"your final list of grades showing an average overall grade of at least 80 and an average grade for Physics of at least 80 over the last three years of secondary high school."

What I need to understand from this sentence about the physics grade is that the physics average grade of the last three years (the total grade of the three years divided by three) should be at least 80 or should it be at least 80 for each semester? Why am I asking this? Because my physics grades are 92, 78, and 84. Their averages are more than 80, but one of them is less than 80. The "over" part in the text confused me, but the "average" statement seems to ask for an average of three years. I hope that an educator who is familiar with the nuances of English will answer this question and save me from empty expectations. To avoid any misunderstanding, I wanted to consult you before corresponding with the relevant institution. Thanks in advance.

  • It seems in your case "over" refers to the length of time, i.e the grade in a three-year period at high school. However, I'd strongly suggest that you add the missing part at the beginning of the sentence "… your final list of grades” because users might only read the quoted text.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 26 at 9:08
  • I think it would be worth mentioning which country the institution is in. The use of "secondary" I thought implied UK but "semester" contradicts that. There will be cultural differences which may be relevant. Commented Mar 26 at 9:15

3 Answers 3


In your sentence, "over" means "during".

Over the last three years = during the last three years.

Average overall grade: This clearly refers to the average of all your grades across all subjects for the last three years. It needs to be at least 80.

Average grade for Physics of at least 80 over the last three years: This aligns with your understanding – the total of your physics grades from the last three years divided by three. In this case, your average (92+78+84)/3 = 84.67, which meets the requirement.


Let's define the two words 'average' and 'overall' separately, and then explain why both are used together.

An 'average' in mathematics is a number (or percentage) that represents the typical value of a set of numbers. It's calculated by adding up all the numbers in the set and then dividing by the total count of numbers in the set. So, assuming a student receives separate grades for multiple subjects or components, their 'average grade' would be calculated by summing all of the individual grades and then dividing by the number in that set.

'Overall' is an adjective that describes a number such as a score to indicate that it takes all things into account. It could be the sum total of other scores, or in some cases, it could mean the average.

Although there is some crossover of meaning between the two, stating that this is the "average overall" grade is not a pointless repetition. It makes it very clear that the grade is the final score, taking all things into account and tells you how it has been reached - by taking an average of other scores. Saying it is just 'the average' may not be clear enough to indicate that this is the final score on which you will be graded. Likewise, 'the overall' may lack the detail on how that score was reached.


an average grade for Physics of at least 80 over the last three years of secondary high school.

Add the grades together, divide by the number of grades.

over introduces the phrase that specifies the years for which grades must be included in the averaging.

There is some ambiguity about what to do with grades reported by half-year semester, in which case there would be six grades, not three. The phrase identifies only the chronological parameters not the number of grades

Average final grade for the last three years of secondary high school would be clearer, if that was indeed the intention.

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