What's a GPA?

Not wanting to hijack this thread:http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=492029

I thought I’d ask the question here.

What is a GPA? In the UK it seems that our degree classifications are different to the USA. We have 1st, 2:1, 2:2, 3rd, pass, fail as a general rule of thumb.

How does the US system relate to the UK system? I assume that there has been sufficient cross Atlantic job seekers that it is possible to relate a UK and USA degree class.

It’s not just a US thing, at the University of Glasgow to progress through the years I have to have attain a certain Grade Point Average (GPA).

For each individual course, you gain a grade from A-E with a number 1-5 with A1 being the best (>90%) and E5 being worthless. An A grade is worth 16 points, B is 14, C is 12 etc. Your points are multiplied by the credits the course is worth and then averaged.

To progress through the early years, I only needed a GPA of 10 at the end of the year to stay on the course. To get onto the MEng course, my third year GPA had to be above 13. At the end of it all, the University still awards degrees with classifications that you stated above, and these are worked out with some complicated ‘Aggregation Score’ from your courses.

Your GPA is, at this institution anyway, a record of how well you’re doing whereas the final classification is a record of how well you’ve done.

Not all universities use the same system, but in general it’s pretty simple. For each class, you get a letter grade from A to D or an F if you fail. To calculate grade point average, an A is worth 4, B=3, C=2, D=1 and F=0. Add them up and divide.

Some schools will use a weighted average for classes that have more work (“hours”) than others.

Thanks, that seems to make sense. Do you have a classification as well as the GPA then or is the GPA the “end result” as it were?

Usually the G.P.A. is all that is given for your college achievements. (Incidentally, nearly everyone will also have a G.P.A. for their high school achievements too. It works the same way. Each course you take in high school is given a grade. The G.P.A. is the average of those grades.) Some colleges but not all will label graduates as Summa cum laude, Magna cum laude, and Cum laude, according to varying standards based on their G.P.A. The top few will be summas, the next few will be magnas, and the next few will be just cum laude. There is no consistency about this. Some colleges don’t use this labels at all. Some use them, but not very many students graduate with these labels. Some give the titles more freely so that most students graduate with at least the cum laude label.

The GPA is nearly meaningless as a measure of academic ability. It does not reflect the rigor of courses taken and in many schools it correlates poorly with standardized test scores. At my local high school, there are further farces because the GPA is used to determine class rank. Some honors courses are worth a 5 instead of a 4, for example. If two students take the same two honors courses and both get the highest grade, and one of them takes two additional courses in which she earns the maximum possible grade, the student taking the additional courses will have a lower GPA for that semester.

There is one advantage of GPA for students of lesser ability in mediocre schools: by generating an overall class rank, it allows institutions of higher learning to ignore or underemphasize standardized scores and try to recruit or admit students from the top tier of a school rather than any objective measurement of absolute learning. UC Berkely would be a good example of a school willing to ignore standardized scores in favor of GPA and other attributes in an effort to recruit otherwise underrepresented populations.

Chief Pedant writes:

> There is one advantage of GPA for students of lesser ability in mediocre
> schools: by generating an overall class rank, it allows institutions of higher
> learning to ignore or underemphasize standardized scores and try to recruit or
> admit students from the top tier of a school rather than any objective
> measurement of absolute learning. UC Berkely would be a good example of a
> school willing to ignore standardized scores in favor of GPA and other attributes
> in an effort to recruit otherwise underrepresented populations.

Are you talking about graduate schools recruiting based on the college G.P.A. or colleges recruiting based on the high school G.P.A.? It’s hard to tell what you’re talking about here. It’s also irrelevant to the O.P. Walker in Eternity was asking about what sorts of distinctions colleges make in degrees awarded to graduates, not about whether those distinctions make sense.

One of the schools I went to also gave an extra point for honors classes (I ended up with exactly a 4.0 GPA, despite not being a straight-A student), but I can’t see the dilution effect you’re talking about being a problem. At all of the schools I’ve seen below the college level, students have no choice of how many classes to take, only of what those classes are. So the proper comparison isn’t between a student who takes an honors course and two “normal” ones versus the student who takes only the single honors course: The proper comparison would be the student who’s taking a mixture of honors and regular versus the student who’s taking all honors courses. So the honor student’s GPA would be higher because, in the courses where they differ, that student is taking more challenging classes than the student who is taking a mixture.