Rank Inflation

Oh, I sea what you did there.

Cassia: Jeez, dude... I mean, really? Really? If you're gonna waste time playing video games instead of doing your job, I at least expect you to beat my high score.
Mook: I only missed the A rank by 500 points!
Cassia: It goes up to triple-S.
Mook: (horrified) Triple-S...?

In video games, rather than mark the player on a simple success/failure scheme, it is common to give the player some kind of rank (e.g. bronze, silver and gold medals, or grades A+ to F-), depending on their performance. This allows casual players to coast through and simply get the bare minimum required to pass, while those who want a challenge can aim for the gold medals.

But then what about the players who are really looking for a challenge for whom mere golds aren't enough? The solution — give them platinum medals to aim for. A-grade not good enough for you? Go for A+, or S. Sometimes, even these inflated ranks are subject to inflation, with A being about average and the real goal being a more different S rank: SS or even SSS.

Compare Harder Than Hard, Random Power Ranking, Score Screen, Pinball Scoring, Up to Eleven, Serial Escalation. When it's a reviewer doing this, it's Broke the Rating Scale (Type 1). Contrast with its inverse, F--.


Video Games have their own page.

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The magical power scale used in Lyrical Nanoha: there's F for those without any magic power, and then E- for those with a bit, going up with plus and minus qualifiers through the alphabet until rank A, which is considered the elite, and going further to AA, then AAA, then S, SS, and SSS. The difference between AAA and AAA+ is canonically pretty substantial, which makes most of the cast of the first two seasons (who are estimated to be in the AAA ranks at the time) quite powerful, because of this the next season had Power Limiters become a major element of the story.
    • Mage Rank covers skill, not just power. In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Teana holds Rank B, however, she demonstrates the ability to create spells (specifically, the Variable Bullet) that are normally used by Rank AA mages.
    • Which is why Yuuno, despite being Non-Action Guy, The Medic, and a Stone Wall, is an A-ranked mage. This rank relative high even in universe, for example; Uno, Due, and Sein of the Numbers and Ginga Nakajima) are A-ranked, and pretty strong.
    • Interestingly, while the SSS rank exists, no known mage actually has that rank. The highest ranked mage that is known is StrikerS-era Hayate at SS, and she's got the full strength of the Book of Darkness behind her (though, admittedly, not a whole lot of skill). What a SSS rank would be capable of, then, is a scary thing to think about.
    • Fate's mother Precia, the villain of the first season, also has her rank given as SS in supplementary materials, and unlike Hayate her power is entirely natural. This can actually be seen fairly well in the series itself, as she was able to cast a spell powerful enough to disable a spaceship while she was in another dimension, which is quite possibly the single most impressive feat of magic in the entire series. And this was after decades of suffering from an Incurable Cough of Death and insanity from desperation to revive Alicia.
  • Tokyo Ghoul has Ghoul Threat Ratings and Ghoul Investigator Ranks, which are roughly equivalent to each other according to Word of God.
    • C-rate Ghouls, considered incredibly weak.
    • B-rate Ghouls and Junior Rank Investigators (Ranks 1 - 3) possess moderate strength, and are roughly equal to each other. The average Mook is from this ranking.
    • A-rate Ghouls are considered Dangerous predators, and equal in strength to a senior First Class Investigator. They serve as the Elite Mooks of the series.
    • S-rate Ghouls are high-level threats and serial predators, equal to the senior Associate Special Class Investigators.
    • S+ rated Ghouls are extremely dangerous, equal in strength to the elite Special Class Investigators.
    • SS-rate Ghouls are beings of abnormal strength, typically leaders of major groups or otherwise possessed of extreme abilities. An entire team including at least one Special Class Investigator are suggested for hunting them.
    • SSS-rated Ghouls, the rarest and most dangerous beings. Only two characters in the series hold this rank, being the Big Bad and Big Good, respectively. Operations to challenge them are the largest in scale, often making use of an entire squad of Special Class Investigators and the best equipment available.
  • Power levels of demons in YuYu Hakusho are ranked from D to S. However, anything above B is exceedingly rare (Toguro, one of the strongest beings, was a B class demon). Anything higher than a 'C' is too powerful to travel between worlds; higher ranks were either from Earth originally (like Toguro) or started lower and trained themselves up on this side. Demons of each rank are progressively rarer, and at one point, it's stated that only one out of one hundred C class demons even has the potential to reach B class. Thanks to the plot we see many more A and S rank demons than their rarity would suggest (although this arc takes place in the demon world, and is presumably every demon of that rank; mere thousands out of billions).
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure ranks aspects of stands from E to A for things like Strength, Range, Learning (user's ability to fully exploit their stand's powers) and such. The scale isn't weighed on too heavily in the series, but in one notable exception, Giorno Giovanna's Gold Experience Requiem is so powerful that its attributes are literally ALL ranked "unknown", as it is simply impossible to rank such vast powers off the scale. To put things into perspective, Gold Experience Requiem's power is so overwhelming that he could beat practically anyone from any other series/reality (short of a Reality Warper and even then, that's debatable) simply because he can nullify any attack/move that his opponent makes and has what is essentially a One-Hit Kill.
  • Ninja missions in Naruto are ranked anywhere from D (picking up trash, catching stray cats) to S (there's a very high chance you'll die.)
    • There was some confusion (and a bit of a Hatedom) when the third Databook came out and the mission to capture or kill Akatsuki members Hidan and Kakuzu- S-Class criminals- was classified as an A-Rank mission, the same as Team 7's first big mission against the weaker duo of Zabuza and Haku. The reason however was that missions are ranked not just by difficulty of the task but also the strength of the ninja assigned to the task; in this case, one had a team of three fresh Genin and a slightly out-of-shape Jounin, the other involved teams of seasoned Chuunin and a more in-shape Jounin with another such group behind them as back-up.
