Monthly Archives: February 2011

Making the Grade

reportcardThe grading system used in many Irish (and British) universities can sometimes be confusing for international students.

Firstly, Irish universities traditionally use a verbal grading system to classify overall degree results, rather than a GPA. A high achieving student might for example graduate with a degree with first class honours (“a first”) based on their average marks (grades).

The second main difference is that universities here traditionally grade work between about 40% (pass) and 70%-75% (excellent). Only a relatively small proportion of students in a class are awarded a mark of over 70%, particularly in disciplines such as the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

This is quite different to universities in the USA and other countries that follow the US system, where work is generally graded between 60% (pass) – 100%. A student from the US for example, who is accustomed to receiving A grades, may therefore get a mark of 70-75  at an Irish university for work of the same general standard.

A mark of 70% awarded by NUI Galway is therefore the same as a 70% awarded by a US university. In fact, the different marking system means that a 70% from NUI Galway is generally considered equivalent to an A grade (usually over 90%) at a US university.

If you’re a visiting student, your home university will be aware of the different marking system used here and will normally convert your NUI Galway mark back to the corresponding letter grade in your home country (see table below).

If you are a full degree-seeking student from a country that follows the US system, it’s equally important to remember that scores of 70% or greater are usually only awarded to a small minority of students for work deemed “excellent”. Therefore,  if you receive a 70% 0r greater then you’re likely to be one of the better performing students in your class.

For the same reasons outlined above, it is important also not to be fooled into thinking that it’s easier to achieve a passing grade in Ireland, given that the pass mark is normally 40%. A paper or exam awarded a 60% in the US for example would probably be awarded a 40% in Ireland, which means that the overall standard of work needed to pass is generally the same.

Here is a rough guide to how the grading system in Ireland might compare to the letter grade/GPA system common in other countries*:

Verbal Grade % Grade Equivalent Grade Equivalent GPA
First Class Honours 70% or above A+ (93%-100%) 4.00
Second Class Honours, Grade 1 60% or above A (90-92%) 3.33
Second Class Honours, Grade 2 50% or above B (80-89%) 2.66
Third Class Honours 45% or above C (70-79%) 2.33
Pass 40% or above D (60-69%) 2.00
Fail Less than 40% F (0-59%) < 2.00

*Note: These are suggested equivalents only. Interpreting grades from other countries and education systems is highly complex and no single definitive system exists. Individual universities may use their own system for interpreting grades.

There are many reasons why different grading systems are used in different countries around the world. As well as historical, cultural and other pedagogical reasons, one contributing factor may be the different systems of assessment used in different education systems.

For example, while Continuous Assessment is increasingly used in Ireland, you may find that the academic culture at NUI Galway is more heavily geared towards end of semester examinations compared to your home country.

Students can generally expect that approximately 70-80% of their grade for a particular class will be based on a formal end of semester exam, which is usually essay based rather than short answer or multiple choice questions (depending on the discipline) and usually covers the full semester’s material.

The remainder the grade is normally based on a mid-term assignment(s), but again this can vary by discipline.

Also, unlike in the USA, where even attendance at lectures and/or class participation may contribute to your grade, your performance in the end of term exam will generally determine your grades in Ireland.

For more information about assessment, please refer to the previous post about Undergraduate Programmes and Teaching, Learning and Assessment at NUI Galway.



Filed under Academics

Study Abroad Jargon Buster

  • Accommodation

Student Accommodation means Student Housing. The Student Accommodation Office oversees the Student Residences and provides advice and information on all matters relating to housing.

  • Colloquium

Colloquium modules are small group teaching modules. These modules have a limited number of students. Colloquia require reading, presentation, oral participation and regular attendance.

  • Course/Programme

Full time, degree-seeking, students study a specific Course or Programme  from their first year at university in Ireland. The two terms are generally used interchangeably. This is different to universities in the US and other countries that follow the US model, where all students are required to study a general education programme before declaring a major.  A Course or Programme comprises individual modules. The University sets out specific rules that determine which modules you need to successfully complete each year to graduate with the appropriate degree title (e.g. B.Sc. (Physics), B.Comm., B.A. (History), etc).

  • Continuous Assessment

Continuous Assessment refers to the method of student evaluation that takes place throughout the semester/academic year. Examples include midterm essays, class tests, group assignments.

  • ECTS

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is the academic credit system used in most European universities. Its main purpose is to enable comparisons between courses in different universities and countries in Europe. ECTS credits are based on overall workload, rather than just contact hours like in the US. A module that is rated at 5 ECTS, for example, means that you need to spend at least 100 hours of concerted effort (including lectures, exams and self-study) in order to complete it satisfactorily. As a general guide, 5 ECTS credits, which is the usual credit load of semester long module (see below), would be considered equal to 3 US credit hours approximately.

