On the Cutting
 shares with you our experts' answers to user submitted questions on all things international education

Updated periodically with responses from the International Evaluation Standards Council, On the Cutting EDGE is your glimpse at the work of AACRAO EDGE and our commitment to advancing international education


Is 'Higher' Always Better?


I have a question regarding the grading scales provided for Ireland.  We have a prospective student who took the 2016 Leaving Certificate Examination and all subjects taken were "Higher" level subjects. The grading scales available in EDGE do not currently reflect the differences for “Higher” marks. In the description of the Leaving Certificate, you mention that “’Higher” level subjects are more academically-rigorous than ‘ordinary’ level subjects”.  Because of that, and because of information we are receiving from the student and recent changes to the Leaving Certificate scales in Ireland, do you have any suggestions for how to evaluate her 2016 Leaving Certificate to account for the “Higher” marks she received?

This question comes up every now and again: “Why don’t you give more points to grades at the Higher Level on the Irish Leaving Certificate compared to the Ordinary Level exams?”  The problem is that the answer to this question is the same that you or I would give to the student or parent asking a university to give more grade points to an A earned in an AP course compared to a regular non-AP course in a US high school.  While it is true some schools give a 4.5 instead of a 4.0,  the issue here is NOT grading.  The grading is the same.  The difference is in the syllabus.  So what YOU do is to give more reflective weight in your deliberations to the A earned in a Higher Level exam than for an Ordinary Level exam.  

Let me use another analogy.  The grading on the IB exams (7-point scale) is the same whether the subject is at Higher Level or at Subsidiary Level. The receiving institution, however, makes a VALUE judgement based on the TYPE of exam but we don’t skew the grading scale to favor the Higher versus the Ordinary Level exams any more than we would consider a B at MIT to be a C anywhere else.

It should be noted that the Irish Leaving Certificate will have a new grading scheme beginning this year (2017) and it will drop from the 14 point scale you see in EDGE (count the No Grade which is not on the chart as the 14thGrade) to an 8 point scale.   The reason is to bring it more in line with other European grading schemes.   It will look like this and probably illustrates better even than my explanation above that the scales are the same:

H1/O1  90-100%
H2/O2  80-<90
H3/O3  70-<80
H4/O4  60-<70
H5/O5  50-<60
H6/O6  40-<50
H7/O7  30-<40
H8/O8  0  -<30

Notice that the grades are the same for BOTH types of exams.  The difference is in the value YOU place on Highers vs. Ordinary exams.  Clearly, more selective institutions will want some or all exams to be Highers for freshman admission.  But is an H1 and A while an O1 an A- or B+?  NO!

Thank you again for your question to EDGE!


Tanzanian Transcripts?

I am hoping you can help me to verify whether students from Tanzania are having difficulties in getting transcripts from their schools. I have a student who attended university just a few years ago and sent a transcript she had printed from the university website. We require an official transcript issued by the school, but when we asked her for that she said that she is unable to obtain an official transcript and that due to conflict in the country, it would take a long time to have the transcript sent. We wanted to verify that this is the case before we decide how to proceed. 

This is not a question concerning content found in EDGE but rather a ‘how-to’ evaluate question covered in several other venues: it is a common question.  Therefore we always make sure it is high on the agenda of our AACRAO Summer and Winter Institutes where we do teach best practices in international credential evaluation.  The answer is pretty simple and that is: “Of course you can get an official transcript and if you are serious about coming to (Name Your School) University, then you need to procure an official transcript.”   This is the most common opening bid of international students not wanting to spend the money or take the time to get an official transcript.  Because they are not at a US school where transcripts are issued on the spot and cost very little, they assume that we can be fooled into thinking that transcripts from abroad are impossible due to byzantine bureaucratic procedures when that is NOT the case.   There is nothing relative to Tanzania that would keep the student from getting a transcript.  What is always amazing in this situation is that the requested transcript (after you tell them ‘no exceptions’) turns up in fairly short order. 





Argentinian recognition status

Can you tell me if the Instituto Superior Colegio Modelo Lomas, Argentina,  is recognized by the Ministry of Education?

​This is one of the institution in Argentina known as a terciario no universitario (tertiary non-university schools) or terciarios for short as Liz Reisberg explains in the scanned Argentina publication (page 65) in EDGE Argentina. At the bottom of the  institutions page of EDGE Argentina there is section that the EDGE author (Sandra Rodriguez) devotes to terciarios and in there states that these have to be recognized by the MOE. In fact on the document ​provided, you have there is clear indication that the Provincial Ministry of Education and Culture, Office of Private Institutions, has approved this school.​


Nigerian Credit

I have a student that has a National Diploma, a Higher National Diploma and a Postgraduate Diploma in Management from Nigeria. I don't see anywhere on this site that will tell me if all together it is equal to a Bachelor Degree in the US? 


Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding the National Diploma, Higher National Diploma, and Postgraduate Diploma from Nigeria.  This is a tough question.  All three appear in EDGE of course and we indicate how much credit to give for each but we do NOT make a statement about bachelor’s comparability.  First of all, the International Education Standards Council (IESC) feels strongly that the HND is NOT a US bachelor’s. Where it gets tricky is whether or not a PG Diploma on top of that (5 years total post-secondary education) would be comparable to a US bachelors when there is a comparable degree ​(the Nigerian bachelor’s​)​. Some would suggest, however, that at SOME LEVEL, the diploma holders  have to attain something that is comparable to a US bachelor’s.  In terms of graduate school eligibility, certainly these folks should be given consideration.  Do they have a US bachelor’s?  In my opinion, no.


International Conversions 

I have a question regarding a transcript I received from I-Shou International School in Taiwan. I am unable to convert the grades based on the conversions in AACRAO EDGE. I was hoping you could give me some insight into how to convert the grades. 


The reason that you do not find this grading scale in EDGE Taiwan (or any other EDGE entry) is because it is an International Baccalaureate program so common to many US high schools (and other US style high schools abroad).   Even though the IB is a Swiss product, it is really pretty much a US phenomenon and we decided not to include it in EDGE.   It would not belong in EDGE Switzerland because it is NOT part of the Swiss educational system but an export product (again, usually found in the USA and US style schools).

 While I am sure there are grade conversions for the IB 7 point grading scale out there, the one with which I am most familiar is the one put out by the NCAA in its GUIDE TO INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC STANDARDS FOR ATHLETICS ELIGIBILITY.   The scale NCAA uses appears below:


IB Grade                                                      US Grade

Excellent      7                                                    A
Very Good    6                                                    A
Good            5                                                    B
Satisfactory  4                                                    C
Mediocre      3                                                    D
Poor             2                                                    F
Very Poor     1                                                    F

Schools vary in their practices as to where to cut off the granting of advanced placement credit for exams passed on the IB Diploma but usually are 5-7.