A common question that I hear from students is “can you tell me what my GPA is right now?” Usually I get this question around the middle of the term, close to the last day to withdraw and right before finals begin. The truth is, GPA is calculated using final grades (grades that are submitted by your professor at the end of the term), so your GPA at any particular moment only includes grades from prior semesters.
However, I do have a little help here for you to determine how you’re doing in a course. Keep reading for a solid method.
Below is a sample that I’ve found that we can use to practice. The points reflected in the Assignments table are the possible number of points over the course of the entire semester for its corresponding assignment.
Pro Tip: At the beginning of each semester, make a page in your binder for just grades so you can keep track without having to recall from memory!
What you’ll need:
- Your syllabus
- A list of the assignments you’ve completed and the grades you’ve earned. (If you haven’t received some of your grades yet, do not include these.)
Let’s say we are in the ninth week of classes and have completed the following assignments. The chart on the left demonstrates the maximum available points by this point in the term. The right charts lists some sample earned grades.
The basic idea is:
1. Convert grades earned (in percentage) to a decimal value.
2. Multiply the decimal value by the total possible points for that assignment to give the amount of “grade points” (I wasn’t sure what to call this value, so this is just my term for it).
3. Divide the total amount of grade points by the total possible points. Convert to a percentage.
4. Find the grade on the grade scale that corresponds to the calculated percentage.
416.5/500 = .833 -> 83.3% -> B-
The current grade in this course, based on completed and graded assignments, at this point in the term is B-.
The bottom line is to get all of your values into grade points, do your calculations and THEN convert to a percentage to know what your number grade is. Once you’ve done that, you can have a look at the grading scale and find the corresponding letter grade.
Here’s a caveat: you’ll notice that we didn’t include class participation. Professors gauge class participation differently. Some assign a point value at the end of the semester based on their recollection of your participation and some give periodic “attendance quizzes” that account for your participation. Therefore, the method by which participation is assessed will vary by professor.
Another thing to consider
This particular professor had an overall total of the possible number of points. Some professors will assign a percentage of your overall grade to an assignment type. For example:
I find it’s easiest to think of these percentages as numbers with a total of possible points being 100. The midterm, final and project are all single entities (and remember what we said about class participation). However, for the quizzes, let’s think of that 20% as 20 points. If you have 5 quizzes, they’re each worth 4 grade points (or 4%) each.
Also remember that instructors will display grades as a percentage of points earned on an assignment or as a raw number out of total possible points on an assignment. It’s important to know which, so if you’re not sure, check with your instructor.
This seems really complicated. I promise it isn’t! Once you grasp the theory of how it works, it’ll be like second nature. And now that you’ve read all through that explanation, I’ve got a treat for you – I programmed a little spreadsheet to do all the calculations for you! Feel free to download it and add all the grades you have so far so that you know right where you stand in your classes.