Not a long question, but I'm curious if grad school admissions (I'm more concerned with master's programs instead of PhD programs, right now) take into account only the letter scores of courses taken ("A", "B", etc), or if they also see if you were very close to another score, i.e., an 89 in a class would be a B, but it's 1 point from an A. Or to them, "a B is a B, no matter how close you were to an A or a C"?

Also, do they see specific exam scores from courses, too? For example, in a class, on each test I got a better score, and ended up with a great score on the final (100%). Will this be taken into account, or will it never be seen?

I realize this could be dependent upon specific admissions boards, but I would guess there's a "status quo" for how things are done.

  • 3
    Graduate admissions sees what your transcript says. Get a copy of your official transcript (an unofficial copy will do for our purposes). Does it just have letter grades? If so, that's all they see. (This all that any of the institutions I've been at do (private US), but the one I work at (public Japan) doesn't even make the letter grade particularly clear -- conflating As and Bs in the written part as yu.
    – virmaior
    Dec 13, 2015 at 8:06

1 Answer 1


The information we get about grades comes from the official transcript that you arrange for the registrar to send to us. Whatever information is recorded there is what we see. At the vast majority of US institutions I'm familiar with, this means letter grades only, converted to a numerical GPA using the four point scale.

Based on what you write, perhaps "plus minus grading" does not exist at your institution (as it does at most, but not all, American institutions: apparently it was introduced at my university only just before I arrived, and there are occasional weird -- though minor -- holdovers from the former state of affairs). If it does exist, then it goes on the transcript and is used to calculate GPA.

More information about course grading could come from individual faculty members in the form of their recommendation letters. It is fairly common for such letters to include additional information about performance, including performance on individual exams. In general if you got a good grade in a course but feel that your actual performance in that course was outstanding in a way that the grade does not reflect, then the instructor for the course is a good candidate for a recommendation letter. In your case you might want to consider getting a letter from the instructor of the course in which you did better and better, culminating in 100% on the final exam. This is exactly the kind of academic trajectory that admissions committees want to see.

  • What is plus minus grading? Like an "average" around the final grade?
    – galois
    Dec 13, 2015 at 17:52
  • 1
    See e.g. bulletin.uga.edu/PlusMinusGradingFAQ.html. Dec 13, 2015 at 18:27
  • Thanks. I think KSU actually doesn't have that, though some googling shows that they've talked about it.
    – galois
    Dec 13, 2015 at 18:41
  • There are three schemes that I've seen used in the USA: straight letter grades (A = 4.0, B = 3.0, C = 2.0), plus-minus where these are not weighted: (A+ = 4.0, A = 4.0, A- = 4.0, B+ = 3.0), and plus-minus with small steps: (A = 4.0, A- = 3.7, B+ = 3.3, B = 3.0)
    – Ben Voigt
    Dec 13, 2015 at 18:51
  • I agree with this answer, but I'd add that I've seen transcripts that included numerical scores. To the best of my recollection, these were all from schools in Asia or perhaps eastern Europe. Dec 13, 2015 at 22:04

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