American high school diploma

The American High School Diploma is a certificate awarded to students when they complete high school. Students generally study for the diploma for four years, from the 9th to 12th grade.

There is no national curriculum in the US, although states, school districts and national associations do recommend that certain standards are met and guidelines followed.

Each state sets the requirements for the high school diploma. Students are assessed throughout each semester with tests, exams, essays, homework assignments, classroom preparation, group work, projects and attendance, and given a final 'grade' for each course at the end of the semester. 

Parents are sent a 'report card' with the grades achieved in each subject at the end of each quarter, semester or year. They will also ultimately receive a 'transcript' – an overview of their academic history, produced by the school – which will be requested by universities upon application.

Marks are given as letters (A+, A, B+ etc) or a percentage. These marks will result in a Grade Point Average (GPA). The grading system is not standardised across school districts. However, in general they are:

A grade – excellent level – 4 points

B grade – above average – 3 points

C grade – average – 2 points

D grade – below average – 1 point

F – failure – 0 points (Note: a student that fails a required course must take it again.)

A student’s high school GPA represents their accumulated grades throughout high school. It is calculated by adding the total of all points earned for each course, then dividing the total points by the total number of courses taken. Additional points may be awarded for extra work done in honors, AP or IB courses.

When applying for university, a student's GPA is taken into consideration and there are also admissions tests, such as the SAT and the ACT.