Academic grading in Serbia

Academic grading in Serbia

In Serbia a five-point grading scale is used in elementary schools and secondary schools:

* 5 (excellent)
* 4 (very good)
* 3 (good)
* 2 (sufficient) is the lowest passing grade
* 1 (insufficient) is the lowest possible grade, and the failing one.

There are further descriptors of each grade, stated in two laws, one for grade levels 1-8 (elementary and junior high school, which are combined in one building as one school) and another for grade levels 9-12 (senior high school), in a form of a detailed rubric (the rubric for senior high school is much more detailed). Percentages are not stated in the laws, and grades (marks) on tests that use percentage points are determined at teacher's discretion according to the rubric.

At universities, a six-point grading scale is used, where:
* 10 (excellent - outstanding),
* 9 (excellent),
* 8 (very good),
* 7 (good),
* 6 (sufficient, satisfying) is the lowest passing grade,
* 5 (not sufficient, not satisfying) is failing grade.

Required percentage is regulated by the statute of each individual institution, but general rules apply:

Grade . | . Social sciences, Medicine, Law, etc. . | . Natural and technical sciences, math
* 10 ...... 91-100% ......................................... | . 96-100%
* 9 ....... 81-90% ........................................... | . 86-95%
* 8 ....... 71-80% ........................................... | . 76-85%
* 7 ....... 61-70% ........................................... | . 66-75%
* 6 ....... 51-60% ........................................... | . 56-65%
* 5 ....... 0-50% ............................................. | . 0-55%

When calculating average grade, two decimals show up (e.g. 9.54).

In practice hardly any marks of 10 are given (as such a mark implies perfection, which is hardly ever present in student, or indeed the lecturers own, work), and even 9's are fairly rare. Therefore an average pass with an 8 is considered a very good pass. This imlies even more to state-funded universities (rather then privately owned ones), and, especially, to group of faculties of mathematics, natural sciences and technical faculties (in this group especially to mathematics, physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, physical chemistry, civil engineering).

In internal use - before a final mark is given, professors may use credit, percentage, or decimal numbers (on a scale 0-100 credits, 0-100 points, 0-100%, or 1.0-10.0).Usually a mark of 5.5 is makes for a narrow pass whereas 5.4 and below constitute a fail. If no decimal places are used, 6 and up is a pass and 5 and below a fail.Sometimes, when no decimal place is used, an additional grade, 6-, is used to indicate that the student "barely passed". Sometimes it maybe possible to compensate fail marks with high passes, provided the average mark is a pass (e.g. a mark 4 and 9 would average at ((4+9)/2=) 6.5 which makes for a pass. Compensation of marks is usually not allowed in the course specifications, but a lower limit for a compensatable grade may be set (marks lower then 4 may not be compensated - e.g. 4 and 8 (4+8/2=6) would be a pass, while 3 and 9 (also a 6 on average) would not make up for a pass).

Depending on the grade, universities can grant some honors (although this system is very limited compared to some other countries). A general heuristic (although this differs between institutions) is that a study average at least grade 9.5, final thesis graded 10, not a single grade below 8 and completing the curriculum without delays will lead to (in Serbian) "izvanredan", meaning "cum laude", extraordinary. For an average better than 9.0, but not meeting the criteria for cum laude, "odličan" (excellent) is awarded, and for an average better than 8.0, but not meeting the criteria for excellent - "vrlo dobar" (very good) is awarded.

Grading systems compared

Converting the numbers of the Serbian grading system into the letters of systems such as those used in the United States and Great Britain, is difficult. It can really only be done if one can compare the frequency distribution of grades in the two systems.

The grades 9 and 10 are hardly ever given on examinations (on average, a 9 is awarded in less than 2%, and a 10 in less than 0.4% of cases). This is because the mark 10 implies perfection (i.e. a 96-100% score on all questions, extraordinary level) and a mark 9 an excellent level, which could be translated as a level close to that of the teacher.

As the incidence of a 9 or 10 in Serbian university examinations are considerably lower than that of the top marks in the American or British grading system, it would be a mistake to equate a 10 to an A, a 9 to a B, and so forth. If the 8, 9 and 10 are taken together, as in the table above, they represent up to 15% of examination results. If, in a grading system based on letters, the A represents the top 10% or thereabouts, the grades 8 and above should be represented by A and A- grades.

Moreover, the equivalence of university preparatory education the world over should not be assumed, the US high-school being considered inadequate for admission to Dutch universities.

Every foreign diploma held by Serbian natinals should undertake process of recognition or equivalence of foreign diploma (e.g. BA, BSc, etc.) or honorary title (e.g. PhD, PhEng, etc.).Not surprisingly, Serbian graduates from US universities (even from the best ones) are not given equivalence automaticaly, but rather are put in 3rd, 4th or 5th years of diploma studies. Recent examples include graduates from University of California at Berkeley and MIT who were given 8 diferential subjects to study at the Faculty of Mathematics, and too many subjects to even get enroled to final year at the Faculty of Physics so the graduate was enrolled in 3rd year of undergraduate studies of General (not even Theoretical, Experimental, or Applied) physics. Such decisions are to be made by the comissions of faculties in question, and approved or disapproved by the Professors Assembly and, after that, by the dean.Recent example also includes Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, mr Vuk Jeremić, whose Bachelor of Science in Theoretical Physics from the prestigious University of Cambridge could not be recognized as equivalent to "diploma" by the "Faculty of Physics", University of Belgrade, and it took Mr Jeremic more than 8 (eight) years to have his diploma finally recognized in September 2005. cite paper
author= Fizički Fakultet
date= September 2005
format= PDF
title= Z A P I S N I K sa VII sednice Naučno-nastavnog veća Fizičkog fakulteta održane u sredu 22. juna 2005. godine
publisher= Fizički Fakultet
accessdate= 28 August 2008.
] .

A mark 7 is a good grade, implying the student has good command of the subject matter, but not exceptionally good. Mark 6 implies the student has satisfactory command of the subject matter. Marks 7- and 6+ are a fairly frequent marks "in internal use" (before the final mark is given, which can be either 7, or 6). As such it relates to the mark B in many other systems, 7- and 7 more likely B+ under systems with a very broad B category.

The conversion of the lowest passing grade may present another problem. A grade of 40% is a clear fail (although an "internal" mark 4 may be sometimes compensated by high grades obtained in all other tests and colloquia of the same subject). A mark 5, on the other hand, is 'almost satisfactory'. For purposes of assessing student's progress throughout the year, "mark 5" is a usuful mark and may lead to a pass, provided the student improves in the next tests adn retakes the test(s) he/she failed (if the test can be organized again during the same school year). For final exams, a 5 is unacceptable as an average. A mark 5 is slightly below that of the D in many systems: student in some cases may pass certain exam with an average mark between 5 and 6 if one of the higher marks from the same subject is "extraordinary" (10) or "excellent" (9).


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