So I had my defense recently, and I successfully passed it, so congratulations to me!

I have some questions regarding the grading though, I received a 1.0 in both my thesis and my presentation, which I was told was the 'highest distinction' and that is the best I could get (or so I thought).

But I was also told that I'd be receiving a magna cum laude, and I thought this was the second highest honors, after summa cum laude.

So what am I missing here? Do some universities never provide anyone with summa cum laude? Or what grade do you need to receive this honor?

  • 4
    What do the examination regulations of your faculty have to say on the matter?
    – Maeher
    Sep 29 at 17:38
  • 1
    Then clearly the examiners were mistaken. You could ask them.
    – Maeher
    Sep 29 at 17:55
  • 6
    @GEdgar Indeed, you don't. Traditionally, in Germany PhDs are graded on a scale from 1 (best) to 4 (worst), named "summa cum laude", "magna cum laude", "cum laude", and "rite".
    – user151413
    Sep 29 at 21:42
  • 1
    The "0.7" grading only works in places which have that grade (which is a "raised" 1, just as 1.7 is a raised 2). Some place do this, some don't and the best grade for the latter is 1.0. The exam regulations suggest, however, that 0.7 exists in your place. (Most likely, however, "summa" is =0.7, and >0.7 is "magna" -- i.e., you need the best grade in all sub-categories to get a "summa", which makes sense.)
    – user151413
    Sep 29 at 21:44
  • 5
    At my Alma Mater, the mentor had to announce that he had summa candidate to the comittee in advance, and then the thesis needed an en additional referee, and the examination took not 1h but 1.5h. This special distinction was not supposed for everybody who's just very good, but for the rare exceptional genius. ~One in ten years for every prof.
    – Karl
    Sep 30 at 10:58

1 Answer 1


Ph.D. regulations in Germany differ widely between different universities, and examiners do not always read them in detail (which is not surprising). In principle, it should be your supervisor's job to gently acquaint them with what is possible and what not - but then again, Ph.D. supervisors also do not always read the Promotionsordnung in depth.

I would ideally first read your university's Promotionsordnung in depth, then talk to the supervisor - and do this quickly, because the longer you wait, the harder it will be to change the grade.

And: congratulations!

  • 2
    Fully agree with the "it's the supervisor's job". The point that the supervisor does not know about this, however, only applies (hopefully!) for a supervisor who is new to the place -- after a while, they should know.
    – user151413
    Sep 29 at 21:45
  • 1
    If I understand this answer correctly, you are suggesting that there are grades (like "0.7", based on the comment thread on the question) that are possible in some places whereas in others the best grade is "1", so the examiners could have intended to give the highest possible grade available to them and marked a "1", not realizing that "0.7" was an available option. If the examiners have said "We've given you the highest possible grade, a 1", yet the Promotionsordnung states that the highest possible grade is a 0.7, then OP should talk to their supervisor because there may be an error.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 29 at 21:58
  • @BryanKrause I can definitely confirm that the first part of your comment is the case -- there are definitely places in Germany with either standard for the best grade (1.0 or 0.7).
    – user151413
    Sep 29 at 22:01
  • 1
    @BryanKrause: yes, that is precisely what I am saying. German universities have a lot of leeway in how they set up their Promotionsordnungen. AFAIK, they need to be approved by the state ministry, but that's it - and such differences in possible grades definitely do occur. Sep 30 at 6:04
  • Not universities have Promotionsordnungen. Every Fakultät has its own. And the final grade is agreed on and voted for in the Promotionsausschuss, and they know what they're doing, or they'd have a lawsuit on them five times a year.
    – Karl
    Sep 30 at 11:06

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