    • More typical Rank Inflation has been going on with the strength of jutsu: it starts with E (basic academy stuff like untying ropes, body replacement, One Thousand Years of Death) and goes up to S (which includes bringing one person back to life at the cost of another, making something get hit by a real lightning bolt, and regenerating all the parts of your body including organs), but recently even S rank attacks have been ineffective. In something of a subversion, more powerful attacks continue to be introduced, but new ranks have not.
      • Jutsu are not ranked by strength, but difficulty; Kakashi's Raikiri, for example, is the same strength as Kakuzu's Raiton: Gian, yet that is B-Rank while Kakashi's is S-Rank. Higher ranked justu are obviously as powerful as they are difficult- it would be a waste of time learning them otherwise- but there are easier jutsu to learn that are just as strong and useful. There are also several powerful jutsu that are not learned, but derived from unique bloodline traits, such as Amateratsu, Tsukuyomi and Susanoo which are jutsu unique to the Mangekyou Sharingan, and in and of themselves don't require any skill to use, though they do require practice to perfect.
      • Usually, the stronger jutsus are either forbidden (I.E the first incarnation of "Fuuton: Rasen Shuriken") or new/not heard of, so they can't be easily categorized.
    • Internationally wanted ninja criminals or "missing-nin" are referred to as "S-class" (including everyone in Akatsuki), though there has been no indication of lower ranks or this applying to non-criminals.
    • In the Naruto D20 there are also Super-S class jutsus, which are usually forbidden as well.
  • In Kiddy Grade, the Nanomachines-based superpowers are ranked by class: C (Copper) is the lowest, S (Silver) is high, and G (Gold) is the highest. The protagonists of the show are C class but actually, they are G class, just suppressing their powers along with hurting memories that come with them. Their Da Chief is also G class, by the way.
  • Also used in Zoids: New Century Zero. Other Zoids series? Not so much.
  • A meta-example: Zettai Ryouiki is categorized into "Grades". Grade F encompasses ankle socks (ye Gods! Why would anyone bother?!), Grade E includes socks 16 cm high from the shoes (the standard), Grade D is 26 cm high, Grade C is 35 cm (but not above the kneecap), Grade B is 50 cm, and Grade A is 57 cm high ("the one sock to rule them all", as some put it). While the lowest Grades are usable by any gender, the top two are Always Female by definition. The highest level of all, however, is Grade S, which includes 57 cm high socks/stockings, Tsundere attitude, and twin-tail hairstyle (so far, only a good half-dozen characters have qualified for Grade S). Refer to this article for more info.
    • Some of these characters include Rin Tohsaka (the inventer), Sion Eltnam Atlasia and Kokoa Shuzen.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya joked about this in its first chronological episode, when Taniguchi ranked every Freshman girl from D to A. His favorite (Asakura Ryoko) was ranked AA+.
  • The Mahou Sensei Negima! manga alludes to a ranking system for combat Mages which promptly falls into this, with ranks going from an unspecified low end up to SA. The only AAA ranked fighter so far (Fate), apparently has a power level of around 3000, with Negi being at around 500 (an A class), and later 2600 or so. Naturally, soon afterward this turns out to be the low end of the spectrum, with Rakan ranking the demon from Kyoto at 8000 (and by extension Evangeline is at least 8000, probably higher) and himself at 12,000. Oh, and Fate is likely over 8000 as well. Then you have Nagi and the Lifemaker, who are both more powerful than Rakan. Of course, Rakan made up the Power Levels himself, and Chisame points out how arbitrary it is. But it doesn't change the fact that the Combat Rankings don't really mean much.
  • Fairy Tail has a version of this. Normal jobs are just jobs. No ranking whatsoever. There are really tricky ones who are ranked "S" though (no one seems to know what the S stands for). Later, to make a character seem that much cooler, they say he can also take "SS" jobs, and was assigned something even more impressive "The 100 year job" Unfortunately, he failed because of outside circumstances and had to go home. The interruption was a giant dragon of apocalypse eating some limbs and internal organs when he wasn't looking.
  • In Toriko, the Garagara Gator being capture level 8 was considered a big deal. Then the Troll Kongs are shown to be level 9. In the next chapter, the Puffer whales are capture level 30.
    • Note that capture level refers to how easy it is to retrieve an edible sample; there are many fragile but harmless ingredients with high capture level. (Like the aforementioned Puffer Whales, which are like Fugu, but improperly removing the poison bladder make the whole body poisonous, and is located in a different spot in each one.
    • Also note that Capture Levels can also refer to the overall power of an ingredient, since the more powerful creatures tend to be proportionately harder to catch, hence powerful creatures always receiving Capture Levels equivalent to ingredients whose Capture Levels are related to the environments they are found in.
      • In the Gourmet World, on the other hand, the lowest Capture Levels are at least 100, which is equivalent to the Four Beast, the ingredient with the highest Capture Level in the Human World...Which is only based on its four "bodies", as the real Four Beast has a Capture level in the mid 300s and kept on increasing beyond that. The Eight Kings of the Gourmet World? Their Capture Levels are in the 6000s, or on the precipice of it at least.
  • During a trip to an amusement park, Shana of Shakugan no Shana uses her powers to cheat at a swordfighting virtual reality game, maxing out the score counter and earning a rank of SSS.
  • Espers in A Certain Magical Index are ranked from Level 0 (failed to develop any powers) to Level 5 (One-Man Army). The strongest Level 5 (Accelerator) at one point claims that the only reason he's not ranked higher is because that's the highest the scale goes; the difference in power between him and the other Level 5's is enormous. Then the theoretical Level 6 is introduced, defined as the esper in question obtaining near-omnipotence, to the point that they could be considered "God". No esper has yet reached that level, but Academy City's best simulations projected that it was possible.
  • Connoisseurs in the Pokémon anime are ranked from C-Class to S-Class, with Cilan and Burgundy being A-Class and C-Class, respectively. It's Cilan's goal to reach S-Class.
  • At Tootsuki Academy, assignments are graded on a scale of A (excellent) to E (failure). Chef Chapelle (notorious for giving any assignment not worthy of an A an E) gives Soma and Tadokoro's first assignment an A, and regrets that he doesn't have the authority to give them a higher grade.
  • In the first season (the only one to use power levels/ranks) of Jewelpet, the regular ranks are, in crescent order, Acrylic, Glass and Crystal. When Opal got introduced, it also introduced the Super Crystal rank, in order to emphasize how powerful she is. Only two other Jewelpets are ranked so (the newborn Labra and Ruby after undergoing Training from Hell).

