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I am in the middle of translating my (German) CV to English.

In the German/Austrian school system, there is the notion of passing ...

  • ... "mit gutem Erfolg" (which is better than average, yet not the best you can achieve, roughly translating to "good success")
  • ... "mit ausgezeichnetem Erfolg" (which is the best you can achieve, similar to "with distinction")

What would be a good English word/expression for the former expression in my CV? Is there a grading of "passing with distinction" in British/American English or their respective school systems?

Update: I was referring to the general way of referring to "passing with distinction". Our universities give Latin grades ("cum laude", etc.), whereas schools don't.

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I know that translation is off topic, however I'm asking about word usage in English only. Still, please migrate to German Language if it's not a good fit for the site. – slhck Aug 22 '11 at 11:44
I talked with another user, and I apologize for jumping the gun. Since you yourself provided translation, I think it is on-topic – simchona Aug 22 '11 at 11:49
up vote 5 down vote accepted

In American universities, graduation honors are given in Latin. The main three are:

  • cum laude, meaning "with honor"[1]—usually pronounced /kʊmˈlaʊdeɪ/ or /kʊmˈlɔːdeɪ/.
  • magna cum laude, meaning "with high honor"
  • summa cum laude, meaning "with highest honor"

The exact cutoffs for each distinction depend on the school, but the rank order (where the top is summa cum laude, and the lowest is cum laude) remains the same.

In your case, I think that mit gutem Erfolg would correlate either to cum laude or magna cum laude. Because mit ausgezeichnetem Erfolg is the best you can do, I think it correlates better to summa cum laude than magna cum laude.

I am not sure exactly how the British system ranks their degrees, but their is some discussion of it here.

Edit: In American schools (not universities), there is also the notion of graduation with honors. At the high school I attended, there were two ways to graduate: with or without honors. Based on this, the only commonly used phrase would be with honors (because after that, there was class rank). However, in order to distinguish between the two, you could use:

  • graduation with honors
  • graduation with high honors

Though the second isn't used for American high schools, most people are familiar with the Latin degree honors that confer different levels of distinction.

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I think he meant the school, not the university – Thursagen Aug 22 '11 at 11:56
@Thursagen Yes, this was a more general question. Our (secondary) schools don't give Latin grades, whereas our universities do. I think it would make sense to check with my University -- they might have some official guidelines (although I didn't find any yet). – slhck Aug 22 '11 at 11:58
@Thursagen: What are you referring to? – simchona Aug 22 '11 at 11:59
He noted "German/Austrian school system". He was referring to his CV after he graduated from school, but I don't think he has graduated from University. University and School gives different names for grading. – Thursagen Aug 22 '11 at 12:00
@slhck: I haven't heard that used, but I looked it up and it appears to be a British system usage. For fear of not doing it justice, I direct you to this page; search for 'pass with merit' to find its description. – simchona Aug 22 '11 at 12:17

The British school system is constantly changing, and I was astonished not long ago to see photos of a friend's daughter wearing a mortarboard to "graduate" from nursery school (kindergarten). I mention this to observe that I may be out of date.

However, the whole concept of "passing" or "not passing" school doesn't exist in the British system. What you pass or fail are the individual subjects, and you receive individual grades in them. Translating between this system and the International Baccalaureate (which I believe the German system is rather closer to) is not easy, although you might be able to get a rough equivalence from the UCAS Tariff tables.

A reasonable approach for your British-English CV would be to translate "mit gutem Erfolg" as "with merit" and "mit ausgezeichnetem Erfolg" as "with distinction". Although there isn't a direct analogy with A-levels, there is an analogy with various other certificates, such as the standard music exams.

One final observation: employers don't really care much about your school grades. The only thing they're really useful for are getting into university.

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The most widely-recognized English phrases for these are, ironically, in Latin.

  • "mit gutem Erfolg" is equivalent to cum laude or "with honors."

  • "mit ausgezeichnetem Erfolg" is equivalent to magna cum laude, or "with high honors."

You're free to use either the Latin or the English translations, as both will be understood. However, the Latin titles are what is usually written on diplomas, CVs, and other formal documents.

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This is purely for school only, not if you had graduated from university.
If you passed with the best that you could achieve, you would be said to have "High Distinction" in the British/Australian system; so if you did 'better than average', but not the best, I would say you had:

Distinction/ I passed with Distinction, but not High Distinction.

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Peter Taylor gave a good answer. For this question, it is important to distinguish between school and university systems.

From my experience, I can tell you about the British school system. It does not have a concept of "passing" or "not passing". At least not in the sense of, the Germanic system that you have described.

People do different exams for different subjects. At least one exam in each. Although, some subjects have more than one exam. These exams are generally called GCSEs. A grade is awarded for each one.

Regarding your question:

Is there a grading of "passing with distinction" in British/American English or their respective school systems?

The nearest equivalent to this in British English, would be the grades for GCSEs. These vary from A* (pronounced as "A star"), across the alphabet until G and U (unclassified). A* being the highest and G being the lowest. U is for people who did not do the exam for a subject.

What you pass or fail are the individual subjects, and you receive individual grades in them. Usually, C is considered the minimum pass, in a subject. Five Cs have long been considered to be the minimum standard to achieve, in GCSEs. At least they were, when I did them.

It is possible to do more than five GCSEs. How many subjects you do, is down to you. Pupils can choose how many they do but, there are normally certain subjects that are compulsory, like English and maths.

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The "passing" term I've seen is "High Pass."

That means "less than the best," but higher than the usual "pass."

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You can tell from the other answers here that this question is an example of when certain things in one language don't translate into other languages. At least into the English of the UK.

In order to talk of this to British people, you would first have to explain this Germanic school exam system before mentioning the results.

This is just one example of when certain things in one language don't translate into other languages. There are many examples of this from other languages as well, not just German. This is something that you need to understand when you learn other languages — whatever they may be.

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I explicitly asked for the differences in those scholar systems. I am totally aware of the fact that there's no perfect translation. – slhck May 8 '12 at 14:38
slhck. I also addressed that, in my earlier answer. – Tristan May 8 '12 at 15:40
Didn't see you already posted one, so why not edit that, or why the late addendum? :) – slhck May 8 '12 at 15:50
slhck. Because there are some other points to make, in regard to this question. It's easier and more logical (to me, at least) to have them made in separate answers. – Tristan May 8 '12 at 15:57

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