4, 5, 6 – Differences in grading systems and grades – By: Sofía

Before arriving in Sweden, I was aware of the differences in the educational and grading systems. During the introductory seminars, current international students shared their journeys of adapting to the Swedish system. I was surprised by the number of international students who faced challenges and even failed in their initial periods. Frankly, I was nervous that I might encounter a similar situation.

Grading scale at Uppsala University

In Mexico, many of us grow up with this fear of failure, leading young students to mainly focus on memorization rather than truly understanding concepts. Progressing from one grade to another often involves memorizing concepts that tend to fade over time. Let me be clear—I am grateful for the education I received. Mexico has great universities and amazing teachers who inspired me with their passion and love for science. However, my experiences in Sweden have unveiled a contrasting approach: here, the emphasis is on genuine learning, placing the focus on individuals to take responsibility for their learning journey rather than solely on the grade received in an exam. Each faculty at Uppsala University decides on their own grading scale. My programme in Uppsala has the grading system is G 3 (passed), 4, 5, or U (fail). Most of the time, achieving a 3 requires getting 50% or more of the points correct in the exam. For a 4, it’s between 70-85, and for a 5, it’s 86-100. Receiving a ‘U’ allows a chance for a retake without the need to retake the entire course or pay extra fees. The concept of retakes might be negatively viewed in Mexico, often accompanied by additional fees and limitations on achieving a grade higher than 70, which is the passing grade in Mexico.

My first exams

My first exams were last October, and I have now received all the grades from them. But before I share how it went, let me describe how the exams were. I took three courses during my initial period as a new Uppsala master student. They were demanding, and I soon realized the necessity of investing considerable time in studying for them. I started studying a month in advance. While exams in Mexico are usually one or two hours long, realizing that exams here spanned five hours left me in a panic. The exam halls are approximately 30 minutes away from the city center by bus, so I had to wake up very early and catch the bus to get there. The exam halls are spacious rooms filled with computers, creating an intimidating atmosphere, and you often take the exam alongside students from different programs. There’s a bathroom available, and you can access it as many times as needed. Additionally, you’re allowed to bring your own food, water, coffee, or any other necessary items. Your phone and belongings remain outside in lockers. Initially, I doubted my ability to remain focused and seated for the full five hours, but the state of stress and adrenaline made time fly by.

Is passing enough?

I passed all my exams, but upon receiving my grades, I experienced mixed feelings. Back home, achieving a good grade is the result of one’s effort, but here, despite pushing myself hard, I barely passed or managed to get a 4 (75-85). It felt like settling for just passing. When I shared my feelings with my Swedish classmates, they all tried to explain that in Sweden, passing is more than sufficient. It took the reassurance of the tenth person to finally calm me down. I needed that reminder of how challenging it is to be an international student—learning in a different language, in a different system, far from home, and in my case, studying completely new topics from what I pursued during my bachelor’s degree. I needed to remind myself to be kind to myself and to prioritize genuine understanding and finding my path for future work.

Enjoy learning!

Consequently, I’ve decided to stop comparing myself with others, to adjust my goals, and focus on a different type of learning—a journey where I embrace the process and enjoy learning, rather than pressuring myself for an elusive perfect score (a ‘5’). I’m now concentrating on relishing the experience of pursuing my master’s at a remarkable university in the beautiful city of Uppsala.

My advice for you is to remember that you’re doing fine. Focus on your goals, take deep breaths, and appreciate the process while prioritizing your mental health. A grade doesn’t define your worth or capability.


  1. Nfontoh dieudonne

    Beautiful ❤️

  2. Asalf Gest

    I intersting

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