Grade vs Quality

Grade and quality are two of the most commonly used terms in project management. Not just in this field either; you will use these terms on a daily basis. For example, people frequently say that this is a low-grade product, this is a high-grade product, this is a low-quality product, or this is a high-quality product.

What does that actually mean?

Does “low-grade” mean bad or undesirable and “high-grade” always mean good?

To put it simply, no. Low-grade and high-grade are not necessarily right or wrong, and that is what we are going to discuss in this blog post.

Grade vs quality is a fascinating concept; however, even professionals don’t understand their differences and mistakenly use them synonymously. They are not difficult terms to understand, we simply need to pay them a bit more attention.

So, let’s discuss grade and quality in detail.


Quality is a measure of conformance to requirements and fitness for use. Customers and products themselves both have requirements.

ISO 9000 defines quality as “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill the requirements.”

The project manager and project management team are both responsible for the product and project’s quality


The PMBOK Guide, 6th edition, defines the word grade as “a category assigned to deliverables having the same functional use but different technical characteristics.”

Put more simply, the grade is a category assigned to the product based on its technical configuration. This means different configurations are kept in different grades.

Quality Versus Grade

There is a big difference between quality and grade. A product can be high-grade (high-end) or low-grade (low-end). A low-grade product is perfectly acceptable, as long as it fulfills requirements.

On the other hand, a low-quality product is always a problem and never acceptable. Every item produced must be of high quality regardless of its grade; no one wants a low-quality product.

A Real-World Example of Grade vs Quality

Let’s say you buy a basic model (low-grade) cell phone. It doesn’t have any advanced features, but it works well. It never gives you any trouble, always works flawlessly, and it is defect free—no problem at all.

So, you can say that this is a high-quality product. Although it is a low-grade, it keeps you happy and satisfied.

Now, suppose you buy another, costly, premium model (high-grade) cell phone. This phone has all the advanced features: touch screen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, camera, voice, and face recognition.

But how would you feel if the product did not perform well?

  • The touch screen freezes while you are using the phone.
  • The camera does not give you good, stable pictures.
  • The voice system does not recognize you most of the time.

This is frustrating because you spent a lot of money on a high-grade product that does not perform well. Despite the price, it is of low quality and that is not acceptable.

A low-grade product is never a problem because when you buy a low-grade product, you know what you are paying for and you can expect it to perform according to its category and the price you paid. You never buy a low-grade product and expect it to perform like a high-grade one. For example, if you buy a cell phone with no camera feature, you will not expect it to take a photo.

However, a low-quality product is always a problem because it does not fulfill your expectations, which leaves you unsatisfied.

Please keep the following points in mind:

  • Quality is about keeping your promise that the product will perform a specific behavior, and grade is the category of the product.
  • Low-grade is not a problem and is acceptable, while low-quality is always a problem and never acceptable.
  • Low-quality does not equal low-grade, and high-quality does not mean high-grade.
  • A product or service, regardless of its grade, must be of high quality.

Significance of Grade and Quality

Grade and quality have a direct impact on the project, the deliverable, and the product life cycle.

The grade is about product scope. A high-grade product has more features, so the product will be more costly and drive up the price of the project.

Therefore, if there is a need to reduce the budget of the project, you might consider removing some of the product’s features.

Quality also affects the product life cycle cost. If the product is high-quality, although the initial cost may be higher, the overall product life cycle will be less expensive, as there will be less need for reworks and after sale support.


Quality and grade are different concepts. If you are satisfied with a product, you would say it is a high-quality product, otherwise, you will say it is a low-quality product.

A grade is a categorization of the product based on its characteristics. A low-grade product will have a few features, and a high-grade product will have more. The quality of all products must be stated, regardless of the grade; otherwise, the manufacturer will face problems selling, and the cost of after sales support will be higher. A good-quality product may initially take time and money but it gives enormous benefits, such as reduced after sale support and increased brand recognition.

Here is where this grade vs quality post comes to an end. I hope that now you have a clear understanding of grade and quality. If you have anything to share or any questions, you can do so in the comments section below.

This topic is important from a PMP certification exam point of view. You may see it on your PMP test.