Getting a First-Class Honours Degree: What Does it (Actually) Mean? (2023)

First-Class honours degrees are widely regarded as a respectable, impressive, and advantageous achievement to acquire. However, what is a 1stclass honours degree? How can you acquire one? What does it really mean? All of these questions are answered in the paragraphs below!

A First-Class Honours Degree is awarded to a student who has accumulated an average percentage grade of 70% or above during their years at university.A 1st class honours degree takes 3 years to complete as a full-time student, and 6 years to complete as a part-time student. Getting a First-Class Honours Degree effectively means a student has achievedthe highest grade possible for their university course.

First-Class (1st)70%+
Upper Second-Class (2.1)60-69%
Lower Second-Class (2.2)50-59%
Third Class (3rd)40-49%

This article will answer all your questions surrounding the topic of a 1stclass honours degree.Let’s begin!

Table of Contents

What is an Honours Degree?

Priortoattendinguniversity in the UK, youare obligatedto select which degree youwillstudy during your time there. There aremultiple different classes of degree available,however this article is going to focus mainly on a normal degree and an honours degree (plus the various types shortly!).

Anhonoursdegreehasan amplifieddifficultlylevel– the courseworkismore demandingthan a normal degree.It is worth 360 credits as an oppose tothe 300 credits that come with a normal degree(each credit is worthan estimated 10 hours of learning, meaning that an honours degree comes with an extra 600 hours ofeducation!).

(Video) First-class honours degree | meaning of First-class honours degree

At the end of yourhonours course,you will be assigned a special project or dissertation, which isexcluded from the normal degree,which further adds to the challenge ofthehonoursdegree!

Honour’sdegrees are not availableeverywhere;however,it is very rareto come across auniversitythat does not offer this type of degree.Honours degreesaregenerally perceived ascustomaryat universitiesacross the UK,which iswhy it is uncommonto see a universitywithout them.

What Are the Different Types of Honours Degree?

There area multitude ofhonours degrees one can achieve. Below is an explanation of each individual honours degree you could receive once you graduate:

Ordinary Degree

If someonefails tomeet the requirements for aThird-Classdegree, they will be awarded with an ordinary degree. However, they must have onlymissed out onThird-Classhonours by a small margin to be presented with this degree. Otherwise, they will simply fail the course.You could also just have applied to study this degree, and graduate without honours.


AThird-Classdegree is the lowest honours degree someone canattain. To be given this degree a student will have had to accumulate a percentage between 40 and 50%.They can also be referred to as a 3rdor ‘third’.People with aThird-Classdegree are at a disadvantage when it comes to employability, as most employers are looking for someone with a higher degree, as they are more likely to do the job better.


ASecond-Classdegree can be split into two main sections: lowerSecond-Classhonours and upperSecond-Classhonours.

A lower Second-Class honours degree is achieved by students with a final percentage of between 50-60%.They are also known as a 2:2, or ‘two-two’. This is the lower of the two Second-Class degrees. You are also at a disadvantage with this degree, although not as much of a disadvantage as people with aThird-Classdegree.

An upperSecond-Classhonours degree can also be referred to as a 2:1, or ‘two-one’.This is the higher of the twoSecond-Classdegrees and is awarded to those who gained a final percentage of between 60-70%.People with this type of degree are at more of an advantage when it comes to job interviews, as this is the type of degree many employers are looking for.

(Video) I Got A First-class Honours Degree! (Somehow...)


Finally, aFirst-Classdegree. AFirst-Classdegree, commonly known as a ‘first’ or 1st, isthe highest honours degree achievable, and is well respected by employers.Students must get a percentage above 70% to be awarded this degree, thus it is very challenging indeed. This degree is widely respected in the working world and puts you at a great advantage in job interviews, as you are more likely to be prioritised for the role.

How Do You Achieve a First-Class Honours Degree?

To be awarded a 1stclass honours degree, you must accumulate a percentage of 70% or above. To a student who is not in university currently, this may not seem to difficult, however when you take into accord that the average student scores between 50 and 60%, it suddenly becomes a more challenging goal to complete.

