How to Figure a College Grade Point Average

By Michele M. Howard
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Being able to figure a grade point average is an important skill for students and others who are involved in students’ lives. Grade point averages are usually referred to by the initials GPA. A GPA is derived from a point scale linked to the letter grades given for an academic course of study. Most courses take one semester to complete, and professors award students a letter grade at the end of the semester based on their overall performance in the course. Learning to figure a GPA is important, since it is used to assess eligibility to remain in college and, ultimately, to graduate.

Step 1

Calculate your GPA starting from your first semester in college. In nearly all colleges, including community colleges, students begin their first semester with a GPA of zero. Starting from zero your GPA is a cumulative number that will include all grade points awarded in the courses you take as you work your way toward your college degree. Approved withdrawals (W), and credit for courses obtained by getting qualifying scores on tests administered through the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), do not affect GPA.

Step 2

Refer to your college website or academic catalog to obtain the grade point system for your college. Most colleges award five letter grades linked to a four-point system: A, B, C, D and F. In this system, an A = 4 points, B = 3 points, C = 2 points, D = 1 points and F = 0 points. These points are referred to as grade point equivalents. Keep in mind that some colleges award plus (+) and minus (-) letter grades, and others, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), work on a five-point grading system.

Step 3

Make a table with three columns. Start by entering the name of the first course you completed in the first column, with the letter grade awarded for the course in the second column, and its grade point equivalent in the third column. Continue on a semester-by-semester basis until all completed courses are entered in the table. Total the points in the third column and divide by the total number of courses entered in the first column to obtain your grade point average.

Step 4

Create additional columns, if interested, in which you can denote the courses included in your major, minor or other academic programs. Once you have the table set up in this way, it is easy to figure and compare your GPA from semester to semester, as well as to check that you are maintaining the GPA you need to reach your goals. A high GPA is often required for selection into honors programs and other prestigious courses where entry is competitive.

Step 5

Search for an online GPA calculator as a quick alternative to doing the calculations yourself. There are online sites, for example, where you can enter your letter grades and have your GPA instantly calculated.