SBC Scoop: What Does My International GPA Mean?

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Our client Naveen was worried about one particular aspect of his application. He attended the Delhi College of Engineering at University of Delhi and was awarded marks of distinction in almost every one of his classes. However, due to the difficulty level of the classes at his college in particular, those marks were the result of percentage scores usually in the 70s. In fact, Naveen’s top score, in Electronics and Communication Engineering, was a 78, typically an extremely high score in the history of the class.

What worried Naveen was that he was applying to MBA programs in the United States, with Stanford GSB as his top choice. He wanted to work in technology management and felt it would be a great fit for him. However, he was anxious that as an American school with grades on the 4.0 GPA scale and with plenty of applicants from American undergraduate programs, his academic record would stick out. This worry was substantiated when he first translated his overall percentage of a 73, and was shocked to see the equivalent of a US C- average.

Naveen’s consultant assured him that in fact his academic record would stick out- in a positive way because he was highly ranked at a very well regarded undergraduate institution in India. First, they discussed how to present his record in his application. While the descriptions such as “First Class” and “Distinction” are often used, and probably well understood by admissions committees, they decided it was better to provide the most exact data and used Naveen’s percentage scores in the GPA field of the application.

Next, they took a look at some grade conversion calculators and comparison charts available online. For Indian schools in particular, because of the number of universities and variations in course difficulty, there was some disagreement on where exactly to begin and end each conversion- for some transcripts a 75% would be the equivalent of an American A-plus, and at other, more difficult programs, a percentage as low as 60 would translate to an A grade. Overall, a straight translation like the one Naveen tried at first was simply the wrong approach, failing to take into account the different scales at the university level in the two countries.

Finally, they agreed that a program like Engineering at University of Delhi would be well-known to the admissions committee, and that there would be no need to attach any special explanation to his marks. They would likely know that he attended a difficult program and scored high marks, and that a typical student- the equivalent of “B” or 3.5 student in the U.S.- would receive marks in the 50 to 60 range. Naveen wanted to make sure he described his degree as “First Class with Distinction,” and as long as his actual scores without any translation appeared, his consultant agreed. Naveen is now in his first year at Stanford GSB and realizing it was the perfect fit for him.

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2 Responses to SBC Scoop: What Does My International GPA Mean?

  1. Sanket says:

    Hi,

    Really thanks for the post. I am really relieved, believe me!!

    Although I have First Class With Distinction from University, it only translates to 68% in Indian Education system and I was really worried how the Admission committee would perceive the same.

    Thanks and keep posting these insightful scoops!

  2. This is a really helpful post, thank you. I teach many international students on the GMAT and have not known exactly how to address this issue. I will be sure to recommend them to you in the future. Thanks again!

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