How Long Does It Take to Get a First-Class Honours Degree?

The majority ofindividuals go to university for years, and this applies to those aiming for aFirst-Classdegree too. If you are aspiring toacquireaFirst-Classdegree,you do not need to go to university for any longer than any other bachelor or honours student.

Since you don’t apply for aFirst-Classhonoursdegree (it depends on your grades whether you are given one) it means you have to be at university for the same amount of time.

If studying full-time (estimated at around 32-36 hours per week studying and learning),gaining a bachelors or honours degree will take you 3 years, clickhereto find out more.If studying part-time (an estimated 16-18 hours of studying and learning per week)it will take you a total of 6 years to complete– this is double the amount of time. Checkthisarticle to find out more.

How Common is a First-Class-Honours Degree?

Receiving a First-Class honours degree is a relatively rare thing to achieve. In 2018 and 2019, only 18% of students received a First-Class honours degree. This is a number that has been gradually increasing since 2015. See thislink for more details.20% of females received a First-Class honours degree, whereas only 16% of males did in 2018/19.

The leading university isRoyal Academy of Music,as 70.6% of their students qualified for a First-Class honour’s degree.

Second isImperial College London, with 44.7% of their students receiving First-Classhonours.

(Video) Has NOT getting a First Class Degree at University Limited my Career?

They are followed by:University of Surrey(44.4%),Royal College of Music(42.1%),University College London(39.5%) andConservatoirefor Dance and Drama(38.3%).The statistics mentioned arecited fromthis website.

Law is the hardest subject to receive 1stclass honours in, as this degree is already notorious for its extremely difficult coursework and heavy workload. Only 6% of graduates graduate with a 1stclass degree. Subjects following Law are Mass Communications and Documentation (9.6% achieved 1stclass honours), Business and Administrative Studies (10.3%) and Education (10.6%).

Mathematics is the easiest degree to get First-Class honours in statistically, as 30% of students achieved this. Mathematics is followed by Engineering and Technology (21.6% achieved First-Class honours), Physical Sciences (20.3%) and Computer Science (18.4%).

What Are the Advantages of a First-Class Honours Degree?

Achieving aFirst-Classhonours degree requires ample hard-work, time, and effort, but is all this exertion worth it in the long run? What are the advantages of this type of degree?

The most prominent advantage of a First-Class degree is employability. Attaining one gives you a higher chance of success at job interviews. Employers are searching for the best workers to fulfil the available role, and someone with First-Class honours is definite to outshine someone with a lower qualification, such as a 2ndorThird-Classdegree.

If you are looking to enter into a highly competitive work industry, such as Hospitability or Law, gainingFirst-Classhonours does put you at a higher advantage and develop a higher likelihood of acceptance.AFirst-Classhonours degree puts you one step ahead of the game and means you have more priority for a role in the workplace.

What Are the Disadvantages of First-Class Honours Degree?

The main disadvantage of aFirst-Classhonoursdegree is that although you are most likely to be given higher priority when it comes to being employed, it is not always a certainty the company will employ you.

Various people with aFirst-Classhonoursdegree have struggled to find a job despite their achievements- it just depends on the circumstances at the time.The employer may not feel you are well-suited for the role, or maybe they are looking for someone similar, but just not quite you. These are issues you cannot control but unfortunately will most likely come across in your life, regardless of whether you have obtained aFirst-Classhonours degree or not.

(Video) First-class honours degree • meaning of FIRST-CLASS HONOURS DEGREE

Can You Fail Your Honours Degree?

The short answer is, unfortunately yes.If you did not attain the minimum percentage needed(40%) you will most likely be awarded a degree without honours. Although this will not be perceived as afailureby employers,itcan be disappointing for those who aspired to graduate with honours.

You can alsofail completely and not achieve adegree at all, if your percentage was too low to be considered for a normal degree. If you want to find out more about your options if you fail your degree then check out this student article here.

Can You Do a Master’s Degree Without First-Class Honours?

A master’s degree is thenextstep up from abachelor’sdegree and is thesucceeding stagefor those who have finished their undergraduate course and would like tofurther continuetheir higher education.

