The best possible GPA in the U.S. is a 4.0. The worst passing grade in Germany is a 4.0. You can see why accurately converting your grade when applying to schools in a different country is important.
Unfortunately, converting grades between different countries is confusing. I first encountered this confusion when I was applying to Master’s programs in Germany, and I wanted to make sure my American GPA was high enough for the programs to which I was applying.
Note: German grades are on a scale of 1.0 (best possible grade) to 4.0 (lowest passing grade). 5.0 is a failing grade. Most Master’s programs in Germany require a GPA of 2.5, although this varies by program.
One of the first resources I came across in my research was the Wikipedia article on “Academic Grading in Germany.” There you will find a very confusing chart and a quick description of the Modified Bavarian Formula, but not much else. So, I will try my best to make this all a little bit easier to understand.
In general, the Modified Bavarian Formula is the standard method for converting foreign grades from any country into the German system. Here is what this formula looks like:
Nmax = highest possible grade in your home country’s grading system
Nmin = lowest possible passing grade in your home country’s grading system
Nd = the grade you want to convert
When using the Modified Bavarian Formula to convert American grades, it would (typically) look like this (using 3.5 as the GPA to be converted):
Nmax = 4.0
Nmin = 2.0
Nd = 3.5
Do the math, and you will find out that an American 3.5 converts to a German 1.75.
For quick reference, I created the following chart using the Modified Bavarian Formula (Nmax=4.0; Nmin=2.0; note that some American universities do grade differently). This will give you a rough idea of what your American GPA or American letter grade would convert to in the German system: