Wednesday, July 1, 2009
GPA's, Grades and Reality
Every year about this time, the GPA question arises, starting with a low rumble and ending in April with a chorus of voices all wondering, "How does UGA calculate GPA's". Because there are so many school systems using such a wide variety of grading scales, my best answer is always that we start everyone out on a level playing field. To give you an idea of the range of grading scales, here is a small sample; 10 point grading scales, 7 point grading scales, E/S/U grades, narrative grade reports, 6 point GPA scales (to include AP weighting), 4 point GPA scales, plus/minus grades, numerical only grades, etc. As you can see, the GPA on one HS transcript could vary greatly from another GPA.
As such, UGA re-calculates all high school GPA's, and it is based upon the individual grades (be it semester, trimester, full year, etc.) in all the academic classes based upon the grading scale at that school. In addition, we add .5 weight to every individual AP or IB grade (unless a weight has already been added to the individual grade), and calculate a GPA based upon a 4.00 scale. Every A is worth 4 points, every B is 3 points, etc. As I said before, our goal is to review everyone on a level playing field.
As you can guess, this issue causes some serious discussions for everyone involved. Admissions offices across the country deal with questions about fairness and GPA calculation throughout the year, and many school systems have changed their grading scales in response to perceived problems. But the reality is that where we have seen grading scale changes, we have not seen a measurable change in grades from one scale to the other. In addition, no one can truly determine what grade they might have made in another school (in response to the argument "If I was at X school, I would have a 4.00 now"), as the only sure way would be to have them actually take classes at that school.
My best suggestion for everyone is to get a copy of your transcript and calculate your own academic GPA. Every college calculates GPA's in a slightly different method, but at least you will start out with a common academic GPA. One of the worst things you can do is go into the college admissions process with inaccurate information about your GPA.
Overall, the debate over GPA's and differing grading scales reminds me of a scene from the movie "This is Spinal Tap", where the main characters are discussing their band's amplifiers;
" Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven."
Thank goodness I do not have to deal with any GPA scales that go to eleven, or with any member of Spinal Tap!