Are you eligible for a master’s degree if you didn’t getFirst-Classhonours?The short answer is yes!Anyone with a degree is eligible for amaster’s.

However,if you do not have an honours degree, youmaystill be eligible for a master’s degree,althoughyou may have to have attained a higher percentage than those who graduated with honours.

On rare occasions, you may be accepted to do a master’s degree without attaining a bachelor’s previously, however this circumstanceis extremely uncommon.

Can You Still Get a First-Class Honours Degree If You Drop Out?

Unfortunately, no.Achieving a First-Class honours degree, or any honours degree at that, means staying at university for the entirety of the course.

If you drop out after your first year of study as afull-timestudent, you will be awarded a Certificate of Higher Education, and 120 credits.If you drop out after your first year as a part-time student however, you will not be awarded anything as you haven’t accumulated enough hours of study and credits to be awarded this certificate.

(Video) Is an Honours degree worth it?

If you drop out after your second yearas afull-timestudent, you will be awardedtheDiploma of Higher Education and 240 credits. If you drop out after your second year as a part-time student you will be awarded a Certificate of Higher Education, which is explained above.

By your third year as a full-timestudent,you will have finished the course and been awarded your bachelors/honours degree. As a part-time student,you will have to complete 4 years of university to be awarded the diploma of higher education, and then a further 2 years to amount to 6 yearswhen you will be awarded your final degree.

Dropping out in the middle of the school year before the school year has ended means you will not qualify for the certificate you would have been awarded at the end of that year.For example, if you were afull-timestudent who dropped out in December of their second year, you would be awarded the Certificate of Higher Education instead of the Diploma as you haven’t accumulated enough credits.


Getting a First-Class Honours Degree: What Does it (Actually) Mean? ›

To distinguish between students on the basis of their academic achievement, undergraduate degree awards are classified as follows: First-Class Honours (70% and above): a first class degree, usually referred to as a 'first' or 1st, is the highest honours degree you can achieve.

What is the significance of first class honours? ›

First Class Honours, referred to as a 'first', is the highest honours classification and indicates high academic achievement. Historically, First Class Honours were uncommon, but as of 2019 are awarded to nearly thirty percent of graduates from British universities.

Is a first class honours impressive? ›

The 1st Class Honours degree requires three years in full-time study and six years in part-time study. In fact, getting a first-class Honours degree effectively indicates a student's best academic achievement possible.

How common is it to get a first class honours degree? ›

7 Limited to those receiving a classified honours degree. 13. In 2010-11 the proportion of students awarded a first class degree was 15.7 per cent, and using these explanatory variables we estimated a 0.2 percentage point decrease in the proportion of students expected to attain a first in 2020-21.

Is first class honours hard to achieve? ›

As a whole, you'll need 70% or more to achieve first class with honours. But each course will get there in different ways. Understand whether your course uses mostly exams, coursework, group work, work placements, closed book exams, open book exams or something else entirely.

What is the highest first class honours? ›

First class honours degree (70% and above) – A first class degree (or first), is the highest honours degree you can get. Upper second-class honours (60 – 70%) – An upper second class (or 2:1) degree. Lower second-class honours (50 – 60%) – A lower-level second class (or 2:2) degree.

What is the difference between first class honours and distinction? ›

The Honours Award recognizes those students who have obtained an average mark of 80.0% to 84.9% in their course of studies in each of grades 9-12. The Honours with Distinction award recognizes those students who have obtained an average mark of 85% to 100% in their course of studies in each of grades 9-12.

Are honors classes actually harder? ›

Honors classes are more rigorous than regular courses and can boost your GPA. AP classes offer college-level work and can lead to a GPA boost and college credit. The choice between taking AP vs. honors courses comes down to your college goals.

How do you write first class honours on a resume? ›

First class can be abbreviated as '1st' or simply left as 'first'. Don't include lower second- (2:2) or third- (3rd) class honours but do leave the 'Hons' after your degree type or name.

How do you write graduated with first class honours? ›

You should write 'first-class honours' under the degree you received the grade for. First-class honours is the highest grade classification you can receive for an undergraduate degree in the UK.

