Here’s Why You Never Got an E on Your Report Card

A, B, C, D, F... wait, what?

gradesVictoria 1/shutterstock

If you’ve ever wondered why you’ve never gotten an E on your report card, you’re not alone. Most grading systems in the United States typically go by A, B, C, D, then F. So, what did E do to be skipped? As it turns out, E used to be a standard grade. (Here are the secrets of straight-A students that all scholars should definitely steal.)

According to the Washington Post, “The first letter grade ever given in the United States, according to historical records, was a B received by a Harvard University undergraduate in 1883. There is no indication of how he felt about the grade, but that simple way of judging student work quickly became popular.”

After that, other institutions started catching onto the concept of grading with letters. In 1887, Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts was supposedly the first school to continue the use of a letter-based grading system. An A was equivalent to 95-100%, a B was equivalent to 85-94%, a C was equivalent to 76-84%, a D was 75%, and an E was anything below a 75%—which meant failure.

A year after Mount Holyoke’s grading system was put into place, they changed each letter so they represented different percentages. According to, “B became anything from 90-94%, C was 85-89%, D was 80-84%, and E was 75-79%. Below that, they added in the dreaded F.”

In the 1930s, as the letter-based grading system grew more and more popular, many schools began omitting E in fear that students and parents may misinterpret it as standing for “excellent.” Thus resulting in the A, B, C, D, and F grading system. According to, “Recent surveys show that letter grades are [now] the most common grades used in elementary and secondary schools and two- and four-year colleges and universities.”

Just reading the history of letter grades probably boosted your GPA, but are you smarter now than you were in high school? Take this quiz to find out!

Brittany Gibson
Brittany Gibson is a regular contributor to’s culture, food, health, and travel sections. She was previously an editorial intern for and Westchester Magazine. Her articles have appeared on Buzzfeed, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, and MSN, among other sites. She earned a BA in English from the University of Connecticut