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What is a GPA and how to calculate it?
What is a GPA and how to calculate it

What is a GPA and how to calculate it?

News & tips on your studies and career!

As students progress through their educational journey and transition into higher education, they bring with them a valuable history of academic study and achievements. This record accompanies them from one educational level to the next, continuing through postgraduate studies and even into early job applications.

Throughout their academic journey, students undergo consistent evaluations of their performance. These assessments serve multiple purposes, including fostering motivation and providing an objective representation of their skills, achievements, and academic growth. A vital tool utilized to depict this academic profile is the Grade Point Average (GPA).

The GPA is a crucial asset for a student’s development, so it’s essential to actively maintain and improve it. Students should prioritize nurturing their GPA, both by raising it when it falls and striving to keep it as high as possible as they progress, as it is likely to play a significant role in shaping their future academic choices.

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What is a GPA?

The GPA is a mixed number, measured on a scale between 0 and 4.0, that represents a student's average academic performance results in a given study period (a semester, a term, a year, etc.).

Educational institutions require a minimum GPA to grant eligibility to candidates, as proof that they have performed above average in their previous degree or study cycle. For example, many universities require a minimum GPA of 3.0 to accept someone applying for undergraduate studies.

The GPA is not a grading system. It's a translation of someone's grades to a universal measurement that follows them in their academic track. In the US, traditional grading uses the letters A, B, C, D, and F (for "fail"). In GPA terms, A corresponds with 4.0 points, B+ with 3.5 points, B with 3.0 points, and so on.

Naturally, there are many different grading systems across educational institutions worldwide, like A to F, 1 to 5, 1 to 10, 1 to 100%, etc. However, more and more people study abroad in countries with different predominant grading systems. That makes applying a standard measurement to someone's previous academic performance absolutely necessary, and that's where the GPA comes in handy.

Today, grades from universities all over the world can be converted into a Grade Point Average from 0 to 4.0 so that students can showcase their academic record to the next institution they attend, no matter where that is. In Europe, for instance, schools are encouraged to use the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) to convert their student's grades to a universal average for guaranteed transparency.

What is a cumulative GPA?

During their academic journey, students often find the need to evaluate their recent performance, especially at the end of a term or semester. One of the key metrics they must generate for this evaluation is their cumulative GPA for the specific term or semester.

So, a cumulative GPA is simply a student's average grade during a particular study period.

What is an overall GPA?

Every student maintains a Grade Point Average (GPA) that accompanies them throughout their current academic program, such as their bachelor's degree, and evolves as they progress. This ongoing GPA allows students to track their academic performance and understand the level of improvement needed to enhance their academic profile.

That's the overall GPA, which is a student's average performance based on every grade they have gotten since they started their studies.

What is an unweighted GPA?

In its standard form, the GPA calculation treats each grade equally without considering the difficulty of the respective course. This means that all grades a student receives in every course are given the same value and, consequently, have the same impact on the cumulative or overall GPA.

In that case, the average is called unweighted to highlight that course difficulty hasn’t been taken into account while calculating the GPA.

What is a weighted GPA?

Incorporating a measure of each course's difficulty level, in addition to the grade earned, can offer a more accurate overview of a student's academic achievements. When calculating a weighted GPA, it is common to use a scale that extends beyond the traditional 0 to 4.0 range, such as a 0 to 5.0 scale.

So, an A in an easy course is equivalent to 4.0, while an A in a challenging course is equivalent to 5.0. This approach gives greater weight to the grades achieved in more demanding courses, resulting in a more accurate representation of a student's academic performance.

To sum up, the GPA is a universal metric for translating a student's performance to various grading systems with accuracy and transparency and a way for students to track their overall performance at any point in their academic journey.

How to calculate your GPA?

As we mentioned above, in every grading system, specific grades (for example, A) or grade ranges (for example, 6.5-8.49) correspond to specific points for facilitating GPA calculation. That way, figuring out how many GPA points you get from each course and calculating your unweighted average becomes an easy task.

All you have to do is:

  • Mark down the points you get from each course,
  • Multiply them by the course units or credits,
  • Calculate the sum of the points you got from all your courses,
  • Divide the total points by the total course units (or credits).

For instance, let's say your grade in course X corresponds to 3.0 GPA points and your grade in course Y to 2.0 points. If course X has 3 units and course Y has 2 units, your total points are (3x3)+(2x2)=13. Consequently, your GPA from courses X and Y is 13:(2+3)=2.6.

To calculate a weighted GPA, you need to identify the courses that are assigned more weight or have a higher value.

What is a good GPA?

Your GPA is really important because it plays a significant role in maintaining a high academic profile and pursuing further qualifications or privileges, such as scholarships. In that light, a good GPA can be the minimum you need to achieve one of your academic goals or the minimum to secure an elite student profile (for example, to boost your candidacy for a high-profile job).

In order to demonstrate that you’ve been an excellent student and a promising candidate for university admission or a job position, you would probably need an average GPA between 3.0 and 3.5 at least.

Why do you need a good GPA?

Taking care of your GPA is an excellent strategy that can broaden your opportunities in various aspects of your academic and professional journey. A strong GPA can positively impact your chances of securing scholarships, advancing to higher levels of education, and positioning yourself for top job positions.

More specifically, a well-above-average GPA can help you:

  • Win or maintain financial aid, depending on the benefactor's academic performance requirements.
  • Stay enrolled in your university or earn your degree, if there's a minimum GPA requirement after each term to continue or complete your studies.
  • Get into the postgraduate program of your dreams by proudly submitting a GPA way above the minimum requirements.
  • Land an elite job fresh out of school due to your academic excellence, hard-working mentality, and acclaimed professional prospects, as proven by an exceptionally high GPA.

So, getting good grades is not a matter of chasing first place. It's an investment that can facilitate many of your future choices and goals.

If you’re planning to pursue higher education, then you’ll probably need to write a motivation letter. Read our detailed guide on how to write a motivation letter for university applications, check out the provided sample and get ready for the next step in your education!

How to keep a high GPA?

Having established that a high GPA is an asset you cannot overlook, the question is how to keep it as high as possible. Well, succeeding in your studies is not just a matter of intellect or hard work but also of methodology. Therefore, keeping score of your performance and tweaking your practices for better outcomes is also about:

  • Having a balanced course schedule, carefully selected to include as many demanding classes as you can handle in one semester.
  • Prioritizing your tasks for each course and assigning your working time accordingly to place the most effort where it counts.
  • Being proactive, for example, speaking to your professors about any difficulties before you have to prepare for your finals.
  • Using help, like participating in study groups with peers that are stronger in a course or getting tutoring.

In general, if you have your mind set on keeping your grades good from day one, you probably won't have to do much tweaking on the way. Still, being practical as a student is preferred to going full speed because it saves energy and yields better results!

The GPA in a nutshell

We are prompted to get good grades since our first day at school. And although high grades don't directly correlate with success in life and work, they still carry a lot of weight in the academic and professional context. In a few words, good grades lead to opportunities, which, if used correctly, can lead to a successful career.

The GPA is a universal metric of a student's academic performance, an average that can be easily calculated from any known grading system so that students can enroll in any university worldwide, apply for grants or scholarships, or pursue any job related to their studies.

So, maintaining a relatively high Grade Point Average (GPA) throughout your studies is not just about prestige or competitiveness. It's about pursuing a promising, open-ended future!

Stay tuned!

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