The German University Grading System Made Easy

grading system
Masters Degree

The German University Grading System Made Easy

Grading systems worldwide can be confusing, with every country using their own system. This can make it difficult to understand the grade you received if you are studying abroad. It can also be tricky to know whether you are eligible for a degree program that has a minimum cutoff score that uses a different grading systems than yours. This is all the more issue if you decide to study in Germany as Germany uses its own grading system, that can be difficult to understand. No fear, in this article, we break down the German Grading system so you can find it easy to interpret your own grades or see if you qualify for the study program of your dreams.


What is a grading system? 

Before getting into the German grading system, let’s first discuss what a grading system is in general. A grading system us a technique that evaluators use to assess performance of students in exams or other academic tasks. This is based on a point system and is usually made up of a series of numbers, from 1 to 5 for example, or letters ranging from A to F, as another example. These letters or numbers are used to rank and evaluate the grades of the students to decide who has done well and who has failed the evaluation. 

German grading system basics 

Let’s go back to basics. German Universities typically apply a 1 to 6, or sometimes 5, grade system to evaluate student performance. 1 is the top grade, meaning that if you get a 1, you scored between 90 and 100 percent on your task or exam. If you get a 6, on the other hand, this means you haven’t fulfilled the minimum requirements to pass the evaluation. Here are the grades given out in the German system with some interpretations: 

  • 1.0  –  Excellent. You have scored between 90 and 100 per cent on your evaluation. 
  • 2.0  –  Very good. You have scored well but need to focus on more specific study information.  
  • 3.0  –  Good. You have scored a satisfactory score but you have room for improvement. 
  • 4.0  –  Adequate. 
  • 5.0  –  Sufficient to pass. You have scored very poor. Sometimes, in some programs, a 5.0 is considered unsatisfactory or a failing score.
  •  6.0  –  Unsatisfactory. You have failed the evaluation and have shown you have insufficient knowledge to pass it. 

Read more: Reasons why you should study a Master’s Degree in Germany in 2023

German system versus American and UK grading system 

When comparing the German system grading to other educational systems like for those who chose to study in USA or in the UK, we can easily find the equivalent evaluation numbers. If we look at the German grading system versus the US system, the grades are evaluated as follows: 


  • A German grade of 1 to 1.5 (very good), translates to an American grade of A or A+. 
  • A German grade of 1.6 to 2.5 (Good), translates to an American grade of A or B. 
  • A German grade of 2.6 to 3.5 ( Satisfactory), translates to an American grade of C. 
  • A German grade of 3.6 to 4.9 (Sufficient), translates to an American grade of F.
  • A German grade of 5.0 to 6.0 (insufficient) doesn’t translate to an American grade. 


It’s important to note that there is no German alternative to the D grade in the American system. Generally, if you have scored a 3.0 or above in a German university, you are considered to be an A or B student in the American grading scheme. If your grade ranges between 4.1 and 4.9 in the German grading system, in the American scheme, you’ll be considered to have good academic grades.  


On the other hand, if you study in the UK and want to know what your equivalent grades are, that’s a whole other ballgame. Here’s an easy translation for the German grades versus their equivalents according to the UK grading system: 


  • A German grade of 1.0 to 1.3 (Excellent) is considered an A ( First Class) grade in the UK grading system.
  • A German grade of 1.7 to 2.0 to 2.3 (Very good) is considered a B (Upper second class 2:1) in the UK Grading system.
  • A German grade of 2.7 to 3.0 to 3.3 (Good) is considered a C (Lower Second 2:2) in the UK grading system. 
  • A German grade of 3.7 to 4.0 ( Satisfactory) is considered a D ( Third or Pass) in the UK grading system
  •  Any German grades below this grade are considered an (F) failure in the UK grading system. 

What are ECTS Grades?

Another important point to understand if you will study in Europe, such as in Germany, is the ECTS grades scheme. ECTS is an acronym that stands for European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System. It is a framework that is common between European countries to help make academic exchange easier and more streamlined between EU partnering countries. 


Because many EU students decide to study abroad in other EU countries other than their own, having a centralized and mutual grading system became essential. This system helps universities across the continent easily evaluate students’ performance to see if they are eligible for programs or assess how well they are performing in their current degrees. It’s important to note that this system doesn’t replace those at German universities but makes it easier to understand your grades when it comes to your credits.  


The ECTS grading system isn’t mandatory, but EU universities can use it along with their own grading systems to add an extra column in transcripts next to national grades to make things easier. 


Here’s a quick translation between German grades and equivalent ECTS values: 

  • A German grade of 1 to 1.5 (Very Good) translates to an ECTS grade of A.
  • A German grade of 1.6 to 2.5 (Good), translates to an ECTS grade of B. 
  • A German grade of 2.6 to 3.5 ( Satisfactory) translates to an ECTS grade of C.
  • A German grade of 3.6 to 4.9 ( Sufficient) translates to an ECTS grade of D. 
  • A German grade of 5.0 to 6.0 ( insufficient) translates to an ECTS grade of E.  

grading system

Grading System for German courses with State Exam

There’s a different grading system for students who study a master’s in law or another subject where they sit for a “Staatsexamen”, or state exam. In this case, a different grading system might be implemented. In this case, a point-based system is used instead of the regular German grading system or ECTS system. This is also applicable if you choose to study medicine in Germany as medical exams are also evaluated using a point system. 


Admission requirements for German Universities 

Finally, after learning about the different grading systems used in German universities, you might be interested in the admission requirements to join a German higher education institute. These will differ whether you choose to study a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree or a PHD degree. Most programs will also have their own specific requirements so you should check the page of your intended program or university for non-general requirements. 


However, here are some of the general admission requirements you’ll need to hand in if you are applying to a German university: 

  • Precious academic transcripts
  • Previous academic diplomas
  • Proof of English language proficiency or German language proficiency, based on the course language of choice
  • Proof you have passed the entrance exam for the program (if applicable)
  • Filled out application form
  • Copy of a valid passport or identification document 
  • Proof you have a study visa, if needed
  • Proof of medical insurance 

Read more: Your Ultimate Guide to Student Life in Germany

In general, the German grading system when broken down can be pretty simple to understand. This means while studying at a German university, you can easily interpret your grades and convert them to your home country grades, or vice versa when applying to a German University. If you still need more clarification, an academic expert at Uniapp will be happy to help you simplify things even further and make your study journey easier! 

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