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero Tsuruya gave an S rank to Kyon's speech when she asked him if she should learn about the supernatural in the SOS Brigade.
  • In the Daria/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover series Legion of Lawndale Heroes, the myriad powers are ranked on what's known as 'the Claremont-Byrne scale' (an obvious Shout-Out to one of the writers' favorite series). The C-B scale is based partly on the power scales used in the X-Men films (Classes One through Five), with an series of levels within each class (Marginal, Low-grade, Mid-range, High, and Extreme).
  • A Growing Affection takes the normal E-S ranks, and adds an "X" rank for missions and Bingo book entries. "X" rank is described as requiring the resources of two or more of the great villages.

  • In A Christmas Story, Ralphie daydreams that his teacher is so bowled over by his essay that she ecstatically awards him an A++++ while his classmates cheer. When Reality Ensues, he gets a C+ and a comment that he'll shoot his eye out.note 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: S.H.I.E.L.D. uses a numbered classification system, with the mere existence of the higher levels being a secret to lower levels. That on its own would raise eyebrows, but they keep adding levels, declassifying the current highest levels only to add more classified ones on top. In the Item 47 short, Level 6 is officially the highest level, but Coulson is level 7. By Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Coulson is level 8, Fury is level 10, and no one is supposed to know about anything above 7. In a flashback in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (when Coulson and May were fresh out of training), it was implied that anything above level 3 was unknown. After Winter Soldier, Coulson eventually gave up.
    Coulson: I got rid of the levels. They were stupid anyway.

  • It has happened to naval classification in the Honorverse. Battleships were originally the biggest and most powerful hyper-capable warships there were, until the invention of large, more powerful Dreadnoughts and Superdreadnoughts. Why the classification of "battleship" didn't simply grow upward (since DNs and SDs are similarly armed to BBs, just carrying more weapons and more armor, at least until the evolution of the Pod Superdreadnought) is unknown.
  • The hero of Decline and Fall applies for a job as a teacher and asks why the school that hires him is graded as just "School." The recruiter explains that there are four grades: Leading School, First-Rate School, Good School, and School. "Frankly, 'School' is pretty bad."
  • In Discworld there are eight levels of wizardry recognised by Unseen University, but some foreign wizards try to make themselves look good by inventing extra levels, sometimes as high as 23. (This is actually a Retcon to explain why a foreign wizard in The Colour of Magic described himself as level 15).
  • The Others (latent and practicing mages) in the Night Watch series are placed into seven categories from the weakest (seventh) to the strongest (first). And then, there are practicing mages who considerably exceed the requirements of the first category, who are dubbed "mage/sorceress beyond categories" or "Grand Mage/Sorceress".

    Live Action TV 
  • Kenan & Kel has one episode taking place 1,000 years in the future. Kenan and Kel take a test in alien biology, and Kenan scores an A+, which at that time is considered a failing grade. Kel scores an A++++, which is considered the future equivalent of today's A+.

