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March 14, 2018

How to Write Grade Numbers in APA Style

author pictureby Chelsea Lee

If you write about students in elementary, middle, or high school, then you’ve had to consider how to write grade numbers: eighth grade? 8th grade? Grade 8? Which is right? Should there be a hyphen?

In APA Style, the rules for presenting numbers apply to the presentation of grade numbers. This post will explain the most common formats.

Grade + a Numeral

When the word grade is followed by a numeral, always capitalize grade and use a numeral for the grade number.

Grade 1 Grade 3 Grade 5 Grade 9
Grade 10 Grade 11 Grade 12  


Ordinal Number + Grade

When writing a grade in its ordinal form, use words for Grades 1–9 and numerals for Grades 10, 11, and 12.

first grade third grade fifth grade

ninth grade

10th grade

11th grade

12th grade


However, if an ordinal number 10 or above starts a sentence, then use words.

Twelfth-grade students received diplomas at graduation.

Also, if you are writing four or more grades in the same sentence, then use numerals for all of them.

Students in 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th grades


Hyphens With Grade Numbers

Use a hyphen with a grade number when the ordinal form is used as a compound adjective before a noun. Otherwise, do not use a hyphen with a grade number.

The first-grade students went on a field trip. The first graders…

If several ordinal grades are presented in a series of compound adjectives, then use hyphens with each.

The sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students go to a middle school.


Grade Names Without Numbers

Lowercase nonnumerical words referring to grades or groups of grades (except for the in pre-K and K–12). Also note that compounds written with the word school do not use a hyphen (e.g., high school students), because these terms are written as open compounds per Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.









elementary school students middle school students

high school students

elementary schoolers middle schoolers

high schoolers    

university students undergraduates


doctoral fellows


On the Value of Rephrasing

Sometimes these rules intersect in ways that may make a sentence look awkward; in the sentence below, it is correct to use a word for ninth and numerals for 10th and 11th, and although there is nothing wrong with this from an APA Style perspective, it may set off internal alarm bells for you.

Students in ninth, 10th, and 11th grades [this is correct]

Often the awkwardness can be resolved by rephrasing the sentence. Although this is not required, it may make you feel happier about your writing, and we are all for you feeling happy about your writing.

Students in Grades 9, 10, and 11 [this is also correct]

For more on numeral usage, see Sections 4.31–4.38 (pp. 111–114) of the sixth edition of the Publication Manual. If you have additional questions about how to write about grades in APA Style, leave a question in the comments section.


School bus



For seventh edition guidelines, visit the seventh edition APA Style blog.

This search includes only sixth edition blog archive results:


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