Table of Contents:
  1. What is the German Grading System and why is it important?
  2. How can you convert your Grade Point Average (GPA) or score?
  3. Is it mandatory? What if you are a few courses short of the eligibility criteria?
  4. How different it is from the ECTS grading system?
  5. How important is it to have a decent score?

1. What is the German Grading System and why is it important?

The German (or popularly known as the TUM) Grading system is a bit different from the usual grading system that we are accustomed to. It scales your score from a range of 1 to 5 (or 6 in case you are applying to a school instead of a university). In contrast with the conventional notion of - "The higher, the better", a score of 1 is considered to be an optimal score for a German University. When applying for a higher degree, it is mandatory to submit your previous academic records and that is a primary reason why this conversion is important. If you are an international student, then some of the elite German universities would probably ask for it.

2. How can you convert your Grade Point Average (GPA) or score?

The conversion table below follows a modified Bavarian Formula. For a quick comparison, have a look at the table below:

Percentage to German grade conversion:
Percentage German Grade Remarks
90-100% 1.0-1.5 Very Good (Ideal score: indicator of an outstanding achievement)
80-90% 1.6-2.5 Good (Above average score: your qualification is substantially above the requirements of the program)
65-80% 2.6-3.5 Satisfactory (Average Score: You meet all the requirements)
50-65% 3.6-4.0 Sufficient (You barely meet all the requirements)
0-50% 5.0 Insufficient (You do not meet the requirements)

Letter grades to German grade conversion:
Letter Grade German Grade
A+ 1.0
A 2.0
B 3.0
C 4.0
D 5.0
E 6.0
In this case, A+ is certainly the best possible score and E signifies failure, D is thus the lowest passing grade. For a customized conversion, there are quite a few online tools which could help you find an approximate score.

3. Is it mandatory? What if you are a few courses short of the eligibility criteria?

While most of the universities do follow this method, it is always better to go through your university's guidelines/FAQs carefully. One could even consider dropping an email to the administration, in case of doubt. The administration usually responds well in time to the prospective students so that you won't miss your deadline. Some universities also ask you to upload the curriculum and the grading scheme (Relative or Absolute, Percentage or GPA, etc.) followed by your home university. If your program had a challenging curriculum and you actually had a tough time getting a good score, it is always better to mention it in your Statement of Purpose (SOP).

Another concern during the whole process could be the fear of rejection due to the insufficient number of courses taken. It is important to have core courses in your transcript while applying. If you have not graduated yet and still pursuing some courses which meet their requirements, then the university could cut you some slack. However, it is imperative that the university knows about your ongoing courses and when will you be graduating. If you have graduated and are still a few courses short, make sure you have done some online courses in the same field and have relevant skills that your program demands. You could then, drop an email regarding this query and see if they could consider your candidature.

4. How different is it from the ECTS grading system?

The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) has been designed for a smooth transfer of credits among different universities across the European Union (EU). The question now arises is that why international students are asked to convert their credits to ECTS during the time of the application. Well, the same system is often used as an eligibility criterion to make sure your curriculum comply with their educational standards. ECTS is not followed to replace the need for a German Grading system, rather it provides a further assessment for comparison. ECTS conversion often depends on the university, unlike the German grading system which uses the Modern Bavarian Formula. Several universities take into account the number of hours spent (i.e. the number of lectures held) while studying the course. It is therefore advised to consult the university's eligibility criteria as they often mention country-specific conversion scheme on their webpage.

5. How important is it to have a decent score?

While an impressive score could enhance your chances of getting selected, don't be disheartened if you do not have one. A strong Statement of Purpose (SOP) along with some relevant Research or Work Experience can compensate for an average grade. Make sure you tick the majority of boxes of the additional skills required by the program and that your application conveys it explicitly. European universities, in general, give a lot of importance to your research profile, when applying for a higher degree. If you have some publications under your name, you would automatically have an edge over your peers. Along with your testimonials, at least two letters of recommendation are also required at the time of the application, so remember that your transcripts are just one part of your profile. While it is important, it is not everything. Your complete profile is a deciding factor when the committee reviews your application.

6. Conclusion

It is fair to say that the aforementioned system is comparatively stringent and like most of the people, you want to put your best foot out there. Getting into an esteemed university can be challenging and stressful. Your mind would probably be filled up with a lot of "what-ifs" while reading this article and therefore, an additional tip: Do not submit your GPA according to the German Grading Scale unless specifically asked. A cumulative GPA of 8.0 in India could be a pretty impressive score given the educational standards. However, upon conversion, the very same score could result in a 2.0, which seems pretty normal, right? It could undermine your potential. Therefore, double-check if the university is asking for the conversion or just the ECTS credits.

Make sure to plan your application well ahead in time and avoid procrastination in the times of Covid-19 when we are all locked up and have nowhere to go. Good luck!

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