have acquired at least 55% of the points required to get through your course. While getting a 6 is maybe not a reason to light up fireworks and hold a victory speech (although this may depend on the course. Just one word: statistics), it means that you have gotten a satisfactory result at the very least and passed. If you are overly ambitious and expect more than a simple pass, make sure not to beat yourself up if you happen to get a 6 in a few courses. In some programs, you can even delete grades a few times a year and try again in the next block if you are not happy!

7 = More than satisfactory

Getting a 7 is like owning a Toyota Corolla. It’s a good and solid result, and it is the most commonly awarded grade in the Netherlands. It can be officially translated into meaning ‘more than satisfactory’, but most students will agree that a 7 is actually ‘more than enough’. While it may seem far off from a 10 (I’ll get to that later), a 7 proves that you have a firm basic knowledge on that topic and exceed the minimum passing requirements by quite a bit.  

8 = Great

If you happen to get an 8, you can be very very happy about your result. On average, only around 14% of students get an 8, which means that you are already playing in the top league with this grade. It is definitely a reason to go out and throw a little party with your friends, because it surely is not too easy to be...wait for it... gr8. (I think I’ve had too much coffee today). Anyhow, an 8 is a really good achievement and a grade you can be genuinely proud of! 

9 = 1st place

Okay, the air is getting thinner and thinner up here. If you manage to pull off a 9 you are right up there with the best of the best (awarded to only 2,7% of students on average!). A 9 is like the gold medal of grades, which also means that you also have to fight quite hard to finish first. If you have the chance of experiencing the 9er club (sounds like a fancy golf club, to be honest), make sure to remember that feeling of success and draw on it for future study sessions and those exams where not a single student scores higher than an 8.   

10 = Is this even possible? 

Alright everyone, stop what you are doing, give King Willhelm a call and start organizing a parade because we have a 10 in the house! No seriously, if you ever happen to get a 10, it’s quite a big deal. A 10 stands for absolute perfection and is therefore only awarded extremely rarely because, as we know, regular humans are far from perfect. In the vast majority of courses, there won’t be a single student who gets this grade, which is why I essentially see the Dutch grading system only going from 1 to 9 in practice. But every once in a while, that glorious 10 appears somehow and who knows, maybe you will be the next one to get it? 



If you are interested in learning more about the Dutch grading system and conversion methods, make sure to check out this page. How has your experience been with the Dutch grading system? Let us know in the comments below! 



About the author

Asmo
Asmo
Hey there! My name is Asmo and I’m a Finnish/German student exploring life in the Netherlands. Besides being into photography and politics, I am currently completing my double master's degree in European law and international law. Oh, and I write blogs as well.

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