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What constitutes first / second class standing?

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jw
Joined: 01 Feb 2006
Posts: 192
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Fri Feb 03, 2006 02:56 PM

Hi folks, I'm a Canadian, and all this talk of "first class / second class" standing is a bit unfamiliar to me.

I finished in the top 10% of my law class for my LLB (at a very well respected Canadian university).

Would this be considered first class or high second class standing?
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studentbarista
Joined: 06 Jan 2006
Posts: 47
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Fri Feb 03, 2006 03:11 PM
I just posted this in response to your query on unconditional offers.

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Your marks would place you very highly in the First Class!

A First Class paper is one that is graded 70%+. The Second Class runs from 50% - 60%, but there is a cleavage between the 'Upper' Second Class (60%+) and the 'Lower' Second Class (50%+). So a '2.1' is an Upper Second and a '2.2' is a Lower Second. A Third is anything below 50%.

Firsts are very difficult to achieve. You will hear many people in the UK saying things like 'Strong 2.1', or 'Good 2.1'. That means that they will have been awarded a cluster of marks in 65%+ region.

A 2.1 is the most common mark, and the low numbers of students attaining Firsts or 2.2s has led to charges against universities of grade inflation and/or poor differentiation between able students. But the reason why so many people get 2.1s is that, realistically, you need a 2.1 for a decent job.

***

I would add that, in terms of percentages, only about 10-20% of students at UK universities (depending on the university) are awarded First Class marks.

Oxford and Cambridge are notoriously mean in awarding Firsts. So it's harder to get a first at Oxford or Cambridge or the good London universities than, say, a poorer quality university. This is why Firsts from good universities are valued so much.

Interestingly, the BCL at Oxford is only graded in terms of Distinction/Pass/Fail, as it's a postgraduate degree. As a foreign student, I wouldn't worry too much about First/Second class, as its a UK undergraduate thing. Really a quirk of history.
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jw
Joined: 01 Feb 2006
Posts: 192
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Fri Feb 03, 2006 03:19 PM

Thanks a lot, studentbarista.

My university uses letter grades on a steep bell curve; however, its "policy" was that it would not "officially" rank students, but would award a special distinction to those students who obtain academic standing in the top 10% of their respective law class in that year. Based on class size, this would be the top 15 students of (roughly) 150.

Your explanation was very helpful.



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Rich_Tomlinson
Joined: 14 Jan 2006
Posts: 10
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Fri Feb 03, 2006 04:31 PM
Hey jw,

I disagree with Studentbarista. I don't think you can compare the two systems - they are too dissimilar. In the UK only 5% of students achieve First Class degrees in law, but there is no bell curve. They will not try to compare your mark with an English one. Rather, they will assess you on how well you fared in your own province. In which case I think you would easily get accepted to an English institution, if your marks are as good as you say, to study an LLM.
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Rich_Tomlinson
Joined: 14 Jan 2006
Posts: 10
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Fri Feb 03, 2006 05:19 PM
Hey jw,

I disagree with Studentbarista. I don't think you can compare the two systems - they are too dissimilar. In the UK only 5% of students achieve First Class degrees in law, but there is no bell curve. They will not try to compare your mark with an English one. Rather, they will assess you on how well you fared in your own province. In which case I think you would easily get accepted to an English institution, if your marks are as good as you say, to study an LLM.

Onto lenient

Also, it is utter rubbish that it is harder to get a First at Oxford than at one of the so-called 'poor universities.' Law is one of the only UK degrees that is assessed externally. All institutions have to be assessed by an external marker (usually another institution) before a final mark can be awarded. This is to ensure parity of standards across the board. It is mandatory by the Law Society.

I work in assessments at University of East London (one of the supposed 'poorer' universities) and our external marker is from Kings College. He always says our standards assimilate theirs. Our external marker says the same about the Kings College standards.

Of course, I am not suggesting that a degree from our place is percieved to be better than a degree from Oxford. Only that the marking standards, in law, are the same across the board.

Note: I did my undergrad at Oxford and so have experienced both systems at both institutions.
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capa

Joined: 10 Oct 2005
Posts: 164
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Sat Feb 04, 2006 11:31 AM
Further, you may find that the LLB degrees are actually regulated by the bodies that govern the legal profession.

To be admitted to practice your course needs to be approved and its quality must satisfy these regulating bodies.

Although I hear North American grades are inflated, being in the top 10% is certainly impressive and I would think you could easily be admitted with that. I do recall that a London school (sorry, cant remember which one - I think Queen Mary) had a drop down list of "equivalents" to a 2:1. I think Canada was a B+ average. I think you are well above this ;-)

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Bush
Joined: 18 Jan 2006
Posts: 27
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Sat Feb 04, 2006 01:51 PM
If you graduate amongst the best 35% of your class, are you then an upper second class?
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jw
Joined: 01 Feb 2006
Posts: 192
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Sat Feb 04, 2006 02:57 PM

Thanks to everyone for their informative posts!

capa: for some schools in Canada, I think it's difficult to find an "equivalent" to a 2:1 through letter grades (ie: like a B+) because of different bell curves used. My school, in particular, used a pretty harsh bell curve.

Given the difficulty in using letter grade equivalents, I gather this is why schools like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard etc, are very interested in your class ranking; it's a more accurate reflection of your academic achievement for admissions purposes. Though my class does not rank, I'm lucky that it does have the Dean's List which, as I indicated above, constitutes only the top 10% of students in the class.
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capa

Joined: 10 Oct 2005
Posts: 164
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Sun Feb 05, 2006 03:07 AM
I'm just repeating wht the website said. I do however agree that class rankings are a better indication as some schools may be more "lenient" with their students than others.

I also moticed that McGill requires a B+ minimum for admission - how does this work? I am also interested in a Canadian LLM and wonder how this system operated compared to a 2:1 (looks like our questions are mirror imagesof one another!)

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C.Miller

Joined: 02 Feb 2005
Posts: 278
What constitutes first / second class standing?
Tue Feb 07, 2006 10:34 AM
A very good discussion.

If you are interested in applying to study law in the UK from another country, you will find that the application team of your target institution(s) will be fully "up" on the differences between almost all the different grading systems of the world. And if they don't know, they'll know where to find out.

A Third is anything below 50%.



A third is 40-50% in most places in the UK - some institutions view this as a "pass" and some others don't. Anything below 40% is most certainly a fail.
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