  • As denounced by the title, the hilarious and tongue-in-cheek Pearl Jam song "Olympic Platinum".
    My Olympic dream
    The gold's just not good enough
    And I don't even think of the bronze
    I'm living my life for olympic platinum


  • In Kubera, mages are graded similar to the American grading system; A+, B+, B, so on. The highest rank is AA. Asha is easily the most powerful mage in existence, breaking records left and right when she took her exam. However, in order to get the AA ranking, you need to be able to interface with a barrier stone, which in turn requires three matching elemental attributes. Asha insisted she could do it despite the fact that her attributes don't match, but they refused to let her try because that would be extremely dangerous. In order to celebrate her incredible achievements regardless, she was given the brand-new rank of A++. Technically, it's no different than A+, but everybody has heard about her, and treats her as befitting her skill. Then, during the siege of Atera, she proved that she is fully capable of interfacing with a barrier stone and keeping a barrier going (by changing the attribute of the barrier to match her own, which should be impossible). The title of that arc is AAA.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Pandora describes Sarah's magic mark as "an S-rank spell". In The Rant Dan says he picked this up from Fire Emblem and sees it as "sort of a like an 11 on a 1-10 scale".

    Web Original 
  • The Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society formerly ranked Sues and Stus on a scale of one to eight. Now, it operates on a one to ten scale, with ten being damn near omnipotent. For reference, one Level Nine Stu was able to whoop almost the entire Society. He was the weakest of the Level Nines.
  • Shown here as used in Chaos Fighters with F--.
  • PolitiFact's scale runs from True to False to the "Pants on Fire!" rating, reserved for especially far-reaching or ridiculous claims.
  • SCP Foundation has officially three object classes: "Safe" (e.g. a three-sided cube), "Euclid" (e.g. a three-sided cube that you can drop objects into and have them turned inside out (don't put your hand in there!)), and "Keter" (e.g. a three-sided cube that moves when you're not looking at it, sporadically sucks in surrounding air at a very high pressure, inverts objects like Euclid-class, and sometimes spurts out a highly bioactive substance filled with destructive microbes from another dimensional reality for no adequately explained reason). They also have a series of "K-class" scenarios, the most frequently-mentioned of which is the XK "end of the world."
    • To quote almost directly form their site: "Safe means we can put it alone in a room and it does nothing we can't predict. Euclid means we put it alone in a room and it might be a bit dangerous. Keter means we put it alone in a room and then send a retrieval team to collect the bodies and establish a containment perimeter." In general, a measure of how likely it is to cause casualties if unmonitored. Safe=5% or less, Euclid=5% up to whatever, Keter=virtually guaranteed.
    • There is also "Thaumiel", but (usually, as there's no stable SCP Foundation canon) that denotes a powerful SCP being used by the Foundation, rather than something above Keter. There is an "above Keter" rank, though. It's "Apollyon".

    Western Animation 
  • The Starbucks example below was parodied in Animaniacs in an episode where Doctor Scratchensniff went to the movies with the Warners. Scratchensniff asks for a small popcorn; the attendant tells him that the popcorn only comes in Large, Super Chubby, and Double Super Chubby sizes. A frustrated Scratchensniff asks why they don't call the Large a Small then, and is greeted with "I'll have to ask my manager." Of course, it finally seems to sink in at the end; Scratchensniff says "Just give me a Large!" and the attendant hands him a truly colossal tub of popcorn.
  • The resident Sadist Teacher of The Fairly OddParents! Denzel Crocker loves to invert this trope. He gave Timmy a Super F in Mind Over Magic and the first Jimmy Timmy Power Hour had him threaten to give Jimmy Neutron an F-. Naturally, this didn't go well with the kid genius.
  • In Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, Phil Ken Sebben has an Alert level system parodying the color based Terror Alert System used in the US. Above red was "Blackwatch Plaid," which he later pushed even further to "The cover of Rush's seminal album, "Moving Pictures"."
  • In the South Park episode TMI, the official average size was lowered so far that basically every guy had one that was above-average.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer became a restaurant critic for a newspaper. The editor eventually complained that all of his reviews were over-the-top gushing praise, and as an example pointed out a recent article he'd written where he gave a restaurant "9 thumbs up". This prompted Homer to get mean and snarky, and one of his later reviews (to Marge) said "I give this meal my lowest rating ever: 7 thumbs up."
    • In another episode, Lisa catches a cold and being forced to stay at home. She wasn't able to read a book she's supposed from class for a test because she got addicted to a video game. With Bart's help, she receives the answers from Nelson and cheats the test. She gets an A++++. Actually, A+++ because there's dramboie on the paper. She's gets summoned by Skinner due to her test bumping up the school's GPA qualifying for a grant which trigger's the plot of this episode.
  • A variation in one episode of Futurama: after Professor Farnsworth's latest invention is ridiculed by the scientific community, Wernstrom gives it "the worst grade imaginable...an A-minus-minus!" note 

