I am undergoing world building for a story I am writing. In this story, the school system is level based, where there are no grades(as in grades 1-12), just accomplishments in terms of level.

--Example Clarification; Mary is nearly ending her first year of schooling:
- She has taken and passed Basic Arithmetic( +,-,*,/ ) exams, granting a 4th year Math level
- She has taken and passed Algebraic Arithmetic exams, granting 7th year Math level
- she has also passed Precalculus exams, granting 10th year Math level
- so by her second year of schooling, she's allowed to take 11th year Calculus classes

-- however, because her parents insisted on a mathematics focus, she has yet to pass all other class's examinations:
- she has passed and taken Elementary Science granting 2nd year Science level, and so she can take 2nd year science in her 2nd year
- not enough time was invested in Social Studies and she must take 1st year Social Studies in her 2nd year

So what would that system be called? It is a system where each student's accomplishments are accumulated throughout their life as a student; and ability/competence is based on the amount of knowledge a student has at any point in time. It prevents students who already know their stuff from getting held back and it allows students who struggle to catch up when they are more mature.

If it isn't clear, think in terms of an RPG: instead of ATK, DEF, SPD having different values; MATH, SCIENCE, and GYM are the names of the stats, and their values increase when a student completes a class.

"Meritocracy" is what I'm leaning towards, but perhaps there is a different term? If so, what is the term for this system?

  • Are you thinking of "ranking"?
    – moonstar
    Apr 7, 2014 at 7:24
  • These certainly are grades, no matter how they are recorded. You must be using the term 'grades' in AHDEL's sense 5 (and I think they list according to the frequency of a particular sense's being the one used). Look at Collins' senses 5 and 6. Apr 7, 2014 at 8:14
  • Yeah, it is more in terms of "ranking"; here in Canada, the year that a student is in is called a "grade". Third grade is the third year of schooling; but in my system, in terms of ability, Mary's mathematics ability is in year 12, while in terms of age, she is in year 1. Apr 7, 2014 at 11:49
  • But a number is a value. I think you mean something else than what you said.
    – tchrist
    Apr 7, 2014 at 13:45
  • example updated for clarification(hopefully) Apr 7, 2014 at 15:03

5 Answers 5


Testing of students is often divided into two major categories of measurement - normative and criterion based

Normative measurement has to do with the comparison of pupils in a similar category. A common measure is grade level. Testing along these lines examines how all students in a given grade score on a testing measure. By definition, half of the children are above the middle point (median) and half are above. Students are often ranked by percentiles, that is, what percentage of students are they above (a student in the 60%ile scored above 60% of his peers). Unlike the children in Lake Wobegon, all the students cannot be above average.

The second category of measurement is criterion based. A standard is set by educators or others who have established learning goals, and those tested are graded on how much of the material has been mastered. The median grade might be 50%, 10%, 90% or anything, even 100%.

Grading on a curve is ofen a combination of the two. The tests are initially graded based on criteria (how many answers are right) and then adjusted based on the normative pattern of the group (if the criterion scores ranged from 10% to 50% correct, it was a hard test and final grades might be adjusted upward).

In reporting test or achievement scores, it is critical to identify what type of grading is being used.

If your numbers reflect an actual mastery of a given set of material, the number of units completed is a criterion based measure.

  • It does sound criterion based, I clarified the example to perhaps illicit a definitive answer Apr 7, 2014 at 15:05
  • 1
    @user2738698: I think perhaps you mean elicit "call forth", not illicit "contrary to law". :)
    – Marthaª
    Apr 9, 2014 at 14:23
  • @Marthaª AHH, kk, thanks; that is what I meant, can't edit it anymore though Apr 9, 2014 at 14:28

Dungeons and Dragons (the prototypical RPG) called these:

Ability Scores

So, if you wish to consider Math, Science, etc. in the same vein I would use that as the name for the statistics.

Otherwise, vital statistics is a perfectly valid way of stating things like this. Vital statistics are statistical items that are of great importance. These can be anything from abilities to body size measurements.

  • 2
    Why Is this downvoted? Given the information this seems to be a valid answer. Apr 7, 2014 at 8:15
  • 1
    This does seem to be the answer; would the system be called "Vital Statistics Schooling" then? Apr 7, 2014 at 11:52
  • I would likely reverse that. Schooling Vital Stats.
    – David M
    Apr 7, 2014 at 13:34

I have heard this sort of system described as being goal-oriented.

In your example, the students have a goal of increasing their achievement level.


I think this is just a rating system/schema. Lexile does the same thing for children reading levels.


I don't know of the 'proper' name for it. But it sounds like the system used in college. I was a math major and I took level 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 as I progressed in my Math studies. However I only took up to 200 level courses in other fields.

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