I'm planning to apply this year to several Ph.D. programs at different universities in Canada. The school where I finished my master's degree (outside Canada) uses a percentage grading system where a GPA of 94% is supposedly equivalent to a Canadian GPA of 3.60. This is indicated on the last page of my transcript. However, when I checked several reliable online resources on how to convert a foreign GPA to a Canadian GPA, I learned that the Canadian GPA of 3.60 is equivalent only to around 90%, not 94%. Thus, if I follow my former school's grade conversion scale, my GPA will look lower than if I follow the grade conversion scale that I found online. My question is: do Canadian universities defer to the grade conversion scale of a foreign university where the Ph.D. applicant graduated from or do they follow their own grade conversion scale? Thanks in advance for you reply!

  • 1
    Going to depend on the school you come from and the school you are applying to. You should web-search the contact info of the school you are applying to and ask. Plus, PhD progs are going to look at things other than grades. Letter of rec is going to be a big deal. If you have some kind of funding it will also be a big deal.
    – Dan
    Jan 31, 2022 at 19:03

3 Answers 3


You can expect individual universities to give you guidance on what information to provide and what conversions to use. If it's not clear, you can contact them for guidance.

I took a couple minutes searching "(name of university) grade equivalent" and immediately found:




for the first two schools I looked at.

Grades aren't everything, and much of the advice given for the US at How are Ph.D. applications evaluated in the US, particularly for weak or borderline students? Am I likely to get into school X? will apply similarly for Canada. Like in the US, admissions are typically done at the department level, so you may need to address your questions to the specific program you apply to rather than a general graduate admissions department. A brief email like this would suffice:

Dear (graduate program),

I'm interested in applying for a (degree) in (program/department). My undergraduate education was at (institution) in (country), where grades are (given on a scale of XX to YY/given as class ranks/however your country/institution does it).

(explain in a sentence what you already understand about grade conversions from reading information provided by the university online)

(ask a specific question about whether they would like you to convert grades and how they'd like you to do this, if it isn't clear).


I can’t see how 90% or 94% will make much of a difference. The availability of funding, academic trends on the transcript, and LoR will have a much greater impact than a 4% lost in translation.

To answer your question directly: Canadian universities do NOT defer to grades awarded in other countries. There is a country-specific scaling factor based on historical data and some other factors (that I don’t know too well) and as far as I know this scaling factor is agreed upon by all universities (at least within one province).


Graduate admissions are done by a committee of professors, not bureaucrats. The professors will look at the overall records of applicants and make a [i]subjective[/i] decision about who is admitted. It's quite likely that at least one of the professors on the committee will be familiar with grading norms in your home country or even your specific university and evaluate your transcript directly without converting your grades to a "Canadian" scale. In any case, the small difference this will make in your GPA will have no impact on your application.

  • "Quite likely" seems like a a bit of an overstatement considering we don't know the country or the size or makeup of the admissions committee. In my own department (which is highly ranked) I would rate the chances of anyone on the committee being familiar with a given country as low. Perhaps mathematicians have more familiarity with worldwide grading systems? Feb 1, 2022 at 0:32
  • @AzorAhai-him- of course it depends on the country, but my department of 20 can cover 10 countries and we could easily get information on another 15 through either close collaborators or other folks on campus. That will easily cover most applicants (even if it doesn't cover most countries). Feb 1, 2022 at 2:11
  • It is more likely that professors are NOT familiar with grading systems of other countries, but that some office has a known algorithm (based in historical or other data) for converting to an approximate university equivalent. Feb 1, 2022 at 6:42
  • @ZeroTheHero: In my experience, this is absolutely not the case. This is because professors are frequently people who have immigrated from another country and know other systems from personal experience, while the bureaucrats are frequently people who have never even lived in another town and can't even conceive of the idea that other people might do things differently. Feb 1, 2022 at 9:38

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