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April 30, 2007 6:05 AM   Subscribe

How do I convert my German university grades to an American GPA?

In Germany, the scores range from 1.0 (Maximum) to 6.0 (Minimum), with failure being everything between 5.0 and 6.0. A sample of how the score spectrum is, for an exam that has a MAXIMUM of 73 points:

73 - 70 = 1.0
69.5 – 67 = 1.3
66.5 – 64 = 1.7
63.5 – 60 = 2.0
59.5 – 56 = 2.3
55.5 – 52 = 2.7
51.5 – 48 = 3.0
47.5 – 44 = 3.3
43.5 – 40 = 3.7
39.5 – 35 = 4.0
< 35 = 5.0

I have done 23 Subjects over 4 Semesters. If I add all the scores together and divide by 23, I end up with a score of 1.9. What GPA average would this be in America? What is the *perception* of this GPA? Is it average or is it below average?

If you take into account a difference in the percentages at which you go from score to score, does this change the GPA? What I mean is - to get the highest possible score in Germany, you need to be above 97% or so - in America, do you need the full 100%? To get a perfect GPA, do you need to maintain a constant 100% all the time, or is some fluctuation allowed?
posted by markovich to Education (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wikipedia has some insight on converting a German GPA to an American one:
In converting German grades to the A-F scale, a 1 = A, ... 4 = D scale is often used (with 5 and 6 both converted to Fs) but this conversion is nearly never accurate, since, for example, a grade of 3 is usually more difficult to obtain in Germany than a B+ in the United States. In the U.S., students usually get an A if their score is greater than 90%. In Germany, students scoring more than 90% usually are in the 3 range. (The average grade in Germany is normally supposed to be around or a bit above 3, whereas in the U.S. average grades are often supposed to be between 91% and 89%.)

It also has a good overview of the American GPA system, which is generally not based on percentages in the same way the German one is.

Know that any U.S. school you apply to will calculate an American GPA for you according to their preferences. U.S. schools even recalculate the GPAs of U.S. students, since there's a lot of variation in GPA systems from school to school.
posted by chickletworks at 6:30 AM on April 30, 2007

GPA is done by assigning each letter A-D a number, 4-1. To have a perfect 4.0, you must have all As, but an A is usually 90-100 percent. (In my high school it was 93-100.) Then, if you do honors subjects, sometimes you get an extra point, with A-D being worth 5-1. So I would convert your numbers around, with 1 equaling 4, and then you can see.
posted by dame at 6:31 AM on April 30, 2007

Different classes will have different grading criteria. Some may grade on a curve, some on a simple ratio of earned score : possible score. Although administrators will deny it, some even grade based on a quota, e.g, a department dean will instruct professors for a class "you're allowed to give out 3 As and 10 Bs, and you need to fail 20."

Different universities will use different scales—some universities use a 5-point scale (5.0 is perfect), but I think most use a 4-point scale.

While I think most universities allow for +/- scores in individual classes (eg B-, C+, which would convert to about 2.7 and 2.3 on a 4-point scale), the one I attended did not allow for these, so you always had even ".0" grades in each class.

Anyhow. If you've got a 1.0 – 6.0 system, that is just the inverse of an American 5-point scale, slid over by one.

U.S score = (6 - German score)
In your case, 4.1

To squeeze this into a 4-point system, you'd do this:

U.S. score = (5 - (0.8*German score))
In your case, 3.48

Either way, that's a strong GPA.
posted by adamrice at 6:44 AM on April 30, 2007

U.S. score = (5 - (0.8*German score))

But then a German 1 becomes a 4.20 GPA, does that even exist?

Since both systems have the same number of passing grades, just inverting the German grade (1=4, 2=3 etc.) should be okay.
posted by snownoid at 7:07 AM on April 30, 2007

snownoid: good point. Disregard my math. I'm pretty sure I had a good idea lurking around there, but it failed to escape.
posted by adamrice at 7:41 AM on April 30, 2007

I think what adamrice was going for was:

US score = 0.8*(6-German score) = 4.8-(0.8*German score)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:30 AM on April 30, 2007

erm ... difficult ... generally because (gonna get a lot of flack here) european university courses are more complex/difficult and are marked harder. Your 1st year chemistry course (for example) was probably the subject matter equivalent of a 3rd year US chemistry course ... and the average mark (out of 100) in your class was probably 70% whereas in the US class it was 89%.

Having worked in university admissions in Europe and studied with US students on exchange in europe the US standard is VERRRRRYYYYYY low in comparison
posted by jannw at 12:11 PM on May 1, 2007

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