    Real Life 
  • CERO has five ratings from all ages to adults only. They are;
    • A (all ages)
    • B (ages 12 and up)
    • C (ages 15 and up)
    • D (ages 18 and up)
    • Z (ages 18 and up only)
  • When was the last time you saw a pizza advertised as "small"? At at least one local pizzeria the advertised sizes are "large, extra-large, and party-size"
    • Ditto for canned olive sizes
  • Ah, Starbucks. Coffee sizes start at Tall, then Grande, then Venti, because apparently no one just wants a small goddamn coffeenote . Then they came out with a Trenta size, which is even larger than the Venti size. It holds 31 oz (910 mL) of liquid, or two-and-a-half the capacity of a typical human bladder. For true caffeine addicts!
  • At the height of the Cold War, both pro- and anti-nuclear campaigners were fond of pointing out "overkill factors" (how many times over the world's nuclear arsenal could kill all the people on Earth). The number peaked at around ninety.
    • A theoretical war that actually used all this firepower was apparently referred to in strategic circles as a "Bounce the Rubble" exchange.
    • One notable one still used to this day is the Doomsday Clock, where midnight represents all out nuclear war. How close civilization approaches to nuclear war is represented by how many minutes away from midnight the minute hand sits. It started at "seven minutes to midnight" and has since gone as high as seventeen minutes (The chance of nuclear war is practically negligible) to as low as two minutes (a pin drop could result in the destruction of civilization). We're at three minutes right now.
      • Particularly notable in that the clock was originally intended to have "fifteen minutes to midnight" as the safest possible setting, so its being set to seventeen minutes to midnight from 1991 to 1995 is the most direct application of this trope.
    • As of 2017, the agency that uses the clock has upgraded it to two and a half minutes to midnight, citing certain world leaders' actions and characters specifically as the reason for the change. This is the highest it's been since humanity first tested out Hydrogen bombs so yeah, this is pretty scary.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture food quality ratings can go up to grade AA.
  • Minor League Baseball originally ranked its leagues D, C, B, A. Now it's Rookie, Short Season, A, A Advanced, AA, AAA. (And this is all below the Major Leagues.)
  • The professional English football leagues used to run from first through fourth divisions, however as of 2004, leagues run 'Premier league', 'Championship', League 1, League 2.
  • Martial artists often want to stay a rank ahead of their students in order to maintain "master" status, leading to ranks as high as 15th dan becoming commonplace in more popular styles.
  • Some Free Masons have added an additional thirty degrees on top of the original three. Some even have ninety, altogether.
    • However the thirty-three ranks go back over two hundred years.
  • In many US states' high school sports, the schools are grouped into classes based on size, since most often the big schools with deep benches have a significant advantage over smaller ones with smaller talent pools. In most states these are A, B, C, D, etc with A at the top. Indiana was one of the last to implement one, and theirs go A, AA, AAA, AAAA, with A the smallest.
    • ESPN lists this year's high school football champions here (map still not filled in for all states). Many use D1, D2, D3, etc., but New York had one of these, with D, C, B, A, and AA (so did Montana). Oh, and apparently, AAAA is no longer the largest in Indiana—5A is (although 5A is only for the football classes).
      • Many states go up to 5A, apparently. Illinois starts at 2A and goes up to 8A. South Dakota has AA, A, B, then 9-man AA, 9-man A, and 9-man B. If it's about size, shouldn't a school large enough to field a team two full divisions better than a 9-man B team be large enough to field an 11-man team? Colorado, Iowa, and Idaho all top out at 5A, but have more than five divisions and nothing below A. Colorado has "A-8" and "A-6" as the two below 1A (A-6?), Iowa has a level simply called "A" (that's one level lower than 1A), and Idaho splits 1A into "1A Division 1" and "1A Division 2". Nebraska districts are labelled A, B, C1, C2, D1, and D2. (D2 schools are small enough, for example, that football is played with six players on a side, instead of eleven. Meanwhile, Texas goes to 6A.
      • The "A-6" and "A-8" in Colorado's schools refer to the number of players on the football team by each side at a given time.
  • The NCAA has Division I split for into two subdivisions for football. Interestingly, they inverted the trend of more A's being better, since until 2007, the higher subdivision was called Division I-A and the lower one was called Division I-AA. Since this distinction only applies to football,the subdivisions were renamed before the 2007 season, though the lower subdivision still has the more prestigious-sounding name. I-A was renamed the Football Bowl Subdivision, while I-AA was renamed the Football Championship Subdivision.
  • Standard & Poor's use a rating code for debtors, AAA being the best and D the worst.
    • These also have plus and minus grades for a total of twenty-two different ratings, and the accepted "passing grade" for investments is BBB.
    • Of course, the revelation that these triple letter rankings were created to make bad debtors look better by moving the curve and allow some companies the opportunity to manipulate their value for profit at the cost of the debtor's credit value without suspicion (and be the major cause of the 2010 Global Financial Crisis) makes one wonder if that sort of thing should be allowed.
  • The US Homeland Security Advisory System was in use from 2002 to 2011. Over its lifetime, its lowest two levels were never used, making "Elevated" the system's current default level.
  • The Boy Scout of America ranks are Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. Eagle Scouts can wear combinations of Bronze, Gold and Silver palms by earning merit badges beyond the twenty-one required for Eagle Scout (although gaining palms doesn't mean much as compared to becoming Eagle).
