How to Calculate your GPA for the MEXT Scholarship

MEXT scholarship grade conversion blackboard

Do you have the grades to be able to apply for the MEXT scholarship? Here’s how to find out!

MEXT Scholarship Minimum GPA Requirement

How to apply for the MEXT scholarship guide ebook

For a step-by-step walkthrough of the GPA calculation and other eligibility criteria, plus a GPA calculation spreadsheet and sample grading systems, click here to learn more about How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship, the first book in the Mastering the MEXT Scholarship System

To be eligible for the MEXT scholarship for graduate students, you need to have a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.30 on a 3.00 scale over your last two years of study.

This is a sneaky eligibility criteria, as I discussed in a previous article. You will not find it in the application guidelines for students, either at the Embassy or the University. However, it does appear in the guidelines that MEXT issues to those organizations. They cannot nominate you for the scholarship unless you meet the minimum GPA requirement.

Since the requirement is not clearly stated, and I’m certain your GPA is not calculated on a 3.00 scale, it’s possible that you might end up applying for the scholarship without ever realizing that you are not eligible.

By the end of this article, we will make sure that does not happen to you.

Although we will calculate your GPA, this is not an official calculation. Ultimately, the university and embassy are responsible for calculating the official scores themselves and they are not going to accept your calculation.

How to Convert Your Grades to MEXT’s Scale

The problem is that no university in the world – not even in Japan – uses a 3.00 GPA scale. That means you have to convert whatever grade or marks system your country uses to the MEXT scale.

Unfortunately, converting your overall average from one system to the other does not work. If you convert the overall average, the result will not be accurate. You need to convert each course grade one-by-one. If you want proof of why this is true and a sample of how converting an overall average can go horribly wrong, I have included one in my upcoming book, How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship, but you don’t need to read that to believe me.

What grades count for the calculation?

Important: As of the 2020 University Recommended MEXT Scholarship Application process, MEXT has removed the “last two years” reference from its instructions to universities in how to calculate GPA. I am still trying to get confirmation, but for now, assume that your GPA may be calculated based on all grades earned in your last degree program. I suggest you calculate your grades both ways, just to be sure.

The last two full years of grades, as of the time of application, that you earned in a degree-seeking program.
All grades earned in your current degree-seeking program, or in the degree program you graduated from most recently, if you are not currently enrolled in a degree.

Defining the “Last Two Full Years”

If you have already graduated at the time you apply, then you would simply take the last two years of your grades.

If you have not graduated, the chances are that you are in the middle of a semester/trimester and possibly in the middle of year-long courses, as well. In that case, you would count the last two full years worth of classes and count those.

For a semester system, that would be the last four semesters printed on your transcript. For a trimester system or a quarter system where you only attend 3 quarters per year, count the last six trimesters/quarters. Any intersession courses, such as summer courses, on your transcript during that time would count, but an intersession that falls just outside the 2 years would not count.

Degree-Seeking Program

Only grades earned in a degree program count. If you are attending university as a non-degree student, attending a language program, or attending a language school, those grades and semesters do not count.

If you studied abroad during the most recent two years your degree, your study abroad semester may or may not count, depending on how it is reflected on your transcript. If your grades from study abroad are reflected on your home university transcript, then those grades and semester count. If your grades are not reflected – if they only show up as pass/fail credits – then those grades do not count and the study abroad semester does not count toward calculating the last 2 years.

Exception to Two Years: Transfer Students

If you transferred universities within the last two years, then only credits earned after the transfer (at the university you will actually graduate from) count. You will have to submit your pre-transfer transcript as reference, but the grades will not count toward your eligibility, for better or worse.

This exception does not apply to attending multiple degrees. If you are in a master’s degree program and have completed fewer than four semesters, then you would include your bachelor’s degree grades to make up the full two years.

Exception to Two Years: When You Cannot Clearly Count Two Years

In some cases, it might not be possible to tell from your transcripts where exactly two years cuts off. For example, if you are in the middle of a year, but your university only calculates grades on an annual basis. Or, if you are in a master’s degree but have completed fewer than 4 semesters and your bachelor’s degree grades were on an annual basis.

In those cases, the last 2.5 years (the nearest clear cut-off to 2 years) would be counted.

Calculating Pass/Fail Grades

In general, grades earned in pass/fail courses do not count. However, if you earned a “fail” grade in a pass/fail course and it is impossible to distinguish that grade from a failing grade in a graded course, then it may be counted.

Calculating Your GPA: Grading Systems

In order to calculate your grades, you will need an explanation of your grading system. An explanation of the grading system is generally a chart that shows all of the possible grades that can be earned and, ideally, the descriptive value of each one.

Typically, this will appear on the transcript itself, or it may be available from your university’s website. In my upcoming book, How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship, I include images and conversion charts for every grading system I have worked with in my career.

Without a grading system, your grades are impossible to interpret.

Grading systems vary wildly from country to country, so the same grade could be a good score in one country and a terrible score in another. For example, a 71% in Japan is below average (2.00 on the MEX 3.00 scale), but in the UK it is at excellent grade (3.00 on the 3.00 scale). A “D” grade in the US is just one place removed from failure (1.00 on the 3.00 scale), but in Australia, D stands for Distinction (3.00 on the 3.00 scale).

