Due to some really harsh personal conditions, I had a GPA of 2.1 in my 6th Semester, now overall my CGPA is 3.3. I have a pretty good research experience. 2 Decent LORs, one from a highly esteemed professor, 330 in GRE, an international publication, couple national, an international intern. That semester had some major courses relating to what I am applying in MS(got C's in them). Should I mention why I failed to perform in that particular semester in my SOP? If then how much emphasis should I put on it?

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Several points. First of all - yes. You should definitely mention it. If there is a separate personal statement than that is the place. Often the first cutoff is mostly based on GPA and GRE. So mention it early, be concise, avoid any temptation of trying to gain sympathy (many have some difficulties along the way), and explain how you overcame that personal hardship.

It is what it is and you cannot change it. So chin up and forward march. Try to polish whatever you can polish. I you have a publication in a decent venue and good LOR's, it might cover for GPA issues any way. If your LORs are 'decent' and that is not modesty, I might start from there.

Good luck!

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