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Studying in France: A Perfect Score Posted by on Jan 8, 2015 in Culture

Les examens… I’m currently in the middle of exams. I have to passer les examens (take exams) and hope I can réussir les examens (pass exams). That leaves me quite busy, but it also made me realize just how different the grading system is here en France.

The first thing that will jump out to an American is that grades aren’t based on an A, B, C, D, F system or even a 0-100 grading scale. Instead everything is based on a 0-20 scale, with 10/20 being a passing grade.

The other particularity of the French grading system is that there is a strong emphasis on the idea that “personne n’est parfait” (nobody’s perfect). So teachers almost never give out a grade of 20/20! Before people start yelling, “mais c’est faux ! Il  y a des profs qui donnent des 20s !” (That’s not true! There are teachers that will give you 20s!), yes, it is true that it is possible to achieve the much desired vingt sur vingt (twenty out of twenty), but in general, on le donne pas (it’s not given out), because “personne n’est parfait”.

There’s another thing that will feel a little bizarre if you’re not used to it. As a result of nobody being parfait, l’idée d’une bonne note (the idea of a good grade) is un peu different compared with their American equivalents.

In France, a 12/20 is already pretty good, a 14/20 is good, and a 16/20 is amazing (18/20 is nigh impossible). Thinking about ces notes (these grades) in terms of just A, B, C, D, F made me feel like I couldn’t do well in France for a long time before I, enfin (finally), started getting used to the French grading system.

Le système d’éducation française (The French education system) is vastly different from the American system. I’ve had to stumble along and learn it as I go, but if there is any interest from the readers, I could start a series of tips and astuces for people who will be studying or are currently studying en France.

If anyone has a specific question about how things work in French universities, feel free to leave un commentaire below!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.