You need your grading system to be able to convert your grades. If it is not printed on your transcript, then talk to the international office at your university or a graduate school admissions office. Either of those offices would need to be able to convert foreign grades to your university’s system in order to accept students, so they should have access to conversion charts.

Calculating Your GPA: Grading Buckets

Based on your grading system, you need to determine how to fit your grades into grading “buckets.” A grading bucket is a group of grades that all convert to the same value on MEXT’s chart.

MEXT’s official conversion chart is as follows:

System Grades
4-Level System   Excellent Good Average Fail
4-Level System   A B C F
4-Level System   100 – 80 79 – 70 69 – 60 59 – 0
All other grading systems with 4 distinct grading buckets will use this system
5-Level System S A B C F
5-Level System A B C D F
5-Level System 100 – 90 89 – 80 79 – 70 69 – 60 59 – 0
All other grading systems with 5 distinct grading buckets will use this system
MEXT System Grade 3 3 2 1 0

Each column in the table above is a Grading Bucket, whether that’s a single letter, description, or range of scores. But these are not the only options. You might have a system with pluses and minuses, with more than 5 letters, or other variations, such as different percentage cut-offs.

It is important that you find the conversion that works for your grading system. Your grading system will tell you how to fit your grades into the buckets above.

Once you have done that, I recommend that you make a copy of your transcript so that you can write directly on it. You can also do your calculations in a spreadsheet, of course, or however you prefer.

Whatever system you are using, write your MEXT GPA score next to your score for each course that you took over the last 2 full years.

Calculating Your Grades: Credits

Next, we need to multiply each MEXT grade by the number of credits you earned in the class, if you have a credit system.

A credits system is when you need to obtain a specific number of credits in order to graduate. Most courses will be worth multiple credits in this kind of system, depending on the number of hours spent in class and on work outside of class.

Here are a few common credit systems:

  • In Japan, many universities assign 2 credits per lecture course
  • Many semester-system universities in the US assign 3 credits per lecture course
  • Another credit system in the US and Canada is to assign 0.5 credits per semester course and 1 credit for a year-long course
  • In the ECTS system in Europe, each course is typically worth 6 credits

If you have credits for each class, the number of credits will be printed next to each class on your transcript. Multiply that number by your MEXT grade for each course to get your Quality Points for that class.

What if Your University Doesn’t Use Credits?

There are a few alternative systems you may see.

The first, and easiest, is if there are no credits at all. In this system, you simply have to pass a certain number of courses. None is weighted more than the other. In that case, each course has a credit value of 1 and your quality points for the course would be equal to the MEXT grade.

Semester and Year Courses

If your university distinguishes between semester-long courses and year-long courses, but does not specify credits, then treat a year-long course as 2 credits and a semester-long course as 1 credit for the sake of calculating your grade.

Average Marks

I have seen average marks systems where each course was worth a maximum number of marks and students had to acquire a specific number of total marks across all courses in order to graduate.

In such a system, you still need to convert your grades for each individual course. You would get your converted grade based on the percentage of available marks that you earned and the number of credits would be equal to the total number of marks available.

Calculating Your MEXT GPA: Moment of Truth

GPA calculation formula for MEXT Scholarship

GPA calculation formula

By this point, you should have your MEXT GPA for each course, the number of credits for each course, and the number of quality points (GPA x credits) for each course.

Divide the total number of quality points by the total number of credits to get your overall MEXT GPA.

How did you do? Did you clear the 2.30 threshold?

In most cases, I find that applicants’ GPAs are higher than they expect, especially if you come from a country with a harsh grading system.

If your grades are higher than 2.30, then you are eligible to apply, and there is nothing that should stop you. If you want to learn more about creating an application strategy and adopting a professional mindset to increase your chances of success, you can find advice and worksheets to improve your chances in How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship.

Of course, I have tons of free advice and resources in the other articles on this site, as well! You can find all of my MEXT articles at this link.

What If You Don’t Have Grades

There are some degree programs out there that do not award grades such as research-only graduate programs. In this case, you cannot calculate your GPA, so what do you do?

If you are applying for the Embassy Recommendation MEXT Scholarship, then please contact the Embassy for more details to be sure, but the instructions below may apply to you.

For the University Recommendation, if you have no grades, then your Letter of Recommendation (from your Dean or President, as required in that application process), must explicitly state that you are in the top 30% of your graduating class within the faculty or the university as a whole.

The top 30% letter only works if you have no GPA. If you have a GPA below 2.30, you cannot override that low GPA, even if you are in the top 30% of your class.


Let me know in the comments below!

Special Thanks

Special thanks to the TranSenz supporters on Patreon. You can show your support for TranSenz on Patreon for as little as $2 per month (or less than 0.15% of the monthly MEXT stipend). Patreon supporters are instrumental in helping to cover the costs of maintaining this site and get priority responses to any questions as well as advance access to news and offers.

If you want to show your support but Patreon is out of reach, I’d appreciate it if you say hi on social media or in the comments below to let me know if you appreciate these posts. You can find me on facebook at @TranSenz or on Twitter at @tagsenzaki. I look forward to saying hi!

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