I graduated and got an M.Sc. degree from a German university. I got a grade of 1.0 after my master-thesis defense. In this case, can I use "summa cum laude" on my CV?

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    I wouldn't say anything which was not explicitly given without at least putting "equivalent to .... in x system" first. – la femme cosmique Jul 21 '18 at 11:30
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    It is probably different for each university, but at the TU Munich we have the following system: 1.0-1.2 "passed with high distinction", 1.3-1.5 "passed with distinction", 1.6-2.5 "passed with merit", 2.6-3.5 "satisfactorily passed", 3.6-4.0 "passed". – Fritz Jul 21 '18 at 14:00
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    I'm not sure about M.Sc., but for a Dr. (PhD) from a German university, 1.0 would typically be "magna cum laude", whereas "summa cum laude" would translate to "1.0 with distinction", a thing that doesn't exist for a Masters degree AFAIK... – Sabine Jul 22 '18 at 16:27
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    @Sabine Interesting, where is that? I was not aware of numeric grades being given for a doctoral thesis at German universities. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 23 '18 at 10:28
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    @KonradRudolph Math in Heidelberg has numerical grades for Promotionen. But in general, there is no "German system" - there are as many systems as there are Promotionsordnungen in Germany (should be thousands....). – Dirk Jul 28 '18 at 9:28

I would think that would be a dangerous move. List what you have the way it was formally granted. If you think it necessary provide a reference to an official definition so that those who don't understand its significance can learn to do so.

But it isn't really the same thing. Summa Cum Laude is usually (often at least) in the US based on grades for coursework.

If you are suspected of trying to mislead, it will be bad for you. Tell it like it is.

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    "If you think it necessary" - It probably is necessary, if the OP is creating a resume for a U.S. audience (which it kind of sounds like is the case). The German system is basically the opposite of the US system (low numbers are good, high are bad), so without an explanation a casual U.S. reader might easily (albeit wrongly) conclude "wow, you just barely scraped by there; that's the worst possible result short of a fail". – aroth Jul 23 '18 at 7:47
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    @aroth the correct comment is "1.0 (highest possible grade)" or "1.0 (on 1.0-5.0, 1.0 being best", if one wants to put it in light for US audience, not creating certificates that don't exist. cum laude etc. have very specific meanings in the German environment. In any case, US audiences know about German grading scheme, no comment should be warranted to begin with. – FooBar Jul 23 '18 at 11:08
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    @FooBar - "US audiences know about German grading scheme" - I wouldn't rely on that if it was my resume going to a U.S. audience. Source: I've screened my share of resumes, and had no idea what the German system was until I saw this question. I wouldn't gamble a possible job on the assumption that other U.S. interviewers do possess that knowledge. – aroth Jul 23 '18 at 12:31
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    @aroth, I agree. Some will know but not all, maybe not even many outside the admissions people themselves. Best to provide the background to be safe. – Buffy Jul 23 '18 at 12:46

No. (Unless your Prüfungsordnung says that so explicitly.)

The longer answer: The grading scheme in a German Masters Program is usually handled by the Prüfungsordnungen (could be more than one - an general one and a specific one...). Of course, there is a scheme that is used by most universities in Germany (1 - very good, 2 - good ... and so on) but actually, every Prüfungsordnung handles this issue. It may be that your Prüfungsordnung has a paragraph where it says that there a "mit Auszeichnung" (which should be translated as "with distinction") but if there is no such thing, than you should not list anything. The term "summa cum laude" is, as far as I know, only used for the doctoral thesis in Germany. Where I am, the Masterurkunde comes with a Diploma Supplement in English which explains the grading system (and, for that matter, also the German system of education), so if you have a similar thing, you could also look there for a proper translation of your grade.


When I applied to jobs outside of Germany, I listed all grades as given and included a footnote explaining the German grading system:

Grades in Germany are usually awarded on a scale from 1 (best) to 6 (worst).

with a link to the Wikipedia article Academic Grading in Germany. Any implicit conversion could be considered dishonest or would at least be confusing to those familiar with the respective grading system.

A particular problem with listing summa cum laude or similar is this: Some degrees in Germany can be awarded with an additional honours attribute. For example, for one of my degrees, when you got a grade of 1.0 for all modules (coursework and thesis), your thesis would be graded by an external examiner. If this examiner also awarded a grade of 1.0, your degree was equipped with the attribute mit Auszeichnung (with honours). Otherwise, it would usually still be a 1.0. Thus stating your degree as summa cum laude or similar could be understood that you got this kind of a degree – even if your department does not have the corresponding process.

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    Actually, then, summa cum laude probably means less than the German "equivalent". Most US universities have a scale from 0.0 to 4.0, with 4.0 the highest. Summa Cum Laude is often awarded on the diploma for an average grade of, say, 3.7 (varies). It doesn't usually require a "perfect 4.0". – Buffy Jul 21 '18 at 12:27
  • @Buffy: Note that the example I gave is only an example. Other programmes may have different rules. Also, in that example case, the honours attribute was not called summa cum laude. – Wrzlprmft Jul 21 '18 at 15:15
  • @Buffy at my University in Germany you had to get 1.3 average in the modules and 1.0 in the thesis for “mit Auszeichnung“ – DonQuiKong Jul 21 '18 at 15:22
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    Taking the latin, "cum laude" means "with distinction", "magna cum laude" = "with high distinction", "summa cum laude" is stronger than "maxima cum laude" and means "with utmost distinction". Do you think "with utmost distinction" would be honest? – gnasher729 Jul 21 '18 at 16:10
  • Do they give 6’s at the Hochschule level anywhere in Germany? – aeismail Jul 23 '18 at 11:59

No. Schools award honors. One does not give honors to oneself. If the school has not informed you of honors, you can't claim them. You can include your good score on your CV if you want.


If you did not receive mit Auszeichnung recognition for your thesis and general coursework then there is absolutely no validity to a claim of summa cum laude. A 1,0 grade is necessary but not sufficient.

Moreover, you’d need to have some guidance from the university about how the degree can be described. Most likely, the regulations will say that if you did receive such recognition, you would declare it in English as being “with honors,” which is a legitimate translation.

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    Perhaps they would even permit "with high honors" or "highest honors". But a translation to the Latin will be misleading. I'm reminded that while traveling north through Germany, a German colleague informed me we were now passing out of the Roman Empire. – Buffy Jul 22 '18 at 16:11
  • IIRC my 1.0 "mit Auszeichnung" Diplom was translated in the supplement as "with distinction" (TU Dresden, as @Marvin says, this may vary between universities and possibly also with faculty as it is usually the faculty who decide the Prüfungsordnung). – cbeleites Jul 22 '18 at 18:29

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