  • The English/Welsh GCSE system uses the usual A,B,C,D,E,F grades, with a A* over and above the A. Originally this was intended to indicate exceptional performance by an A-grade candidate, but is now universally considered the top grade. Since the introduction of the modular AS/A2 level to replace the A-level it has also become more common to attain several A grades at A-level too, leading some to call for the introduction of a A* at that level also.
    • A few GCSE's offer A* distinction now, but they are rare.
    • This perpetuates a fascinating annual cycle when the results are released in which the media will initially deplore grade inflation and the "dumbing-down" of British education, then castigate itself for doing so, thus providing a never-ending news story until something more interesting comes along.
      • This has became a joke among people in former British colonies in Asia, which more or less kept the old GCE grading curves—in their terms, GCSE's A* has became the "new A," A became the "new C," while C became the "new E."
    • In a partial inversion, GCSE grades actually go down to G, and if you want to be technical about it, G still counts as a pass. U is fail (standing for "ungraded"). Of course, most places ask for A*-C grades, and if they ask for pass they're after A*-D, but if they ask for GCSE's generally rather than "passes" or a specific grade range, as long as you got a G it counts.
    • After The New '10s, Hong Kong uses a modified GCSE system called HKDSE, which uses numbers instead of letters for grades in language subjects (Chinese and English). The former B grade is now 5, and A grade is 5* . They also keep the old A* thing, therefore you now have a 5** grade.
  • The STEP (used by Cambridge for maths students) has a scale going fail, 3, 2, 1, S.
  • British university degrees are awarded with one of the following honours classifications: first class, upper second, lower second, third, and ordinary. The "ordinary" class is now considered worthless enough that Cambridge has abolished it; you either graduate with honours or fail. In practice, it's common in many professions for job postings to demand at least an upper second.
  • Rampant in the auto industry; the usual practice is to introduce a new top-of-the-line trim level every few years (to much fanfare) and (quietly) drop base models that become unpopular- the 1957 Chevy Bel Air was the most extravagant car Chevy made that year; by The '70s the Bel Air was a bare-bones fleet model. "LE" was originally the top trim level of Toyota Camry; currently it's the base model. Even legendary trim names are subject to this: the "R/T" name was, for a long time, the top-of-the-line trim for Dodge's muscle cars, but now this distinction is for the "SRT" models.note 
  • The United States military has added on higher ranks for generals and admirals as the need has arisen. George Washington himself only ever wore three stars. Ulysses S. Grant was the first to have four stars, but the title was such that would have made it five stars. The rank was retired after the last of the three generals died, reducing the max rank down to major general. World War II required creation of five-star ranks to be standardized. In 1945, the US government created, but never awarded, what would have been a six-star rank for Douglas MacArthur in anticipation of the invasion of Japan. George Washington was later awarded that rank posthumously and retroactive to July 4, 1776, meaning that no officer ever has or ever will outrank Washington.
  • The United States Navy has had considerable rank inflation. When the Navy was founded, its officer ranks were Lieutenant, Master-Commandant, and Captain. The titles of "Lieutenant, Commanding" and "Commodore" (for Lieutenants in command of small ships and Captains in command of multiple ships, respectively) were added during the War of 1812. The former became the rank of Lieutenant Commander after the American Civil War (Master Commandant had become Commander in 1838, 20 years after the Royal Navy had done so with its equivalent rank, "Master and Commander"). The first Rear Admirals were promoted during the Civil War and Vice Admiral David Glasgow Farragut was promoted from their ranks to overall command of the USN's mobile forces.
  • In certain schools, certain teachers don't give out "D" grades; fall below the cutoff for a C(-) and you fail.
  • Credit cards have added new prestige ranks (gold, platinum) as the old ranks became commonplace. Right now the biggest difference between a silver, gold, and platinum card is the color, with titanium looking to be the next level. Also both Visa and Mastercard have a level over Platinum (the Signature and World cards - guess they ran out of metals)
    • This satirical article is about the new Diners' Club "Plutonium" and American Express "Kryptonite" cards.
    • Likewise, in some companies, "Gold" is the lowest rank of a customer. Higher ranks might be Platinum or Diamond. But if your customer rating does not have one of these snazzy, expensive sounding designations...then you are probably a real VIP.
  • The final exams of Finnish high schools have gone through multiple iterations of this. Initially, there were three passing grades and maximum of six exams. Only a small percentage of the population took the exams so one who passed was considered a learned person and the getting the six Laudaturs (the best possible grade) was a sign of genius. The grade limits were based on percentages so when number of students grew new grades had to be introduced (Oddly, Laudatur remained the best, three were added below it) but the number of Laudaturs still grew. Then the students were allowed to take the exams over multiple years, enabling more foreign languages and improving grades from previous years. The final step was that the Real exam (i.e. everything that is not a language or mathematics) was split into multiple exams. As the result, the famous six Laudatur grade is now quite common and the current official record is ten (the unofficial eleven was split between too many years).
    • Likewise, the possible grades used to be Laudatur (excellent), Cum Laude (good), Approbatur (passed) and Improbatur (flunked). During the years, three new grades were introduced: Lubenter (passed decently), Magna Cum Laude (very good) and Eximia Cum Laude (almost excellent).
    • The Mathematics and Real exams have a choice of questions. Some of them are scored from 0 to 9 instead usual 6, so it is possible to have a score above the "maximum".
