Transcript Research takes the work of international credentials evaluation very seriously. We put extensive time and research into every evaluation, and we have high standards for our employees and our evaluation reports. We maintain a detailed library of publications and resources related to international education and conduct and attend ongoing training and professional development for our evaluators and staff to ensure the highest quality.
The goal of transcript evaluation is to compare the educational system of one country to another country's system. In this case, the goal of evaluations completed by Transcript Research is to compare educational programs from other countries to studies completed at similar institutions in the U.S. In particular, it is our goal to compare other country's educational records to those awarded by accredited high schools or regionally accredited colleges and universities in the United States, depending on the level of education.
One of the basic tenets of comparative education (which is what foreign transcript evaluation is all about) is that one year of full-time study is one year of full-time study around the world. While educational systems may have tremendous variations, they all have the same number of hours in the day. Some educational systems have no outside preparation, so students may spend 30-40 hours a week in class but not have homework, papers, research projects, exam preparation, etc., because it is all conducted in class or labs. Other systems, like the US education system, require a great deal of outside preparation in terms of reading assignments, exam and quiz preparation, homework, research projects, papers, etc, so student spend significantly less time in the classroom because such an emphasis is placed on individual preparation rather than group work with the teacher/instructor.
While some students in the US may enroll at an accelerated pace to complete a program more quickly, and others may enroll part-time or take fewer credits in a given year, the standard full-time enrollment comparison used as a best practice in the industry is approximately 30 semester credits per year as the representation of full-time undergraduate study in the U.S.. Most of our credit conversions are done on an annual (year one, year two, etc.) or academic level (freshman, sophomore, etc.) basis. In the United States, a year of full-time undergraduate study typically requires completion of approximately 30-36 semester credits, and a 4-year Bachelor typically requires 120-144 semester credits. Likewise, three year programs typically result in approximately 90-108 semester credits, while 5-year degree programs may be converted to 150-180 US semester credits. In some countries, a program may require completion of 40-50 indigenous credits or hours in a single level, and we would have to reduce those credit values to align them more closely to U.S. degree programs. Conversely, if the program required fewer indigenous credits or hours for one of the levels, we would increase the credit values for that academic level. Since the purpose of our evaluation is to compare other education systems to the U.S. education system, we convert indigenous credits or hours to approximately 30-36 US semester credits per year for undergraduate studies.
In addition, our evaluations are conducted in English for a US audience. We are unable to conduct evaluations for use in other countries or other languages, and we do not include accents, diacritical marks, or other accented characters in our evaluation reports since those characters are not used in the English language, even when listing foreign terminology such as names of institutions, degree names, or names of major fields of study.
Please also note that in the US, there are three main levels of higher education: undergraduate studies leading to a Bachelor degree, graduate studies leading to a Master's degree, and graduate studies leading to a Doctor degree. There are other intermediate qualifications as well, but these are the major benchmark qualifications of US higher education.
In the US, university degree programs that require high school graduation are referred to as "undergraduate" studies, while university degree programs that require a Bachelor degree for admissions are known as "graduate" studies. In much of the rest of the world, these two levels of study are named very differently, which may cause additional confusion in comparative education. In many countries, these two levels of study are known as "graduate" for the first level of degree studies, meaning that a high school graduation was required, and "post-graduate", meaning that they have graduated from a university degree.
Transcript Research does not consider international qualifications that only require a high school diploma for admission to be comparable to US graduate-level studies (since those require a university Bachelor degree for admissions), even if the transcripts or translations refer to those studies as "graduate" studies. Only those qualifications that *require* a post-secondary degree of 3+ years for admissions may be considered comparable to US graduate studies.
In addition, professional degrees, in fields such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, law, and other professional fields vary tremendously from country to country. In some countries, those fields require a first degree (of 3-5 years duration) for admissions to those degrees programs. In other countries, those degree programs require high school graduation for admissions. As a result, we are unable to make generalizations about the level of study (undergraduate vs graduate) for these professional degrees prior to evaluation.
A number of private institutions and US colleges and universities offer free online grading scale converters. These are meant to provide a very generalized, simplistic understanding of how your overall average on another educational system's grading scale may loosely compare to a US grade on a 4.0 scale. These scales are not used by professional evaluation companies because these scales overly simplify a complicated process: grading scale conversions. The US grading scale 5 equally weighted grades: A = 4.0, B = 3.0, C = 2.0, D = 1.0, and F = 0.0. Many grading scales used worldwide have much broader ranges for the highest passing grades, lowest passing grades, or failed grades than this scale.
However, even the US grading scale most often used doesn't work with this simplistic formula. In the US, a 3.0 grade is usually considered to be a B grade. At many high schools, colleges, and universities, the percentage range for a B grade is 80-89%. However, a 3 out of 4 is a 75%, which at most educational institutions in the US would be a C grade.
Transcript Research and other professional evaluation companies don't convert directly from the final GPA. Some online GPA calculators take a simplistic mathematical conversion of the institutional GPA and then multiplying that by 4.0 to get a generalized average on a 4.0 scale.
That's not how professional evaluators conduct evaluations. We convert each individual credit and grade to the US credit and grade system, and then calculate a weighted Grade Point Average from that, which is standard for evaluation companies. Our evaluation reports are not going to reflect a simplistic grade conversion based on just the institutional GPA. This is partially because that route doesn't accurately account for the weights of different subjects, and because most grading scales don't use the full range of the scale.
The US 4.0 grading scale only has 1 failed grade (0.0) and only one, equally weighted, top passing grade range, while international grading scales may use significantly greater ranges for the highest passing grade or for the failing grades. As a result, it's not possible to mathematically compare them when they do not use the same range of numbers.
For example, British universities historically use a scale where 70-100% is the highest grade range, which we consider an A grade most of the time. A 70% average converted using this simplistic method would result in a 2.8 using this simplistic method rather than than a 3.7-4.0 grade by converting all the subjects and grades. In Mexico, it's common for universities to use a 10-point scale where only 7 out of 10 is passing, meaning that more than half the range of the grading scale is failed grades, compared to only 1 failed grade on the US grading scale. In Russia, most institutions have only three passing numerical grades, while in Australia, it's common for 50% of the grading scale to represent a failed grade. Brazil's grading scales vary widely, with some institutions using a minimum passing grade of 6 out of 10, while others consider 3 or 5 to be the lowest passing grade.
Because of all of these disparate uses of the grading scales, Transcript Research converts each individual subject to a US recommended grade and a US recommended credit value. We then calculate a weighted average after this conversion to more accurately reflect the range of grades of weights of individual subjects used on the international credential.