École Internationale PACA Manosque

New Marking Scale in the European Schools-all levels from September 2020

The European School system is introducing several far-reaching reforms in order to bring itself in line with the current educational policies of the European Union. As part of the reform, all syllabuses have been revised so that the process of teaching and learning is organised in a way that contributes to the development of the key competences of all our pupils.

The 8 key competences were defined by the European Parliament and by the Council in Recommendation 2006/962/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on key competences for lifelong learning (Official Journal L 394 of 30.12.2006) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:32006H0962

Definition of a competence: The capability to apply or use a set of related knowledge, skills and attitudes.

The syllabuses define the learning objectives for each cycle, which describe the knowledge, understanding, skills and values students should be able to demonstrate after a period of learning.
At the same time, the syllabuses also contain clear assessment criteria and attainment descriptors for each subject in each cycle.
For further information on the syllabuses of the European Schools, see the document “Structure for all syllabuses in the system of the European schools
Attainment Descriptors have been developed for every subject and have been added to the actual syllabuses. Attainment descriptors are statements that describe the level of pupils’ performance in respect of a given set of competences or learning objectives. Attainment descriptors are used for planning of teaching, learning and assessment and for interpretation of final results.

Example: Attainment descriptors – Integrated Science S1-S3 
See full document: Ref.: 2016-09-D-37-en-3

(9.0-10 – Excellent) (8.0-8.9 – Very good) (7.0-7.9 – Good) (6.0-6.9 – Satisfactory) (5.0-5.9 – Sufficient) (3.0-4.9 – Failed/Weak) FX (0-2.9 – Failed/very Weak)
Subject competences Is capable of critical analysis and use of scientific knowledge. Can use scientific knowledge to analyse unfamiliar problems. Can use scientific knowledge to analyse familiar problems. Shows satisfactory understanding of scientific knowledge but has difficulties applying it. Recalls basic scientific knowledge (names, facts and definitions) correctly. Shows little recall of basic scientific knowledge. Shows very little recall of basic scientific knowledge.
Excellent graphing skills. ​Is able to draw, describe and analyse different kinds of graphs. ​Is able to draw, describe and analyse simple graphs. ​Is able to draw, describe and read simple graphs. ​Is able to draw and describe simple graphs. Has difficulty drawing and describing simple graphs. ​Has difficulty drawing and describing simple graphs without assistance.
Investigative work Can plan an experiment selecting appropriate materials and equipment. Can plan an exp. with assistance and write a detailed and structured report. Follows the procedure and writes a detailed report following guidelines. Follows the procedure and writes a basic lab report following guidelines. Follows a procedure and writes a basic lab report by completing given work sheets. Rarely completes experimental work. Rarely follows the procedure or completes written work.

The new marking scale is aligned with the attainment descriptors: it contains five positive attainment descriptors to express the extent to which pupils have fulfilled the syllabus requirements and two negative descriptors for pupils who do not meet the standards.

A marking scale is merely a symbolic and arbitrary system of representation, which can be adjusted to any particular assessment system, meaning that the current changes are not simply about adopting a new marking scale.

A more detailed and clearer assessment system with specific criteria and attainment descriptors for each subject in each cycle will be conducive to harmonisation and transparency of assessment across the different language sections throughout the European School system.

The new marking system – WHAT? 

The new marking system contains seven levels, each characterised by a performance descriptor, a grade and a definition of general attainment. All European School syllabuses now contain subject-specific attainment descriptors for each sub-cycle (S1-S3, S4-S5, S6-S7), which are used in planning for teaching, learning, assessment and reporting.

A student is deemed to have passed with a mark of 5 (Sufficient – Grade E), which can only be achieved when the requirements of the relevant attainment descriptor have been met. The pass mark being 5 does not mean lowering the standards: the required level of performance for promotion has not changed, only the range above the pass rate has become more diversified and detailed. In other words, the same amount of effort will be needed in order to be promoted to the year above as before.

The new marking system also contains numerical marks and alphabetical grades. In S1-S3 only grades (letters) are used, in order to continue with the more holistic approach to assessment used in the primary cycle.

Whole and half-numerical marks are used from S4 onwards. In S7 decimal numerical marks will be used, just like in the current system. The overall average preliminary mark in S7 will be expressed as a whole number and one decimal place and the overall final mark in S7 will be expressed as a whole number and two decimal places.



Numerical Mark


Numerical mark
1 decimal
preliminary mark
Numerical mark
2 decimals
final mark
Performance Indicator
Excellent though not flawless performance entirely corresponding to the competences required by the subject A 10 9.0-9.5 9.0-10 9.00-10 Excellent
Very good performance almost entirely corresponding to the competences required by the subject B 8.0-8.5 8.0-8.9 8.00-8.99 Very good
Good performance corresponding overall to the competences required by the subject C 7.0-7.5 7.0-7.9 7.00-7.99 Good
Satisfactory performance corresponding to the competences required by the subject D 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.9 6.00-6.99 Satisfactory
Performance corresponding to the minimum of the competences required by the subject E 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.9 5.00-5.99 Sufficient
Weak performance almost entirely failing to meet the competences required by the subject F 3.0-4.5 3.0-4.9 3.00-4.99 Failed
Very weak performance entirely failing to meet the competences required by the subject FX  0-2.5  0-2.9  0.00-2.99 Failed
(Very weak)

S1-S3 = Grades
S4-S6 = Numerical (Half) marks
S7 = Decimal Numerical marks

Rules concerning the A and B marks in years 4-6, have not been changed.
For further details see: Article 59. of the General rules of the European Schools.