    • Since universities count only the relevant part of the grades into entry scores, the highest final exam grades are purely for bragging rights.
  • In most American Contract Bridge League events, the players are grouped into C, B and A ranks. At some national or international tournaments, the strata expand to D, C, B, A and X.
    • Also, the ACBL title "Life Master" initially signified a very high level playernote  — now there are Bronze, Silver, Ruby, Gold, Sapphire, Diamond, Emerald, Platinum, and Grand Life Master levels above that.
  • Inverted example: Traditionally, martial arts rankings start off at 10th kyu. The rankings for the board game Go, on the other hand, start as low as 30th kyu.
    • There is a system of Ninjutsu that goes up to 15th Dan.
  • PC enthusiast magazine Maximum PC stirred quite a controversy when it rated Half-Life 2 the only 11/10 rating the magazine has done.
    • This trope applies to game rating in general, to the point that it has its own trope. On a scale of 1 to 10, an average game that's nothing special but not particularly bad either ought to score 5, and as per normal distribution most games ought to fall in the 4-6 range, with only the exceptional scoring more or less.
    • All reviews of PC hardware and software (not just games) tend to be inflated. If the item in question didn't get at least a 7 out of 10, you can expect it to suck.
  • Due to advances in efficiency, the European Union energy label for some appliances had the grades A+ and A++, and later A+++, added on top of the usual G to A grades.
  • In Germany earlier in the 21st century, when pupils go to school, they're graded from 1 to 6 (1 being the highest). More recently, a scale from 15 to 1 (15 the highest) was introduced, which are then reverted back into the original system. As the first three numbers on the second scale represent 1+, 1, 1- and so on, getting straight 15s reverts actually back into 2/3! It's still just displayed as 1.0, but it's there.
  • The Mikimoto system for grading pearls has A1, A, A+1, A+, AA1, AA, AAA1, and AAA.
  • Eggs in the US are rated C, B, A, and AA. The A grades are just slight differences in the consistency or quality of the egg white or yolk. B eggs have a few things you don't want to see. C eggs are basically aborted chicks.
    • Even the former USSR product grades (which were very practical and came from very strict state quality regulations, called GOST) went through this over time. "Sorts" (Grades) of various foods almost always extend beyond 1st into "Highest", "Extra", or, say, "Hand-picked" (for eggs). Conversely, the low grades as a rule were too vile to see them on the store shelves often (like in other countries). One exception would be cigarettes: seems that there is no limit on how bad the cigs can be if they're cheap, so they ran about 5 or 6 tobacco grades in different USSR republics.
  • In the earliest days of written music, there were three lengths of note: the maxima, longa and brevis. Over time, composers started creating shorter and shorter note values, with the longer ones falling out of use. By the end of the 16th century or so, when the inflation stopped, the longest note in common use was (and still is) the semibreve or whole note, which is half as long as the shortest of the original notes.
  • eBay evaluations : "will buy again, A+++++++++" is the minimum expected if the seller didn't abduct your family and mail them back to you one piece at a time.
    • And even then it depends on how much they charge for shipping on the pieces.
    • Similarly, giving anything other than a maximum rating on sites like Newgrounds or Youtube is interpreted as a vicious slam.
      • YouTube has changed this, swapping to a Thumbs-Up/Thumbs-Down system.
      • On Newgrounds this is actually considered good manners, after a fashion; five is "I liked it, thumbs up," and zero is, "I wish the creator had been aborted so I would have never seen this". Voting something in between, however, is apparently a sin that is beyond forgiveness.
    • This has became kind of an enforced in Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of eBay and Amazon Marketplace, especially due to press reports about many sellers actually harass buyers that gave a rating less than 4/5. So right now the average rating is usually somewhere between 4.5-5, and nobody look at the numerical rating that seriously—any criticisms would be aired in the comments that may accompany a 5/5.
  • In chess the title of Grandmaster was first officially created and awarded to the top 27 players. By 2009 there were over 1200 Grandmasters.
  • Dana Carvey joked that with condoms now going up to Magnum XL, 'regular' has become code for 'small', as no one wants to approach the counter and go "yeah, give me a pack of those 'teeny-weenys'" or something along those lines.
    • Similarly, according to astronaut Michael Collins, NASA had to rename the condom catheters (installed in spacesuits so that astronauts can urinate while on spacewalks or moonwarks) sizes from "small, medium, and large" to "extra large, immense, and unbelievable" because astronauts kept trying to pick sizes that were too big for them and it resulted in quite a few messes in those million-dollar spacesuits.
  • The Size of Marching bands are judged like so: A (for smallest), AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA. You can also have a 6A band if a College Band enters at a High School Competition, which happens enough to have rules for it, but not enough for it to not be a spectacle, since a Single A College Marching band, is about the same size as 3A.
  • The Byzantine Empire got very, very good at creating pompous titles. Towards the end of its history "Augustus", the title of the old Roman Emperors, was being awarded to the equivalent of interns, while the people the emperor actually liked would get to be called things like Augustus First Class, Beyond All Augustuses or Emperogustus. In a strange inversion, however, the most prestigious title of all was simply Lord.
  • A few years ago, Burger King inverted this trope by changing the size labels of its meals from "medium", "large", and "king size" to "small," "medium," and "large." They didn't change the actual sizes, which led to some confusion when you ordered a medium coke with your meal and got something that won't fit in the cup holder.
    • A 22 fluid ounce (650 ml) soda used to be the standard "large" size. Then it became "medium", and is now labelled "small" by many (but not all) chains.
