I am currently an ABD doctoral candidate at my current Ph.D program in Experimental Psychology. Long story short, I got a C+ in a core class during my Master's program (Research Methods) back in Fall 2018 and graduated from it in December 2020 regardless of this grade. I understand the majority of programs would not count this grade (especially for a core class), but my Master's program university had a default policy for programs without a handbook (mine did not have a handbook) where a 3.0 GPA was necessary for good standing and they defaulted to the graduate school policy of being allowed up to 3 C level (C+, C, C-) grades.

Long story short, I contacted the Master's program chair and director about whether my C+ grade counted towards my Master's degree and fulfilled my statistics proficiency requirement (with a "cover story" that an auditor at my current program questioned this grade) and they said it did. Despite this, my current Ph.D program accepted my Master's in full since it was also an Experimental Psychology degree. Since my current program's handbook said someone would not be allowed to graduate with a grade less than a B-, I asked an office manager who audited degrees of those in the department whether my C+ would not allow me to graduate. I was told that my previous grades would not affect anything at all.

Despite all of this, I am concerned about what may happen when the graduate school themselves has to audit my degree before I graduate. They have a default policy to accept up to a certain number of C grades towards a doctoral degree, but I am concerned that they may use the lowest acceptable grade as a B- (specified in the Ph.D program handbook) against me potentially and not allow me to graduate. In case its important, I took my current Ph.D program's equivalent of Research Methods and got an A in it. This was not to replace my C+ grade, but to get the credit since I needed it.

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    Only your current school and program can answer this question. However, it seems very unlikely that your current school, having reviewed your transcripts prior to admitting you, will look beyond your performance in their own program when it is time for your degree audit.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 18:45
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    Didn’t you answer your own question with this: “I was told that my previous grades would not affect anything at all.”?
    – user126108
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 19:45
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    @BobBrown Just heard back from the graduate office. You were correct!
    – zzmondo1
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


I would hope and expect that if such a grade would be a problem with your doctorate that you would have heard of it long before now. I don't think it would have been ethical to even admit you to a doctoral program if a C grade in the masters would be a block.

Go talk to the administration, or maybe just your advisor. But I think the issue is moot.

  • Yes, I'd suspect that the questioner is over-thinking this... but, as Buffy suggests, talking to an official person at your university might be reassuring. Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 21:56
  • Thanks, everyone. I emailed the graduate school email address and asked them to verify. I'm probably overthinking this only because my first advisor in my program did not tell me news that should've come up until it was almost too late.
    – zzmondo1
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 22:34

Grading practices vary greatly from university-to-university. A C at one university cannot necessarily be compared to a C at another university. A third university may not be even using letters for grades.

Consequently, it makes no sense to try apply the passing criteria for courses at your current university to courses taken as part of a program at a different university. It is therefore extremely unlikely that your current university would try to do that. Instead what is relevant for them is is whether: A) you obtained a master's degree (you did) B) that the degree program is of sufficient quality that can consider it equivalent to their own (given that you were admitted to the PhD, they apparently did.). What actual grades you got during your Master's degree, is almost certainly completely irrelevant at this stage.

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