  • Ersamus

The Erasmus Programme (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students), is a European Union student exchange programme. The Erasmus programme aims at enhancing the quality and reinforcing the European dimension of higher education as well as at increasing student and staff mobility.

  • Essay

A short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author. Essay length is advised by the academic disciplines and may vary from 1500 – 5000 words.

  • Examination (Exam)

An examination is an assessment intended to measure a student’s knowledge of a particular academic module. Written examinations at NUI Galway are normally of 2 hours duration.

  • Extended Essay

Extended essays may range from 3000 – 5000 words and provide students with an opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic.

  • Lecture

Programmes are delivered through a combination of lectures, tutorials, seminars and laboratory classes (where relevant). Lectures are normally held in large auditoriums or lecture halls and consist mainly of a one-way presentation by a Professor or Lecturer. Lectures outline the subject matter and lay the foundations on which you are expected to explore further through your independent reading and study.

  • Lecturer and Professor

The position of Lecturer or Senior Lecturer in Ireland would generally equal that of Associate Professor in other countries. Lecturers are usually permanent members of staff (tenured) and will also usually hold a PhD degree. Unlike in some countries, in Ireland, the title Professor is reserved only for the most senior academic staff in a given discipline.

  • Mark

Your Mark means your Grade. Marks are given out of 100%. See the post on the Irish grading system for more information.

  • Module

Courses are in turn split into Modules, which is the official name for what is generally known as a class or course in other education systems. The word Module is not commonly used by students, but you might come across it in course descriptions or other university documents.

  • Postgraduate

A Postgraduate course (see above) is a programme such as a Masters or PhD, or what is commonly known as a Graduate programme in other countries. The term is often shortened to “Postgrad”. A Postgraduate (or “Postgrad”) student is a Graduate student, i.e. a student undertaking a Postgraduate Course.

  • Prerequisite

In order to be eligible for admission to certain classes, students must demonstrate they have a suitable academic background, known as prerequisites, in a given subject area.

  • Seminar

Some disciplines offer seminar classes alongside regular lecture/tutorial based modules. Seminars are generally quite specialised classes and only offer restricted entry in order to maintain small class sizes.

  • Tutorial

Lectures are usually supplemented by tutorials, which provide an opportunity for discussion in a smaller group setting. Unlike lectures, tutorials are based on small groups and provide more opportunities for discussion and interaction amongst students.

  • University/College/School/Discipline

There are seven universities in Ireland and under law only these seven institutions can use the word University in their name.  While the terms University and College are often used interchangeably, College is also used to refer to the principal academic units within the University. For example, NUI Galway is comprised of five Colleges;

– College of Arts Social Sciences and Celtic Studies
– College of Business, Public Policy and Law
– College of Engineering and Informatics
– College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
– College of Medicine

Each College is subdivided into Schools (e.g. and each School of Humanities, School of Law etc.) and each School in turn comprises a number of Disciplines. A Discipline is a branch of knowledge that is taught and researched at a university. Examples of academic disciplines – French, Anatomy, Mathematics, Physics etc

  • Visiting Student

A Visiting Student is a student admitted to undertake a programme of study normally for one year or one semester. A Visiting Student is not admitted to a programme leading to a Degree or any other award of the University. Normally only students, in good standing of another higher level institutions (or graduates) are admitted as Visiting Students.


Filed under About Ireland, Academics, On Campus

Top 5 Books about Ireland


books about ireland

How the Irish Saved Civilization

Top 5 Books About Ireland

Travel guides such as, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Frommers etc., all provide great  tips on Ireland as a holiday destination, but if you’re thinking about studying in Ireland, then perhaps you’ll want a deeper insight into the country and the Irish psyche.

Fortunately, there’s a great range of writing on Ireland and its people to check out before you come! In no particular order…

  1. How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
  2. McCarty’s Bar, by Pete McCarthy
  3. Ulysses, by James Joyce
  4. Round Ireland with a Fridge, by Tony Hawks
  5. The Commitments, by Roddy Doyle

If you have any books you’d like to add to our list, then please let us know by adding your comments below!

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Filed under About Ireland

Múscailt Student Arts Festival

student arts festival, NUI Galway

student arts festival, NUI Galway

The Múscailt Student Arts Festival takes place at NUI Galway this week, with a great line up of opera, music, performance, sculpture and visual art.

The theme of this year’s event is Exploration, offering an escape into the world of fantasy, astronomy and history. Múscailt has invited special guest artists to create new work on campus, linking art and science.

This year’s festival hosts an array of Irish and international artists, performances by Gatto Marte, Dermot Healy, Treasa Ní Nhiolláin, NUI Galway Chamber Orchestra and the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet. Writer/storyteller Rab Swannock Fulton and artist Marina Wild have also created a new children’s show entitled Pirates, Dragons and Moon Monsters for the Múscailt festival.

For more visit

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Filed under On Campus