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Defining reference periods

Defining Reference Periods: Last two years of full-time study or equivalent


Last reference period Second-last reference period
Applicant has 2 or more terms of graduate studies with grades Graduate Record (CGPA with weighted courses) to date. This includes all Master's and Doctoral study combined, including multiple Master's degrees or previous attempts at PhD level.  Last year of full-time* undergraduate study or equivalent (minimum 24 graded credits). Terms cannot be dissected.
Applicant has no graduate grades or only 1 term**
Last year of full-time* undergraduate study or equivalent. Include any graduate grades in this reference period. Terms cannot be dissected. Second last year of full-time* undergraduate study or equivalent. Terms cannot be dissected.

* 'Full time' designation requires a minimum of 24 credits in an academic year.
** For example: graduate applicants with only research and no graded credits, applicants in their first term of Graduate studies, applicants entering directly from undergraduate studies or applicants in their final year of undergraduate studies.

Applicants with no graduate grades and applicants with only one term of grades

Finding the last year of full-time study or equivalent

  • Find the last course on study record.
  • Start counting the credits, going backwards.
  • Stop counting when you reach 24 credits (or all graduate grades).
  • If you are in the middle of a term, you must finish counting the entire term (ie. the credit count will exceed 24 credits).

Finding the second-last year of full-time study or equivalent

  • Start where you left off for last year of full-time study
  • Start counting the credits, going backwards.
  • Stop counting when you reach 24 credits (or all graduate grades).
  • If you are in the middle of a term, you must finish counting the entire term (ie. the credit count will exceed 24 credits).

What is a “full year” of study?

At McGill, a full year equals 24 credits, usually 12 credits per term. When a student has registered for exactly 12 credits per term, it is easy to identify; however, when a student has not registered for 12 credits per term, the math will be less exact.  For this reason, an application may have more than 24 credits in a reference period.

The reason:

If a student earned 6 credits each term rather than 12 (perhaps because they were studying part-time), a “full year” will actually be composed of three terms of study at 9 credits each, which totals 27 credits.  This may encompasses two academic years on the calendar, but is only considered of one full-time year, for these competitions.

Each undergraduate reference period should be determined in the same manner. Be sure not to miss a term between reference periods – summer-term courses and transfer credits count.