Is there anything better than first class honours? ›

First-Class Honours (70% and above): a first class degree, usually referred to as a 'first' or 1st, is the highest honours degree you can achieve. Upper Second-Class Honours (60-70%): there are two levels of second class degree. An upper second class, known as a 2:1 or two-one, is the higher of the two levels.

What is better than first class honours? ›

First-Class Honours (First or 1st) (70% and above) Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1, 2.i) (60-70%) Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2, 2.ii) (50-60%) Third-Class Honours (Third or 3rd) (40-50%)

Does Masters have first class honours? ›

Instead of a 1st, 2.1, 2.2. or 3rd, Masters students usually receive a Distinction, Merit or Pass.

Can you get a 5.0 GPA with honors classes? ›

If your school reports GPAs on a weighted scale to benefit students who take AP® or honors classes, then an A in one of these courses would translate to a 5.0, a B' a 4.0, a C and 3.0, and so on and so forth.

What GPA is a B+ in an honors class? ›

Do Honors Classes Boost Your Weighted GPA?
Letter GradeNumerical GradeHonors GPA
7 more rows
Apr 22, 2021

What average is first honors? ›

Students who get a GPA of 3.50 qualify for First Honors and those with GPA of 3.00-3.49 qualify for Second Honors.

What is the hardest degree to get first class? ›

What are the hardest degree subjects? The hardest degree subjects are Aerospace Engineering, Law, Chartered Accountancy, Architecture, Chemistry, Medicine, Pharmacy, Psychology, Statistics, Nursing, Physics, Astrophysics, Biomedical Engineering, Astronomy, and Dentistry.

Why are honors classes so hard? ›

Honors classes are a step above regular classes. They are more in-depth on a subject and usually move at a faster pace. Additionally, they are more demanding in terms of preparation, time, and studying. Teachers typically expect more out of students when they are taking an honors class.

What is the equivalent of first class honours in us? ›

1st Class Honours = summa cum laude. Upper 2nd Class Honours = magna cum laude.

What happens if you fail honours? ›

Yes you will be promoted, given that you secure the minimum marks required in honours subjects for retaining the honours course. You will be promoted to Second Year, but you need to clear the backlogs of 1st year general papers while you are in 2nd year.

What is the difference between honours and bachelors? ›

A Bachelor's degree is a degree which normally takes three years to complete, if you are studying full-time. An Honours Bachelor's degree is a degree which normally takes four years to complete, if you are studying full-time. An honours degree is normally required for admission to a graduate (Master's) program.

Is it better to graduate with distinction or honors? ›

Key Difference – Distinction vs Honors

However, both these terms have different meanings in the context of different degrees and education systems. The key difference between distinction and honours is that distinction refers to a high score in a grading system whereas honours refer to a type of degree.

What does graduating with honors mean? ›

Honors are conferred upon graduating undergraduate students who have displayed a high level of achievement during their university career.

What GPA is honors with distinction? ›

Honors With Distinction: Current-year non-weighted GPA of 3.90 or higher (average course grades of 3.75 or higher for the year). High Honors: Current-year non-weighted GPA of 3.30 – 3.89 (average course grades of 3.50-3.74 for the year).

What are the disadvantages of honors classes? ›

Downsides of Honors Classes
  • A low grade can severely hurt your GPA.
  • A low AP test score or college class grade can result in you getting little to no college credit for your efforts.
  • Some honors classes cost money and you may have to purchase materials and books.
Dec 22, 2022

What are the benefits of honors classes in college? ›

On any honors track, you can usually expect smaller and more rigorous classes, more direct interaction with faculty and fellow honors students, and oftentimes enticing perks. Benefits can include special housing, early class registration, exclusive scholarships, and research and internship opportunities.

Is B in a honors class bad? ›

The short answer is that it's better to get a "B" in the AP or Honors class because selective colleges want to see that students are challenging themselves academically, but also that they're mastering the material.

Does graduating with honors look good on resume? ›

In your resume, always include any information that is relevant to the job and your experience. This includes putting honors on your resume.

