Coming from a different schooling/grading system, I have very little feeling about what actually is considered a good grade for studies in Germany.

Here the passing grades are given in the range of 1.0 to 4.0 and there are non-passing (failing) grades, which basically tell how hard you failed. Needless to say, 1.0 is the best possible and tells that the student performed perfectly, but what about the other grades. What does 2.0 mean? It is translated as "good" but is that average actually. How does the teacher/professor "see" that grade.

Moreover, what is the typical GPA average which gives a student a chance to be considered for a Phd position? Of course, the higher the better, but what gpa (in the german grading system) would be considered OK-ish for a phd application?

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    Just a note here that this scale is inverted from the typical US 4-point scale where 4 is high and 1 is low.
    – Bill Barth
    Jul 10, 2014 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


Given that "grade inflation" is often much less rampant in Germany than in other nations (it is not unusual, for instance, for the majority of students to fail an exam in a core subject), the standards inside of Germany tend not to be as stringent as in other places I've seen. For instance, anything better than 2.0 (on a 5.0 scale, not a 4.0 scale!) would generally be considered "competitive."

Obviously, there are limitations—if you get a 2.0 because you've gotten 1.0's in the general courses and 3.0 in the courses in your subdiscipline, you're not likely going to be an attractive candidate to an outside group.

However, I think much more important than the exact GPA is the quality of the master's thesis. If you have a very strong master's thesis, you will likely get some interest from the group in which you did the thesis work to continue on for a PhD, if there is an open position available. A weak grade on the thesis (anything below a 1.3) usually is a sign of substandard performance, which is likely to result in not being considered for a position, even if your GPA is a 1.1 or 1.2 (it's unlikely to be a 1.0 under such circumstances).

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    basically the weight of the credit points attached to the Master thesis tells enough how important it is. thanks for pointing that out.... could you elaborate a little bit on "grade inflation" what do you refer to using it? Jul 10, 2014 at 17:10
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    Grade inflation refers to the tendency of grades to move toward "better" values over time in part to make one's graduates look better on paper. Thus, performance that would have merited a 2.0 over time becomes a 1.7, and then a 1.3, and so on.
    – aeismail
    Jul 10, 2014 at 17:14

I am doing a PhD in a graduate school funded by the German Research Foundation and I was graded 2.0 in my master's thesis (mainly because it was written in English and my grammer was not 100% perfect). What I am trying to say, is, that beyond just the grade of your master's, it can be important to have some kind of experience in the respetive field of your desired PhD. In my case, I was holding several positions as a student assistant in my former university. Also first publication experience might come handy (even though I would not like to support this ongoing trend). It would likely not help you, to score very high on your GPA but having no (work/research) experience beyond studying.

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    thanks for the answer, its nice to hear from fellow peers what they experience through the process Jul 10, 2014 at 17:08

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