The grading system in Portugal

Every country in the world is different from the other. In England they drive on the left, in Germany they count with their thumbs and in Spain everyone falls asleep at 2 pm.  When it comes to educational grading systems, it’s just as different. While many countries are accustomed to either “pass or no pass” systems, or rankings from A-F, Portugal does things a little differently. We think it’s useful for you to have the inside track on how you’ll be graded throughout your time in Portugal, so we put together a little guide to clear things up a bit.


The first thing to know is that Portugal operates on a scale of 0-20. 0 is the worst and 20 is the best, so pretty straight forward so far. Between 0-9.4 there is a sliding scale from “poor” to “weak” but in either case, you’ll have failed. This is because you need a minimum of 9.5 to pass in Portuguese educational institutions. Be warned though, it is highly rare for people to get a 20, so anywhere up from a 17.5 is still something to be proud of!

How are these scored applied?

Now you know what the ratings mean, you might be curious as to how they work. As with most institutions, your academic course is divided into 2-3 years running from September to June. On top of this, each year is split into 2 semesters, from September to December and February to June. Here is where it gets a bit complicated, so pay attention.

You will usually have units you need to pick for each semester and year. These can be a mix of obligatory and elective courses. Of course, this is entirely dependent on the subject and university you choose, but as an example, a bachelors in management at NOVA SBE would require you to complete a unit in Linear Algebra, but you can completely voluntarily do a unit in European Law.

For every unit you do you will receive a score based on your efforts at the end, and these are weighted at the end of your course to give an average, corresponding to the 0-20 model. Score under 9.4 overall and you fail. Score over 9.5 and you pass! Simple!

So what? 

What that means is that every unit and every semester is important. Again, it will vary depending on your circumstances, but typically before graduation you will need to have completed:

– a certain amount of units

– a certain amount of semesters

– attained a certain cumulative score from those units.

This means that even before we get to the final grading there are certain goals you need to hit! But don’t worry, as everyone has to hit them too. Despite it’s appearances, over the course of 3 years it’s quite easy to complete the requisite conditions!

Is that it?

Well not quite. Once you’ve completed all your units and semesters with the required level of passing grades, you might have to submit a final piece of work for evaluation. In some countries this might be referred to as a dissertation or thesis for comparison. This final work is not actually too dissimilar from your evaluations at the end of each unit. You might be required to pass a written, oral or practical examination or submit a paper, thesis, project, report or portfolio. Based on how you perform this will be graded on the same 0-20 scale, weighted, and then added to the results from your other units.

I’m pretty confident now, but what if I mess up?

Unlike some countries, you don’t just get one shot at an education and certification in Portugal. You rarely need to pass 100% of your units to get a degree. And achieving a level of 9.5 is roughly equivalent to attaining a “C” in most other countries, which is certainly doable! If for however some reason something happens, don’t sweat it. Most institutions offer you the ability to resit examinations as soon as a month after your initial exam, and this can be repeated up to three times depending on where you study.

Is there anything else I need to know?


Probably! You might have noticed that this blog carries a lot of qualifiers, usually along the lines of “depending on your school and subject” and this is the key thing to keep in mind. While all schools have a 0-20 rating system and while the overwhelming majority follow the weighted unit method, there is some variance! Some schools might have stricter requirements on resits, for example. Some might ask for you to pass a higher level of units! Others will be purely exam based and others might have more subjective tests like portfolio presentations! In any case, the only way to be sure is to check your institution rigorously. Never forget that Education Network is here to help too. If you get in contact with a specific concern, we’ll always do our best to get you the answers that you need!