How Will My GPA Be Viewed on a Scale Of 4.0?

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Are you an international applicant with undergrad grades which is either in percentage or GPA on a scale different from 4.0, and wondering how does it compare with the average GPAs of your target schools?

If that’s the case, then read following commonly-asked questions in this regard.

(Note: Admission policies of schools and guidelines for standardized tests can change. Refer to their website for the most updated information.)

Question 1

My undergraduate final grades are in percentage/ GPA-on-a-scale-of-10.0. How do I convert it to a GPA on a scale of 4.0 when filling in the data in my application?

Answer 1

You don’t need to… for almost all top schools.

Over the years, MBA programs have developed repository of information (through applicant data and secondary research) about academic rigor of universities across the world, their grading systems, and how to map grades onto a scale of 4.0.

Wharton, for example, says:

Students reporting grades from institutions that do not evaluate academic performance on a 4.0 GPA scale should NOT convert their scores to a GPA. Report your scores or grades as your university lists them in your official transcripts, including an explanation of the grading scheme if needed. Keep in mind that we have students from more than 70 countries in our program and have broad expertise in grading methods around the world [emphasis added].

And MIT Sloan:

You do not need to convert your GPA for the online application. Simply enter in the grading system used by your school. We are familiar with the various grading systems and can evaluate it on our end. No need to try to translate an international GPA into a US one [emphasis added].

(Almost all top schools advise on similar lines, and if you want to be doubly sure about the take of your target school on GPA conversion, look for this information in the FAQ section on Admissions page of the school’s website.)

You are not required to convert your grades to GPA on a scale of 4.0. Report them as it is, and mention your relative position in the class in the space provided for this purpose. This information not just helps them understand the context (standing with respect to the peer group) of your grades, but also build a repository of knowledge about that institution for future reference.

And if a school (though, rarely) does require conversion to a scale of 4.0, it will typically prescribe a conversion methodology to use. Otherwise, applicants will use their own conversion formula, leaving the school all at sea to interpret dozens of GPAs without any context or common ground – a complete chaos.

So, forget GPA-converters. Listen to what schools are saying.

Question 2

Do schools follow any standard formula for converting grades to a scale of 4.0?

Answer 2

An applicant with 65% in, say, an Indian university may be the best performer in a class of 80, but this percentage when converted to GPA on a scale of 4.0 according to a fixed standard may yield erroneous, even laughable, result. And since there are so many variations (even intra-country) in grading, it’s difficult to devise a single conversion formula which spits out a GPA on a scale of 4.0, reflecting the same academic potential as that shown by grades on original scale.

Schools do not reveal anything about the conversion methodology they use, but, as indicated by them in their FAQ section, it’s likely to be context-based, taking into account factors such as rigor & popularity of the program and your standing in your peer group than a straightjacket formula.

Question 3

I did my undergrad from a relatively unknown university in Indonesia, and I’m the first person from my university to apply to MBA programs in U.S. How will they know the strength of my undergrad grade?

Answer 3

In such cases, don’t expect the admission committee to call up your alma mater and understand the story behind your grade.

If you fall in such or even less extreme case, take it up to yourself to paint the story behind your grades in the space provided for mentioning relative position in the class and in special circumstances essay, where you can mention things such as rigor & prestige of your program.

Question 4

I got only 72% in my undergrad in India. How will I be compared with a super-high 3.6+ average GPA at top schools? Do I even stand a chance as far as my academic profile is concerned?

Answer 4

With that 72%, did you finish in top 5-10% of your class? Was the program rigorous? Is getting admission to your college competitive? And, is your college reputed?

If answers to those questions are positive, then your 72% is competitive. As described earlier in this post, admission committees understand the differences in inter- and intra-country grading systems. But if you think that your college is not known well, you may provide context around 72% (example: standing in the class and rigor of the program) if it works in your favor.

Question 5

I did my Mechanical Engineering from a college in Mumbai, India. I got 56% and finished in top 20% of my class. Unfortunately, Mechanical Engineering department is known for awarding low percentages. In departments such as Electrical Engineering, students with even 70% fall outside top 20% in their class. How will the school compare my academic performance with that of another student from Electrical Engineering who got 70% and yet has a relative position lower than mine?

Answer 5

The school may be aware of larger contours about your college, but may not be aware of intra-departmental variations. So, feel free to provide the context.

Question 6

Does the average GPA of incoming class include GPAs of students whose grades are not on a scale of 4.0?

Answer 6

In order for the average GPA to be the correct representation of the incoming class, ideally, the GPAs of even those students whose grades are not on scale of 4.0 should be included in the calculation. And this (average GPA) figure can be compared across schools legitimately only if B-schools adopt the same methodology for conversion.

Most schools include GPAs which are not on a scale of 4.0 for calculating average GPA of their incoming class. Few don’t.

One such exception is HBS. Here is what the footnote on their class profile page says:

HBS screenshot

Most schools, otherwise, are silent on this issue, and in absence of any disclosure it’s safe to assume that they’ve included GPAs of all grading scales while calculating average GPA, because average GPA is clearly representative of the entire class.


It’s futile wondering how your grade (on a non-4.0 scale) will compare with the average GPA of your target school. If you graduated from a reputed undergrad institution and had a good peer-standing in a rigorous program, then you’re likely to be competitive (as far as GPA is concerned) at most schools.

And if you are not, forget it. It’s irrevocable. Instead, focus on bolstering other aspects of your academic profile such as GMAT/ GRE or finding evidences of quantitative work and communication skills at your work place, so that you can compensate for a below-par GPA.

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