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How important is a master's thesis mark in US PhD applications?


NinaNinotshka

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I'm hoping someone here has relevant experience, as it's a bit of a specialized question. I have a master's in politics from Oxford and am now looking to apply to Top 25 political science PhD programs in the US. The only problem is, while I did fine on my master's degree overall, had a great undergraduate GPA, am anticipating good GRE scores, and have relevant work experience with a politics research program, my master's thesis mark is only a low pass. So my question is, how important is the thesis mark? Will top departments take one look and decide I'm not suitable for research, or will they only see "Oxford" and not care? Can I afford to aim high? I know master's thesis marks are important for British PhD programs, but I'm less familiar with the US context. Any insights would be greatly appreciated!

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Generally we don't have marks for our masters thesis in the US.

 

 

When applying to science programs with a masters degree I was asked to talk about my research. That's how they understood the quality of it. If the quality of your work is "low" then it will show.

 

I'm not sure how the mark will be looked at, but if the low marking represents some sort of quality of research, that is far more troubling in my opinion.

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Thanks for your reply, I didn't know that master's theses aren't usually graded in the US. 

 

With regard to the quality of the work, my supervisor was very surprised with the low mark I received and has already said that he will attest to the quality of my research work in his LOR. So maybe that will be more important than the mark itself?

 

 

I don't know, perhaps. What would be more affirming of its quality is a publication in a respected journal. 

Edited by GeoDUDE!
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Thanks for your reply, I didn't know that master's theses aren't usually graded in the US.

With regard to the quality of the work, my supervisor was very surprised with the low mark I received and has already said that he will attest to the quality of my research work in his LOR. So maybe that will be more important than the mark itself?

Wasn't your supervisor involved in assigning the mark for your thesis? My masters thesis was given a grade of sorts - I received an A for my 6 thesis credits, as opposed to a pass/fail grade or some other grade that indicates completing a requirement without assessing its quality. The grade was assigned by my thesis advisor and he had the last say... obviously an A wouldn't matter if my committee refused to sign off on it or the graduate school didn't approve it, but the grade was up to my advisor, and I would think that would be normal in a situation where a grade was assigned.

But I do agree with GeoDUDE, having your thesis published should be far more important than the grade you received for it.

Edited by shadowclaw
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No, unfortunately at Oxford, at least in my department, you are assigned two anonymous graders, neither of whom can be your supervisor. I'm sure other methods are more common elsewhere!

That's very interesting! My undergraduate thesis worked somewhat that way. My advisor assigned half of my grade, and two anonymous faculty assigned the other half. But my advisor still had a role! Perhaps using anonymous reviewers is more realistic and representative of how academia works, though.

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