If your undergraduate degree transcript shows that you failed one subject, and in the other you barely passed but still you have a good WAM (say 85) or GPA (say 6.5 out of 7), would those two subjects in your transcript destroy your chances of being admitted?

To be more specific, I graduated last year with a combined degree (Electrical engineering and Mathematics). I got 40 in Digital Fundamentals and 61 in physics. These two subjects were first year, first semester subjects of my undergraduate. All my other grades were greater than 85. My current GPA is 6.8 (out of 7) and my WAM (weighted average mark) is 86 (out of 100). The second time that I did digital fundamentals, I got 96.

I am planning to do a phd in electrical engineering.

2 Answers 2


You're not going to like this, but the answer is, "it depends."

If you flunked computer science, it'll be hard to find a CS program that will take you. If you flunked underwater basket weaving and want admission to a CS program, well, that might work. If "failed one subject" means "failed one course," that might not be too bad. If it means "never passed even one history course, " not so much.

It also depends on how long it's been since you were an undergraduate. Admissions committees understand that people mature and that a poor showing in the distant past doesn't necessarily mean you'll be a poor scholar today.

To be blunt, it also depends on the school to which you apply. Harvard probably won't take you, but there could be schools that might. Pick a couple, visit them in person with a copy of your transcript, and ask. You'll need an appointment for that personal visit; if you just show up, no telling who will talk to you. You're visiting in person to show them you're serious.

  • Those two subjects were first year subjects. The one failed was a subject about digital fundamentals and the other was first year physics.
    – user23394
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 11:56
  • That doesn't sound fatal, unless you're applying to a EE program, and maybe not even then. Consider editing your question to include this information, your undergraduate major, and what kind of graduate program you want. You'll get far better answers if you supply more information.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 11:58
  • You may get better answers than mine with the added information. I do not think your situation is anything like hopeless.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 12:16
  • With my added information, do you think that some universities would reject my application?
    – user23394
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 12:24
  • 1
    If you flunked computer science, it'll be hard to find a CS program that will take you. — But, from my own personal experience, not impossible.
    – JeffE
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 12:59

I should say it depends to what school you are applying. GPA is considered as an important factor but I should tell you something. GPA is considered as a negative factor meaning that most of graduate schools have a threshold GPA and if your GPA is below that then you are not considered as a competitive and if your GPA is higher than that then they will consider other factors in your application. You see that every graduate school requires you to upload your transcript because transcript shows whether you have have failed the course, have received late drop,have received an incomplete grade and many other things. They also look what course you have taken and what grades you have received in your transcript. Now the answer to your question varies based on your interest.If you want to study electrical Engineering then your Electrical engineering courses are more important for admission and specifically within Electrical Engineering courses those that stress more on your research and your pathway caries more weight. For example, if you are studying communication or control theory physic might not be that big of deal but if you are planning to study solid state or photonics low grade in physic might be a matter of concern. Important point you should consider is that most of graduate schools ask you to upload additional documents such as your personal statement or something similar to that. This lets you explain why you receive a bad grade in your physic and Digital fundamental course and how you improve your grades.

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