03 July 2020
This week, we received a question from Eric, a teacher in China.
I am at a loss about how to use the following words correctly: score, mark, point, and grade. For example, if a student answers my question correctly in class, should I say, "I will give you two points for your success" or should I say, "I will give you two marks?" Another question: How should we call the numeral that we put on students' test papers? Is that a mark? Or grade? Or point? Or score? And can I say, "In this test, student A's grade is two points higher than student B's"? Or should I use "mark" or maybe "score" instead of "grade" in this situation?
These are good questions. It is easy to mix up the many similar words connected to measuring student performance.
First, I will give the meaning of each word. Then, I will answer your individual questions.
A score is the total number of points that a student earns on a test or other schoolwork.
For example, suppose you are telling your students about an upcoming test. You could say this:
Each section is worth 25 points, for a total score of 100.
You can also use "score" as a verb. In that case, it means to get points:
Elaine scored well on her science test.
Marks and grades
The word "mark" is generally used in British English for the American word "grade." Both mean the same thing: a measure. Teachers in the United States are more likely to use the word "grade" for the number or letter that indicates how a student performed in a class or on a test. In the U.S., for example, many students get letter grades to represent their numeric score for a single paper or exam, as well as an entire term of study in a subject.
A point is a numeric unit that is used in tests and other schoolwork. We also use this word for classroom activities and games.
For example, you asked about what to tell a student who has done well in class. I would say,
I will give you ten points for your correct answer.
Or you might explain before you ask a question:
I will give you ten points if you answer this question correctly.
Now let's go over a few differences.
The difference between the words "grades" and "points" is that a grade is usually based on the number of points scored. For example, if 100 points is the total, and the student got between 90 and 100 points, the student gets an A grade. A grade of B would go to scores of 80 to 89, C is for 70 to 79, and so on. In the U.S., a grade is almost always represented by a letter, and points by numbers.
When talking about the difference between two scores we could use a sentence like the one you asked about:
Your score is five points higher this week than it was on last week's test. You will get a good grade for the term.
Thanks again for the questions, Eric. They were grade A!
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That's Ask a Teacher for this week.
I'm Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
point – n. individual credit for a correct answer
mark – n. in British English, a letter assigned to a range of points
score – n. the result of combining points; v. to achieve or earn something such as points or a grade
grade – n. a letter assigned to a range of points
range – n. a series of numbers that includes the highest and lowest possible amounts
letter grade – n. a letter assigned to a score or a value; A = excellent, B = good, C = average and so on.