Should you put first class honours on your CV? ›

While you may still want to include details of your degree on your CV for the rest of your working life, such as the type of degree, subject matter, and name of the university, writing first class honours on your CV won't be so necessary.

Is it okay to put honors in resume? ›

The simple answer is yes, if you have the space on your resume and the achievements are relevant to your professional profile and the job offer, then it is perfectly acceptable and often recommended to list your accomplishments, including any awards and honors, on your resume.

Can you put your degree after your name? ›

Include your academic degrees

If you have a degree, start by listing the highest degree you've earned immediately after your name, such as a master's degree, bachelor's degree or associate degree.

Do you get letters after your name with a masters? ›

Post-nominal letters should be listed in the following order: Civil honours.
Guidance on Post-Nominal Letters.
Award LevelAward TypeAbbreviation
Postgraduate AwardsPostgraduate DiplomaPGDip
Master's DegreesMaster of ArtsMA
Master of Business AdministrationMBA
29 more rows

When can you say you graduated with honors? ›

Graduating With Honors Requirements: Graduation with honors cum laude requirements vary. Cum laude grade point average estimates: gpa for cum laude - 3.5 to 3.7; gpa for magna cum laude - 3.8 to 3.9; gpa for summa cum laude - 4.0+.

What grade do most college students get? ›

A is the most common grade given at the college level today. 42% of grades given at the college level are A's.
How do you calculate a GPA in college?
  • A = 4.
  • B = 3.
  • C = 2.
  • D = 1.
  • F = 1.
Dec 7, 2020

What is the GPA for a 2.1 honors degree? ›

Most Common Grading Scale:
70 - 100First Class Honours4.0
65 - 69.99Upper Second Class (2.1) Honors3.7
60 - 64.99Upper Second Class (2.1) Honors3.3
50 - 59.99Lower Second Class (2.2) Honors3.0
45 - 49.99Class 3 Honors/Pass2.7
2 more rows

What level is a doctorate? ›

Level 8 qualifications are: doctorate, for example doctor of philosophy ( PhD or DPhil ) level 8 award.

What rank do you start with a masters degree? ›

What rank do you need to enter the army with a master's degree? If you are being directly commissioned, a master's degree generally garners you the initial rank of 1LT. If you enlist, you'll start off usually as a SPC (E-4).

How hard is it to get a distinction at Masters? ›

To get a distinction in your Masters, you will need to have at least a 70% or higher grade by the end of your degree. Everyone has unique strategies on how to achieve a Distinction grade but here are a few things you can do to achieve your goal: Don't leave your coursework and dissertation to the last minute.

What is the average GPA in America? ›

The average high school GPA in the US is 3.0, which also accounts for roughly 35% of students who don't end up applying for college. However, for college applicants, the average GPA is more likely between 3.5 and 4.0.

What is the highest GPA you can get without honors? ›

No matter what kind of coursework a student takes, the highest possible GPA in an unweighted system is a 4.3.

Do colleges prefer AP or honors? ›

Colleges like them both. Both honors and AP courses are rigorous courses that most high schools weight more heavily on your transcript. AP courses, however, culminate in the AP Exam. Good AP scores show colleges you are ready to succeed at college-level work and can even earn you college credits.

How much is an A+ in an honors class worth? ›

How do you calculate your weighted GPA? In most cases, you'll receive an extra point (1.0) for an AP class and an extra half point (0.5) for an honors class. So, an “A” in a class that is not AP or honors is still worth four points. In an honors class, it's worth 4.5 points.

Is 3 honors classes too much? ›

How Many Honors Classes Should I Take? No more than you can handle. While colleges do like to see students challenge themselves, they also want to know that you understand your own limitations and have good judgment.

Do they round up GPA for honors? ›

A student whose GPA is 3.50-3.69 shall graduate cum laude. A student whose GPA is 3.70-3.84 shall graduate magna cum laude. A student whose GPA is 3.85 or greater shall graduate summa cum laude. Note: in the calculation of honors, GPA is not rounded up and is based on the actual student GPA.

