Einstein Was Not A Bad Student


It’s become the most common justification for every Tom, Dick and Harry who does bad at school. “My son/daughter is actually very gifted, his gifts just aren’t recognized. He/She’s a regular Einstein” etc. etc. Of course the modern education does have some serious flaws (I won’t discuss them in this post but a detailed analysis of every single one of them can be obtained by spending half-an-hour with my grandpa). As Einstein himself said:

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

However, I still feel compelled to crush the myth of Einstein being a bad student and a failure at school. Einstein was not a bad student. He was a prodigious student. What evidence do I have? Well, let’s see…

Proof #1

A while after Albert Einstein started going to school at the age of six, in 1885, his mom sent a letter to her sister in which she wrote:

Yesterday, Albert received his grades, he was again number one, and his report card was brilliant.

Proof #2

Einstein was once showed a headline about himself titled, “Greatest living mathematician failed in mathematics.”. He laughed and said “I never failed in mathematics; Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus.”

Proof #3

The last and most conclusive proof is… his report card. No seriously, his actual report card. Einstein took the Swiss version of the A Levels, called “Matur”. In the Swiss Matur, a score of 6 is equivalent to something like an A* / A+. While a 1 is the lowest score. Here’s an image of Einstein’s school certificate:


Here’s an English translation:


Translating these to GCE A Level grades, he got something like 5 A*s, As, 3 Bs and a C. Now on what planet are those grades considered bad? That’s a really awesome score.



  1. I’m having difficulty with correlating A* with 6 out of 10. What would be the equivalent of a 9/10? Einstein was also an instinctive scientist so 6/10 with the addition of great instinct was enough. His friend Marcel Grossmann was the mathematician and was to help in deeper calculations. if A** = 9/10; A* = 8/10;
    A =7/10; Then Albert was only just above average in his highest scores. I don’t say this to smear a great man, more that I owe it to his legacy to try to be more accurate. In light of his life achievements, a report card from his teenage years is not so significant.

    1. In Germany, the school grades are different than in the USA. Instead of A, B, C, D, and F, you have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. 1’s are high marks and 6’s are failing grades. So looking at Albert Einstein’s report card, he wasn’t an average student, he was a poor student who failed History, Algebra, Geometry, Descriptive Geometry, and Physics. His best grade was a 3, or a C in French. I hope that helps explain it a little better.

      1. @Patrick Einstein went to school in Switzerland as mentioned on the report card (canton Aargau). According to the post above the Swiss grading system has 6 grades (not 10), 6 being the best, 1 being the worst grade.

  2. Yes it is the same in Czech, although we don’t have a 6, 5 is the worst… I have heard before though that in Germany it is backwards… 6 is best, and 1 is worst… I must have been mistaken…

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