I would like to know if it is good to talk about your outstanding ranking in important courses in your statement of purpose.

For example, is it good to say I took "Quantum physics" in the second year and my rank was 1st out of 100 students? Or to mention a list of courses where my rank was 1st or 2nd among many students in the university?

The reason I am asking is because your transcript does not give the complete story of how well you were doing in your courses. You might get an A, but so did 20 other people.

  • 2
    IMO, ranking doesn't really show anything at all. Ok, you may be top of the class, but we know nothing about the rest of the class. In the UK, I have never been told my ranking compared to the rest of the class, only the grade I have personally obtained.
    – emmalgale
    Sep 22 '14 at 10:17
  • 1
    @emmalgale that is true, but you need to know the relative skill level of the rest of the class, and the difficulty of the course, in order to really understand things (case in point: in one course, I was disappointed with my grade so I asked the lecturer how I placed in the class - which made me happier). But I think this information is superfluous and hard to convey without bragging. If you get an official award for being top in your year group, then that belongs to a bullet point in your resume.
    – Moriarty
    Sep 22 '14 at 11:11
  • Thanks but how can I prove to professors in the graduate school that I am good in my major courses. Doing research is not enough since so many students are doing it.
    – user59419
    Sep 23 '14 at 10:45
  • How would you even know your ranking in those classes?
    – JeffE
    Sep 25 '14 at 4:51
  • 3
    Doing research is not enough since so many students are doing it. — [citation needed] Try doing good research.
    – JeffE
    Sep 25 '14 at 4:51

I'm assuming that you're talking about Ph.D. admissions, rather than masters' admissions, which often play by very different rules from department to department and institution to institution.

Comparing classes across institutions is virtually impossible, to the point where some graduate schools require you to state the textbooks associated with your undergraduate courses in order to evaluate you. A better way to think about how grades relate to Ph.D. admissions is as a negative filter: if you have iffy grades, then you will not be considered. If you have excellent grades, then you will be placed into a large pile of other excellent students, which is then sifted to see who also has interesting potential to do something besides problem sets.

As such, rather than putting down a rank, ask yourself this: are any of the classes you performed excellently in ones where the professor might be willing to write a letter recommending you for insight or creativity or something else beyond mere mechanical brilliance? That will go much farther toward getting you admitted.

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