The ECTS scale is an instrument that facilitates the transfer of academic results (expressed as grades) among different national evaluation systems. It has been adopted by the universities of the countries that are part of the European Higher Education Area, thus enabling the conversion of the grades of one country into the grades of another country, following rules shared at European level.
The different national evaluation systems are compared with each other through the ECTS scale, which is the only one that compares the statistical distribution of grades in the different systems.
The ECTS scale has been built on the basis of the results obtained by a homogeneous group of students over a given period, following the rule below:
- grade A corresponds to the grades obtained by the best 10% of the students
- grade B corresponds to the grades obtained by the subsequent 25%
- grade C corresponds to the grades obtained by the subsequent 30%
- grade D corresponds to the grades obtained by the subsequent 25%
- grade E corresponds to the grades obtained by the final 10%
Each value in the ECTS scale represents a more or less wide range of grades in the national systems.
It is important to underline that the ECTS scale enables the transfer of grades only among universities of countries belonging to the European Higher Education Area.
In other countries, there are often different grading systems coexisting, but no general mechanisms similar to the ECTS scale have been defined for the conversion of grades.
The Italian university educational credits (CFU: crediti formativi universitari) are equivalent to the ECTS credits. Each CFU is equal to 25 working hours (lessons, seminars, individual study). For each academic year, a full-time student must have an average amount of work of 60 credits, i.e. 1,500 hours. CFUs are acquired when the exam or another test are passed.
Therefore, the credits define the amount of work. On the other hand, the student’s performance quality is documented by a grade, which is expressed through a 30-point scale for the exam or test of a different kind and through a 110-point scale for the final test, with possible honours. The maximum grade that can be obtained by a student is 30; a grade between 30 and 26 reflects a very good/good evaluation in terms of learning results; a grade between 25 and 18 reflects a satisfactory/sufficient evaluation in terms of learning results; 18 is the minimum grade required to pass the exam.