I have about 80% weighted average (years count 1, 3, 5), I am on my third BSc year and I would like to apply for a MSc afterwards in top university.

There are 2 4th year subjects that I really, really would like to take, but they are known to be the most difficult subjects in my university. The alternative is to take the easiest courses and keep the grades up.

I did a calculation that I should have about 64% this year to pass with a first.

Should I risk it? Will anyone really acknowledge this risk I am taking? Is it really worth it?

  • A class with low grades but with good knowledge is much more useful than a class with grade 100 but no knowledge. Keep in mind what you learn now shape your research knowledge in the near future (i.e. when apply for MSc).
    – seteropere
    Oct 30, 2014 at 1:26
  • I also need the grades for the MSc or not? I could always audit difficult classes Oct 30, 2014 at 1:58

2 Answers 2


Should I risk it?

That depends on the particulars: how useful are the easy courses, how hard are the hard courses, ...

Will anyone really acknowledge this risk I am taking?

Yes, the admissions committee will certainly consider what subjects you studied.

  • While I agree with this answer, keep in mind that some admission committees may have a minimum grade requirement which they can't override. How about taking one of the advanced courses and one of the grade-raising courses? Plus you could still audit the other advanced course if you feel like it. Oct 30, 2014 at 6:55

If you really want to get into top programs, the (not) answer is to take the tough classes and excel in them. At top graduate schools, the average course difficulty will almost certainly be above the hardest undergraduate courses that are available to you. This might be a different story if the classes in question are graduate-level classes.

In terms of graduate admissions, one of the most important factors is not your overall GPA, but your GPA in known-difficult courses (this is obviously more of a factor if you did your undergraduate at a well-known school). Avoiding difficult classes is a bad signal, but so it getting poor grades in them. Okay grades in the hardest classes will probably be neutral to positive depending on the situation and how well-known your undergraduate program is.

  • by avoiding difficult classes you mean doing the courses of 3rd year in 3rd year over taking master courses in 3rd year? Oct 31, 2014 at 17:12
  • @graphtheory92 I may have misunderstood the situation (I'm only familiar with US higher-education). Are the classes in question undergraduate or masters-level?
    – Roger Fan
    Oct 31, 2014 at 17:14
  • I am sorry I think it is me! So I am in 3rd year and I have 3 options and I can pick all the 3rd year classes and also 4th year classes. In the UK undergrad is 3 years Oct 31, 2014 at 17:23

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