Nevertheless, in years 1-3, because of the alphabetical grades, the promotion rules have been changed slightly.
Since it is not possible to calculate averages of final marks, Class Councils will reach their decisions on the basis of a compensation rule.

Pupils who have achieved an E grade or higher (standard) in each of the promotion subjects (the promotion subjects consist of the basic subjects and other subjects, with the exception for religion/ethics and complementary subjects) will be promoted to the year above.
In the case of pupils who have not achieved the standard, they still have the possibility to compensate for their grade(s) lower than an E grade on the basis of a new compensation system, which is in line with the current promotion rules.

  • Each F has to be compensated for by one D (or higher grade)
  • Each FX has to be compensated for
    • by one grade B (or A)
    • by one grade C and one grade D or higher
    • by three grades D or higher

Pupils who have not achieved the standard (at least a grade E) either in three or more basic subjects (basic subjects are Language 1, Mathematics, Language 2, Human Sciences, Integrated science and Language 3), or in two basic subjects and two or more other subjects (other subjects are Art, Music, Physical Education, Latin, ICT and ONL) AND who are unable to compensate for their grade(s) below the standard cannot be promoted to the year above.

In fully justified special cases, notably prolonged absence of illness, and where the pupil’s interest so demands, the Class Council may waive the rules in order to promote a pupil. (See General Rules of the European Schools, Art. 61.B-5)

Marks in S7 follow the specific rules laid down in the Arrangements for Implementing the Regulations for the European Baccalaureate.

Planning – HOW? 

How does it help pupils in their learning process?

The learning objectives and expected outcomes help pupils to form a picture of what they are supposed to know and to be able to do and on what still awaits them. Progression of learning from one level to the next is clearly outlined.

Besides the learning objectives, each syllabus contains attainment descriptors, which describe the level of attainment in respect of a given set of competences and which relate to the marking scale. This will leave pupils with a better and more objective understanding of the method used for their assessment.

How does it help teachers?

A forward plan enables the teacher to guarantee that all necessary objectives and competences will be covered in a certain year/cycle in a logical order.

Teachers select and construct assessment instruments, which include assessment criteria.

When deciding what, when and how to assess learning [The assessment must be based on the Assessment Policy of the European Schools (Ref.: 2011-01-D-61) and the agreements in force at school level], teachers have to select and construct assessment instruments (e.g. different tasks, projects, tests, assignments, etc.). An instrument should include assessment criteria: a set of quality indicators to facilitate the making of judgements in relation to the assessment task.

Final grades and/or marks must relate to the new marking scale of the European Schools and the attainment descriptors in each syllabus. The grade/mark describes the extent to which the pupil has acquired the competences and at which learning objectives have been met.

 How will the new marking scale affect pupils’ admission to university?

The European Baccalaureate is a widely accepted diploma which is recognised by all the Member States of the European Union. Besides general and automatic recognition, universities and higher education systems rate the Baccalaureate highly. We believe that with the introduction of a modern assessment culture, the value of our diploma will maintain its reputation or will become even more prestigious.

The Office of the Secretary-General has devised a plan how to support communication with the Member States in order to ensure that all stakeholders have all the necessary information concerning the new marking scale. Information will be channelled through national authorities (such as ministries) and universities themselves, so that bodies responsible for admission into higher education understand the new system, and make the required legislative actions if necessary.

We will keep our stakeholders informed via updated newsletters and with the assistance of Careers Guidance teachers.

Frequently asked questions

Will the new marking system apply across the secondary cycle?

Yes, but its introduction will be phased in, as follows: S1-S5 in September 2018; S6 in September 2019; S7 in September 2020.

Will the new marking scale be used for all assessments?

Yes, the new marking scale will apply to assessments of all types and it will be used in all reporting.

What is new in this marking system?

This new marking system comprises 7 rather than 10 levels. Each level is characterised by a performance descriptor, a grade and a definition of general attainment.
All European Schools syllabuses now contain subject-specific attainment descriptors. It is important that these attainment descriptors are used in planning for teaching, learning, assessment and reporting.
A student is deemed to pass with a mark of 5 (Sufficient – Grade E).

Where can the subject-specific attainment descriptors be found?

Attainment descriptors will be included in syllabuses being revised. Attainment descriptors for existing syllabuses can be found here.

Could we simply use a conversion table and continue with existing practice?

No, such direct conversion would/might lead to a decline in standards. The way in which the new marking system is used must ensure that such a decline is avoided. Whilst 5 will now be considered to be ‘sufficient’, the standard acceptable for the award of ‘sufficient’ must not change from that in the previous system.

How do we avoid a decline in standards?

The assessment criteria for passing must be applied correctly and, where necessary, the degree of difficulty of the test items must be adapted and carefully aligned with the attainment descriptors.

Will there be changes in the Baccalaureate?

Examinations and marking schemes will have to be adapted.
It is possible that over time the structure of a Baccalaureate examination may change in order to assess all of the relevant competences more comprehensively.

Will the criteria for promotion change?

No, the number of subjects to be passed will not change (see General rules of the European Schools).

Why does the new marking scale have 7 levels and a 10-point scale?

So as to address pupils’ varying needs at different points of their learning.

Will the new marking scale have implications for university entrance equivalences?

Yes. All delegations will need to communicate the new marking scale to the relevant national institutions in good time. The table of equivalences will need to be updated accordingly.

Will it be possible for a pupil to score a 10?

Yes; 10 means an excellent but not a flawless performance.