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I am a senior undergraduate student in computer engineering considering applying for Ph.D in the US. In my country we use a grading system based on percentages rather than GPA and it works as follows:

  • 85-100% ---> Distinction
  • 75-85% ---> Very Good
  • 65-75% ---> Good
  • 50-65% ---> Pass

My cumulative grade will probably be about 77% which lands me in the top third of my class. My question is how will graduate admissions committees view and evaluate my academic performance given the differences in the grading systems?

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  • @Clément I know about the correspondence but as MJeffryes said my point here is that they aren't comparable. I am in one of the top 3 universities in my country and I don't think getting a C+ will land you in the top third of your class in an elite US university. – user87513 Feb 21 '18 at 14:47
  • @I.Elrougy Yes, sorry, I shouldn't post before being completely waken up. I'll remove my (obviously missing the point, indeed) comment. – Clément Feb 21 '18 at 15:26
  • Poking at this site, an Egyptian 77% seems to map to anything from a 3 to 3.3 GPA, depending on which of the three scales you pick. Usual caveats apply, of course... – Andrew Feb 21 '18 at 15:27
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    I'd rather know that you're in the top 1/3 of your class then that you had a 77% average. However, being in the top 1/3 of your class isn't much of a qualification for graduate school. – Brian Borchers Feb 21 '18 at 15:58
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    Brian, GPA or rank is not the only important thing in many graduate school applications. I got really good offers with a 6.42/10 (below average in my program) because I had good recommendation letters, research experience, and publications. Now I am doing well in the PhD program. – Anna SdTC Feb 22 '18 at 0:46
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A general answer, not just for countries but even for schools in the US we're not familiar with, is that we don't know how to evaluate transcripts/grades. Different places apply different standards, both within their curriculum, and for assigning grades. A 77% on its own could be brilliant or horrible (and we mainly just care about grades in relevant classes). One thing we'll sometimes do is check with other members of our department who might be familiar with the country/school's grading system and standards.

In any case, the main indicator we use for how talented and well prepared the student is are the letters of recommendation. As long as you're getting letters from some professors who are known abroad for their research and/or are familiar with the system in the US, you should get helpful letters.

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When I was applying for graduate programs in the US, I reported my local GPA (in a 10-point scale) and, for some schools, I had to translate it into the American-type GPA. I checked some education forums on how to do that. Most importantly, I asked my undergrad/master's school for statistics on the average GPA, the average time of graduation (50% of those who graduate do so in more than the expected 5 years) and the attrition rate (quite high, too). You may want to have this information available in case you are asked about it.

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