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Calculating Your Grade

Below are a few basic systems that most professors use to grade in their classes. 

The two main systems are.  

  1. Assigns POINTS to each assignment, project, paper or exam. Your grade is then based on the number of points you have accrued at the end of the semester.  
  2. Assigns a PERCENTAGE to each assignment, project, paper or exam.  Your grade is then based on an overall percentage in the course.


Points Example

A straight-forward way of accruing points in each area throughout the semester, and then adding them all up at the end of the semester to compare to the grading scale.  

Quizzes 300 A 800-660
Final Exam 200 AB 659-640
Labs 200 B 639-575
Attendance 100 BC 574-555
    C 554-500
    CD 499-480
    D 479-400

In this example, the professor has listed the different areas that are graded (quizzess, final exam, labs, and attendance) and how many points are available in each. 

Maybe, you received the following points:

Exam 1 80
Exam 2 78
Exam 3 96
Final 124
Labs 175
Attendance 80

Total 633

You earned 633 points in the semester.  According to the grading scale, you would receive a "B" in the course.  


Percent Example

You still get points on each assignment, but instead of looking at the sum of your points, you look at the percent of points you earned.

Grading Curve
Homework 25% A 90-100 C 70-74
Quizzes 25% AB 85-89 CD 65-69
Midterm Exam 25% B 80-84 D 60-64
Final Exam 25% BC 75-79 F Below 60

Take the average of your points in each grading category.  From the chart, you can see that each is category is worth 25% of your grade.  When you compute your final grade, you can "translate" your percentage into a letter grade using the curve.

Perhaps you earned the following points:

Homework (out of 10 points) Quizzes (out of 15 points) Midterm Exam:  100 points
Homework 1 8 Quiz 1 15   88
Homework 2 7 Quiz 2 13    
Homework 3 6 Quiz 3 12 Final Exam:  200 points
Homework 4 9 Quiz 4 15   184
Homework 5 10 Quiz 5 10    
Homework 6 10 Quiz 6 14    
Homework 7 8 Quiz 7 15    
Homework 8 9 Quiz 8 13    
Homework 9 8 Quiz 9 15    
Homework 10 6 Quiz 10 14    
Total: 81   136    
Average: 81/(10pts*10 homeworks) =0.81 or 81% 136/(15 pts *10 quizzes) =136/150=0.907 or ~91%  

After determining where you stand on your current assignments, you can figure out an approximate final grade.  

Calculate the total points you received on all of your homework assignments.  Next, calculate the total possible points earned on your homework assignments.  You need both of these numbers to calculate the percent correct you have earned.

You received 81 total points out of your homework assignments.  You received an 81% for the homework portion of your grade (so, by the curve above, about a B average).

You can do the same for your quiz grade.  Your quiz grade is 90.7% (an A average).

Your midterm exam grade is 88%.  You received an 88%, or an AB on the midterm.

Your final exam grade is 92%.  You received an A on the final.

Now, you are ready to determine your final grade, as follows. Take the amounts you earned in each individual section; multiply them by the percent each section is worth.  See below example:

Grading Your grade * % section is worth = =20.25
Homework 81*.25 =22.675
Quizzes 90.7*.25 =22
Midterm 88*.25 =23
Final 92*.25  

Total   87.925

Your total is 87.925.  By looking at the chart above, you would get an AB in the course.



There are many, many different types of grading curves. 

Bell Curve

The standard curve is commonly called a "bell" curve.  In this case, there is a specific number of each letter grade allowed.  For example, in a class of 20, the top grade in the class would get an A, and the lowest grade would be an F.  The middle 8 or so grades would be a C, and the rest become AB, B, BC, CD, or D.  This curve will rank you in terms of your classmates.  It is a system that can cause a large amount of animosity, and does not lend itself well to collaboration between students! 

Pre-set Curve

Some people call their specific grade distribution a "curve."  For example, one instructor at Edgewood uses the following:

90 - 100% A
88 - 89% AB
80 - 87% B
78 - 79% BC
70 - 77% C
68 - 69% CD
60 - 67% D
Below 60% F

The "curve" is already set, at the beginning of class.  If you receive anywhere from 90-100% on your work, you would receive an A.  In this type of curve, you are competing only against yourself. 

Random Curve

Occasionally, you can find the following statements in a syllabus:

"Keep in mind that this scale may change based upon overall class performance, but it will only be adjusted downward"

"This curve may be adjusted but only at the end of the semester after the final exam is graded and the numerical averages are completed."

This type of curve is put into place for your benefit!  It means that the instructor had a specific "pre-set" curve in place when the semester started.  After looking at all grades at the end of the semester, he or she may decide to adjust the scale to allow more students to receive As, Bs, Cs, etc.  This type of curve will not harm your grade in any way; instead, it may boost you from an AB to an A!