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I came across this sentence on an American website

Aron is a student in honors in his class

I was wondering how to phrase this for a UK audience.

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  • Please explain what you mean by an "in honors" school student. – Lawrence May 16 '18 at 9:19
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    In secondary education (high school) Honors are specially-designated advanced courses. Also known as Advanced Placement. In post-secondary (college / university), it’s a particular GPA level, with the common Summa or Magna Cum Laude (the latter being unique for a given cohort). The equivalent in the UK is a scholastic and academic questions, nor an English one. But for resume purposes you’d have to determine if you (or whoever) were invited into, enrolled, and passed the specially-designated courses or achieved the required GPA. Researching that will give you the appropriate title, too. – Dan Bron May 16 '18 at 11:18
  • In college it's often worded "with honors", and is regarded as equivalent to "cum laude". – Hot Licks May 16 '18 at 11:28
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    Can you give a link to the original? As an AmE speaker, it sounds really strange to me. I'd say more naturally "Aron is an honors student in his class" – Mitch May 16 '18 at 17:55
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    You can't because the system is different. You would have to explain it or gloss it. – David May 16 '18 at 18:33
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More context is needed before we can say definitively what meaning is intended, as honors and in honors are ambiguous (as, indeed, is class), but as Dan Bron notes in a comment, this is likely a reference to tracking in American education. I do not think an exact equivalent exists in the UK.

Being in honors in my class would be ellipsis for being either

  • enrolled in the honors version of a course, i.e. a more rigorous or more advanced version of a general course: honors chemistry, honors French, honors algebra, etc.
  • enrolled in the honors track, i.e. taking a course load primarily of classes designated as honors classes.

The Merriam-Webster definition of honor includes

6e. honors plural (2) : a course of study for superior students supplementing or replacing a regular course

and similarly the American Heritage Dictionary offers

  1. honors
    c. A program of advanced study for exceptional students:

    planned to take honors in history.

@lbf suggests in honors refers to being an honor student or being a member of an honor society or graduating with honors. Frequently that may be the case, but not always. A student in the standard track could receive scholastic recognitions. Likewise, a student in the honors track could perform poorly and receive no honors.


Students in most traditional U.S. schools, public and private, are assessed based on standardized testing, scholastic performance, and other measures, then placed into tracks. Instead of enrolling at a separate gymnasium, lyceum, or grammar school as historically done in various parts of Europe, high-achieving students will attend the same school as others, but take separate classes featuring a more rigorous curriculum.

Both the theory and practice of tracking have been controversial, but this system has been the norm in mainstream American education since the early- to mid-20th century.

The more advanced classes are frequently called honors classes, although they may also be known as college prep or advanced or many other names. The specifics of what the label entails vary more considerably, and schools may have any number of tracks. In some cases, honors overlaps with other intensified curricula such as the International Baccalaureate, the Advanced Placement program, the New York Regents Diploma, and so on, while in other cases it is distinct from them, and either the more or the less rigorous course.

In informal conversation, being in can refer either to enrollment in the honors version of an individual course, or in the overall track identified as honors, a usage likewise extended any reference to a track:

Did you finish the Oedipus Rex reading yet?
No; I'm in honors, and we're doing Philoctetes instead.

Are you taking AP Physics next year?
I can't; it's only offered during second period, and I have to take TOK then, because I'm in IB.

This is largely a colloquial and conversational usage. More formally, one would write out I'm in the honors class or I'm in the honors track to specify.

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  • This is the sentence as I came across it, it is part of a mathematical equation in our internal website so I can't really share the link : "The probability that a student is in honors, given that he or she is in Mrs. Christopher’ class, is ...". Thank you so much for your answers everyone! – RoseDavie May 21 '18 at 8:14
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What is an “in honors” school student in the US?

An honor student in the U.S. typically is a student recognized for achieving high academic grades or high marks in their coursework at school.

Here are 2 links describing high school and college honor designations.

wikipedia - Honors
wikipedia - Latin Honors

Collegiate honors frequently use the Latin designations. Some 'grade' schools (pre-K to ~ 8th grades) use various 'honors' also. Without seeing 'in honors' at said site, I does sound off. Aaron is an honor student etc ... sounds better.

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  • A student who wins awards or gets admitted to an honor society wouldn't describe him- or herself as being in honors, however, unless speaking in a very affected manner. On the other hand, being in honors to refer to an honors class or honors program is very common. – choster May 16 '18 at 22:25

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