I am taking a TOEFL lesson and encountered a lesson in which a student is (almost) complaining he had got B- because he would like to maintain 3.25 GPA average.

To me (outside of US) it sounds very "average and O.K" to me.

But would that grade point be so disappointing for the student to come to a professor's room to consult about this? Or is this just an example for my TOEFL that is not meant to be realistic? Just curious.

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    This totally depends on the student. That said, it is not unrealistic. I have had students complain about an A- because they wanted a perfect gpa. However, this is not a US issue either, and students in every country do this. – user-2147482637 Dec 30 '18 at 17:56
  • Ugh I see. Your comment only compromises my question. Many thanks! – Kentaro Dec 30 '18 at 18:00
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    In the US, the specific number of 3.25 is used as a cutoff for certain scholarships, so for some students it could be quite costly to drop below that line. – Anyon Dec 30 '18 at 18:42
  • @Anyon I would really appreciate your kind assistance too!. – Kentaro Dec 30 '18 at 19:59
  • You might like to read about grade inflation. – Nate Eldredge Dec 30 '18 at 21:18

Given that the US system for undergraduates implies a broad education with a bit of specialization (the major), it is possible to achieve such a GPA in a large number of ways. Students "majoring" in, say, mathematics in the US have less than half of their coursework in maths. The rest will invariably include literature, history, the social and physical sciences, etc.

If you want to do graduate study in mathematics, coming from such a curriculum, it might matter a lot where you got B's and lower. If you do well in "major" courses it is easier to make the case for math than if your lower grades are concentrated in your major.

But, in general, 3.25 isn't horrible, but it isn't great. But graduate schools look at more than a number (any number) when choosing students. They look for indications of success as expressed in the coursework, but also in letters of recommendation and statements by the candidate. Some students, however, are "grade driven" and will do nearly anything to achieve a high GPA, even if they have to sacrifice learning to get there.

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  • Thank you so much for your informative answer! I like this site! – Kentaro Dec 30 '18 at 19:54

The US is a bit different than other countries in this regard. For example, in France, I believe scores in the range of 16-18 out of 20 are considered excellent, and higher scores are very rare. In the US, this is not the case. Obviously the numbers will vary a LOT from school to school, but just to give an idea as to how it works at many large state schools:

  • In difficult science classes like physics, chemistry, etc., about 25% of students will receive an A grade
  • In easier science classes and non-STEM classes, as many as 50% of students might get As
  • Some classes (e.g., seminar) are graded for completion, and the fraction of students with As could be over 90%

Given this, it is not so difficult for strong students to get an average over 3.00. Most students who get into top graduate schools have a 3.8 or 3.9. Students with below a 3.25 may have difficulty finding a graduate school that will take them, and may also lose their scholarships, etc.

On the other hand, as you say, a B- (2.75) is a passing grade. One can graduate from college in good standing, get a degree, and get a job with this grade. So, students who just want to graduate shouldn't be too upset with a B-.

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  • Thanks. The "imaginary" student is taking Philosophy class btw. – Kentaro Dec 30 '18 at 20:03

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