I am a PhD student in Germany. I had a question regarding the summa cum laude mark for my thesis.

To open the examination procedure, I asked three reviewers to read my thesis (my main supervisor and two external reviewers). Now it seems my reviewers evaluated my thesis and they sent their mark to the university. I received a letter form the PhD committee that now the chair of my oral examination will fix a date. Together with this letter, I have received another letter from one of the reviewers. The reviewer asked for some changes in the introduction part of the thesis.

My question is: If the reviewer requests for changes, does it mean that he did not give the best mark? I know that all three reviewers of the thesis, beside four members of the examination committee, should gave me the same (best) grade to receive the summa cum laude mention.

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    "The reviewer asked for some changes in the introduction part of the thesis." This is standard (although in my experience usually done after the oral examination). Usually, the changes are mostly stylistic or cosmetic. You shouldn't infer anything regarding your grade from them. You'll have to wait for your examination before you'll know the grade. (You could ask your advisor informally, if you are really anxious to know.) – Roland Oct 18 '18 at 11:49
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    Huh, I didn't know that one could get grades for a PhD beyond "You have a PhD". Clearly one can in Germany. I learn something new every time I visit this site :) – Flyto Oct 18 '18 at 12:12
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    @Flyto: Some universities give special awards for exceptional dissertations, but I too have not heard of the kind of "dissertation distinction" that Kathe asked about. – Dave L Renfro Oct 18 '18 at 13:01
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    @Flyto I have seen several universities giving a mention to PhD degrees: cum laude (funding ran out), magna cum laude (good job, most people get this) and summa cum laude (f**kin A) – Cape Code Oct 18 '18 at 13:27
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    There is really no way to answer this. It is what it is. The person asking will make the judgement and we can't read minds here. Relax. – Buffy Oct 18 '18 at 14:16

I can only speak about the German system, but here it is mostly standard that some relatively minor changes (often stylistic) are requested. Usually, that is done after the oral examination / defense and has absolutely no impact on the grade.

If the reviewer requests for changes, does it mean that he did not give the best mark?

You cannot infer anything regarding your final grade from this. You should concentrate on your oral examination since that is more likely to impact your grade (if you botch it). If you are really anxious about the requested changes, ask your advisor informally if the requested changes indicate a lower grade. Your advisor will probably be able to alleviate your concerns easily.

Keep in mind that summa cum laude is a big achievement but ultimately it doesn't matter much for your future career. Your network and your publications are much more important and nobody can take them from you.

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  • As a thesis reviewer, one feels a need to find something, anything, to comment on. If the comment is truly superficial, well, that’s all they could find. – Jon Custer Oct 18 '18 at 21:02

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