(Teaching Students) How to Calculate Grade Point Average (GPA)

By Maria Galyon

Why does it Matter?

  • Some programs have selective admissions –  college GPA is very important in the selection process
  • Some insurances give discounts to students with high GPAs
  • Potential employers are interested in academic records (GPA)
  • Transfer schools and Graduate schools take GPA into consideration for admission requirements

My experience is that most students have little knowledge about their college grade point average.  Unlike most high schools, college grade point averages are calculated differently because the number of credits a class is worth impacts the calculation.  It is important for students to know that GPA is not a simple average of the grades received because not all classes are considered equal.

For example, a student takes Human Anatomy & Physiology (a very challenging course) and receives the grade of an “A”.  This same student also takes a yoga class to help relieve stress from the other class.  A grade of an “A” is also earned for the yoga class.  Which “A” should be worth more?  Is the “A” in Anatomy worth the same as the “A” in Yoga?  Of course, the “A” in anatomy should be worth more.  It is a more challenging class.  In fact, it is worth 4 credit hours and the Yoga class is only worth 1 credit hour.   Therefore, the higher the number of credit hours, the bigger impact the grade has on a student’s grade point average.

So, here’s Step-by-Step how Students can Calculate their GPA.

Step 1:  Analyze all of the classes taken.

Only classes with a course number of 100 or higher are used to calculate the grade point average.  (Note:  this is because classes with course numbers lower than 100 are considered developmental or pre-college classes.  Therefore, grades in those classes cannot be used to calculate a student’s college grade point average.  These grades will still be shown on a student’s transcript.)  Any classes that have a grade of W (withdrawal) are also not used for calculating GPA.

With the following class schedule, only the CMS 185 and GEN 102 classes would be used to calculate the GPA.

CMS 185         A         3 credits

GEN 102         B         3 credits

MAT 065        B         3 credits

ENC 091         A         3 credits

Step 2:  Convert the letter grades to quality points.  Each letter grade corresponds to a quality point:

A = 4

B = 3

C = 2

D = 1

E/F = 0 (note some courses use the letter E if a student has not passed; others use an F)

W – Withdrawals are not used when calculating GPA.  It is as if you had not taken the class.

So in the example presented above, it would look like this:

CMS 185         A = 4               3 credits

GEN 102         B = 3               3 credits

MAT 065        B (not used)    3 credits

ENC 091         A (not used)    3 credits


Step 3:  Multiple the quality points times the number of credits the class is worth.  This will give you the Total Quality Points for a class.

Continuing with our example above:

CMS 185         A=4    multiplied by 3 (# of credits) = 12 quality points

GEN 102         B=3    multiplied by 3 (# of credits) = 9 quality points

Remember:  MAT 065 and ENC 091 are not used!

Step 4:  Add up the total credit hours taken (only use the classes that are 100 or above) and the Total Quality Points earned.

CMS 185         A (4)    x          3          =          12

GEN 102         B (3)    x          3          =          9

TOTALS                                 6                      21


Step 5:  Divide the number of credit hours into the Total Quality Points.  This will be your Grade Point Average.

So in the example problem, the student would have earned a 3.5 GPA.

21 divided by 6 = 3.5

Here is another example:

Grade      Credit Hrs

ENG 101         A        3

MAT 120        A         3

CIS 100          F          3

BIO 137          C         4

Step 1:  All classes are included (they are all over 100-level).

Step 2:  Convert the letter grades to numbers (see numbers in parenthesis below)

Grade        Credit Hrs

ENG 101         A(4)                3

MAT 120        A (4)                3

CIS 100           F (0)                3

BIO 137          C (2)                4

Step 3:  Multiply the grade by the number of credit hours to get your quality points

Grade        Credit Hrs     Quality Points

ENG 101         A (4)    3                      12

MAT 120        A (4)    3                      12

CIS 100           F (0)    3                      0

BIO 137           C (2)    4                      8

Step 4:  Total the Credit Hours and Quality Points Columns

CR HRS = 13                         Quality Points = 32


Step 5:  Divide the quality points total by the credit hours total

32 divided by 13 = 2.46
This is the GPA for the student.

Final note:  What would happen to the GPA if a student withdrew from a course rather than receiving the failing grade?  Using the example above, let’s look at it:

Grade        Credit Hrs     Quality Points

ENG 101         A (4)    3                      12

MAT 120        A (4)    3                      12

CIS 100           W (0)   3                      0

BIO 137          C (2)    4                      8

Since the student Withdrew from the CIS 100, the 3 credit hours now do not count.  Therefore they only completed 10 credit hours.  The Quality Points column does not change:

Grade        Credit Hrs     Quality Points

ENG 101         A (4)    3                      12

MAT 120        A (4)    3                      12

CIS 100           W (0)   0                      0

BIO 137          C (2)    4                      8

TOTAL             10                    32

By withdrawing from the course rather than failing it, the GPA was 3.2 rather than 2.46.  This is a big difference; especially if looking at competitive programs or admissions criteria.

Keep this in Mind: It is important for students to know their Grade Point Average (GPA) and to make sure they are making good decisions to protect that GPA.  Also remember that withdrawing from classes may have financial ramifications.  Students should be advised to check with financial aid or contact persons for any grants or loans before withdrawing from classes.

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