How hard is a first class honors? ›

First class honours degree (70% and above) – A first class degree (or first), is the highest honours degree you can get. Upper second-class honours (60 – 70%) – An upper second class (or 2:1) degree. Lower second-class honours (50 – 60%) – A lower-level second class (or 2:2) degree.

How many people get first class honors? ›

About 36% of students were awarded the top grade in 2019-20 and 38% in 2020-21, according to analysis by the Office for Students (OfS). In 2010-11, it was just under 16%.

Is honors a big deal in college? ›

Honors college benefits

Honors college students often have exclusive access to special internships, research projects, study abroad experiences, networking opportunities and more. And at many universities, honors students get first dibs on class registration.

How rare is a first class degree? ›

First Class Honours, referred to as a 'first', is the highest honours classification and indicates high academic achievement. Historically, First Class Honours were uncommon, but as of 2019 are awarded to nearly thirty percent of graduates from British universities.

Which is the toughest degree in world? ›

What are the hardest degrees in the world? Ranked by Experts
  • Chartered Accountancy.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Quantum Mechanics.
  • Law.
  • Aerospace/ Aeronautical Studies, Engineering.
  • Biomedical Studies, Neurosciences, Biochemistry.
  • Nursing.
  • Dentistry, Medicine.
Dec 16, 2022

What is the most difficult bachelors degree? ›

Top 15 Hardest College Majors Table of Contents
  • Chemistry.
  • Environmental Economics and Policy.
  • Environmental Earth Science.
  • American Studies.
  • Nuclear Engineering.
  • Energy Engineering.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Applied Mathematics.
Mar 16, 2023

Is honors courses really worth it? ›

The most important benefits that come with being a part of college honors programs are smaller classes, priority class registration, cheaper college, and increased job market value. Unfortunately, there are also a few disadvantages that come with being a college honors program student.

Is honors harder than gifted? ›

One of the biggest differences between gifted vs. honors is the focus on academics. Honors students are expected to handle a larger homework load, read longer and more complex texts, and complete subject units faster.

Do honors classes have a lot of homework? ›

An honors course, however, will generally read more texts than an academic course, as the honors course is conducted at a much faster pace. In order to work more rapidly through diverse materials, honors students will undoubtedly be assigned more homework than an academic class.

What is first class honours in USA? ›

1st Class Honours = summa cum laude. Upper 2nd Class Honours = magna cum laude.

Why is honours important? ›

Completing honours shows you have achieved high academic standards and gives you an honours-level award. An honours pathway can open the door for further research study, equipping you with the prerequisite research skills to undertake a research degree such as the PhD.

Is First Class honours higher than distinction? ›

However, both these terms have different meanings in the context of different degrees and education systems. The key difference between distinction and honours is that distinction refers to a high score in a grading system whereas honours refer to a type of degree.

What is an honours degree equivalent to in the US? ›

Honours degree has various meanings in the context of different degrees and education systems. Most commonly it refers to a variant of the undergraduate bachelor's degree containing a larger volume of material or a higher standard of study, or both, rather than an "ordinary", "general" or "pass" bachelor's degree.

Is a honours degree impressive? ›

The Honours degree itself is a strong indicator that the student has earned admission to, and completed the requirements of, an advanced, highly selective program of study and research.

What is the point of an honors degree? ›

An honors program is designed to offer high-achieving students an opportunity to dive into their studies more thoroughly than they may in regular classes. A small group of admitted students is selected for the program, and honors programs exist at both public and private universities.

Does an honours degree make a difference? ›

In general, Honors degrees may indicate that a student has taken additional coursework, completed a thesis or other research project, or maintained a high GPA, and could be seen as more rigorous or challenging than a non-Honors degree. This could make them more desirable to certain employers or graduate programs.

What does graduating with honours mean? ›

There is such a thing as 'graduating with honours', but that just refers to being an exemplary student and finishing your studies with a very high GPA. Such students are awarded honorific titles like: cum laude (with praise) magna cum laude (with great praise) summa cum laude (with the highest praise)

What is the best degree result? ›

First Class Honours degree (1st), commonly known as a “first”. A first class is the highest honours degree achievable.


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