    • Tim Horton's (a coffee chain predominantly in Canada) also did this in 2012, changing small, medium, large, extra large to extra small, small, medium, and large, and adding a new extra large.
  • In Australia, bushfire danger ratings were Mild, Moderate, High, Very High, and Extreme. Following the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, a new category of "Catastrophic - Code Red" was added.
  • Aggregate review website MetaCritic adjusts its scale specifically for games. Movies, TV shows, and music have a ranking division of 81-100, 61-80, 40-60, 20-39, and 0-19. The games on the other hand have a harsher division consisting of 90-100, 75-89, 50-74, 20-49, 0-19.
  • A joke for one of the reasons why the US will never go metric is this: What sounds more impressive, an 80 yard field goal, or a 73 metre one?note  This is of course facetious: although Canada went metric in 1973, Canadian Football—which is very similar to American football—still uses yards.
  • Before 1982, Disneyland required tickets to go on the rides. Originally there were three classes of tickets from A to C, with C being for the most thrilling rides. Over time, D tickets and then E tickets were introduced.
  • Many high schools have begun weighting their classes so that the most advanced classes grade on a 5-point GPA scale as opposed to the standard 4 point scale.
    • Some also have classes with a 6-point scale, usually reserved for those that come with college credit.
  • The Gamespot forums (although Gamespot itself doesn't count) are known to call a game scoring a 7.0 and 7.5 on the main Gamespot page an "A" game; an 8.0 an "AA;" and so on, with console exclusives such as Halo getting an E after it. What does Super Mario Galaxy 2, a Wii exclusive with a 10 by Gamespot translate into? An AAAAE game.
  • The Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai is often touted as a "7-star hotel".
    • Several other hotels also do this. In truth, hotel star ratings mean absolutely nothing unless you compare them to other ratings given by the same organisation (and it has an actual system for awarding them).
  • Brassiere cup measurements originally only had sizes from A through D. Smaller sizes are typically designated with multiple A's, going down to AAA in some training bras. Larger sizes sometimes repeat the D and sometimes go to higher letters, up to G in the United States or up to K within the UK.
    • This is worse in Japan, where cup measurements have finer granularity and don't use repeated letters. So a K cup might qualify as an M cup.
  • This is averted by the Gemological Institute of America when grading the color of diamonds: a completely colorless diamond is ranked D on a scale that continues downward to Z (prior to reaching the point where you actually want a colorful diamond). The logic was that, by starting with A, someone would claim an A+ to better it, and then you'd continue on to get this trope, but nobody in their right mind would go out of their way to claim a super-colorless diamond was ranked C.
  • The rank of general. Before 19th century, "general" was simply the commander of the whole army on campaign while "marshall" was the overall commander of the whole military of the country. As the units and formations were regularized and ranks were formalized, "general" became now commander of an army corps, while the subformations were commanded by "lesser" generals: army corps by general lieutenant, division by general major and brigade by brigadier general. But in the 20th century, even larger formations materialized, and more ranks were needed: the German army had Generaloberst (colonel general) for army group and Generalfeldmarschall (general field marshall) for army theatre of operations. Therefore you may have a total of six ranks of generals and rank of Marshall for the supreme commander.
  • Computer power supplies are certified under the 80 Plus program, which originally gave 80 Plus, 80 Plus Bronze, 80 Plus Silver and 80 Plus Gold rankings for increased efficiency. Nowadays, as power supplies get better, the scale was extended to 80 Plus Platinum and 80 Plus Titanium to match.
  • Taiwan's new high school entrance system introduced in 2014 already suffered this before it was introduced. Originally the CAP test was meant only have three grade levels: A (Excellence), B (Basic) and C (Needs Improvement) and only limited to 40% of the decision. However, some top school are still highly impacted, even limited by catchment areas, so the test administrators were forced to sub-divide both A and B grades into three equally-sized subgrades each: A++, A+, A, B++, B+, B.
  • In Imperial Russia, the public servants, or chinovniks, were divided in the 14 degrees on the Table of Ranks, and the possession of a 'chin awarded personnal nobility to its holder, except for the ranks 8 — or upper, which gave hereditary nobilitynote ; given the advancement was done every three years in average, some low-ranking bureaucrats or soldiers ended with the hereditary nobility comung with the title of State Councilor. This was fixed by Nicholas Ist, who decided personnal nobility would come only with the 8th rank - Collegiate Assessor and Major - and the hereditary one only with the 5th - State Councilor and Kapitan and that, moreover, any promotion beyond the fifth degree would require imperial autorisation.
  • Notation for French public servants is such that any grade below 16/20 denotes a moron holding a grievous level of incompetence.
  • The Michelin Restaurant Star system is like this with a reconstructed Four Point Scale. A restaurant can only get 3 stars, but a restaurant with one star is still a damn fine establishment. This can be viewed as an aversion: the ranking is so prestigious that even zero stars (with restaurant listed in the Michelin catalogue) is a mark of high excellence.
  • Health and beauty products abuse this for marketing purposes, where a grading system simply underscores the desired properties. Hair gels, lacquers and foams never get "medium" or "weak" adhesion grades, even if the manufacturer's "system" has 6 or 7 grades. All of them are strong, super strong, ultra strong etc. Meanwhile, toothbrushes, logically, run from very hard to very soft, but even "hard" ones are virtually impossible to find on a rack.

Alternative Title(s): Grade Inflation, One Two Three Letter, S Rank