Relativity? Big Deal… We Want to Know About His Report Card

Albert Einstein's 1879 report cardAlbert Einstein’s 1896 Report Card.
An often-repeated legend tells of Albert Einstein struggling so hard with math and physics that he failed his college entrance exams. In reality, Einstein excelled in both subjects. One possible reason for this urban legend is the fact that Einstein’s school changed its grading system part-way through his tenure as a student. Where a “1” had previously been considered the top score (the equivalent of an “A”), the new system reversed that, making “6” the new top mark.

While it is true that Einstein did poorly on his entrance exams to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, it was due to the fact that he was a 15-year-old dropout who did not have a high school diploma. Because of gaps in his formal education, he did not have knowledge of French language, chemistry, or biology. His exceptionally-high scores in mathematics and physics, however, caused the university to grant a waiver and admit him as a student, on the condition that he quickly take steps to address the deficiencies in the other subjects.


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