Calculating Your Grade

Below are a few basic systems that most professors use to grade:  

  1. Assign 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. Assign 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 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 listed the areas that are graded (quizzes, final, labs, attendance), and how many are available in each. 

Maybe, you received the following points:

Quizzes 254
Final 124
Labs 175
Attendance 80

Total 633

You earned 633 points.  According to the grading scale, you earned a "B" in the class.  

Percent Example

You still get points on each assignment, but instead of looking at their sum, 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 category.  From the chart, you can see that each 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 (60 pts) Quizzes (90 pts) Midterm (100 pts)
Homework 1 8 Quiz 1 15 88
Homework 2 7 Quiz 2 13  
Homework 3 6 Quiz 3 12 Final (200 pts)
Homework 4 9 Quiz 4 15 184
Homework 5 10 Quiz 5 10  
Homework 6 10 Quiz 6 14  
Total: 50   79
Average: 50 / 60 = 
.833 or 83%
79 / 90 =
.877 or 88%
88 / 100 = 
.88 or 88%

184 / 200 =
.92 or 92%

First, add the points you received on all your Homework.  Next, calculate the total possible points on Homework. You received 50 points out of 60 possible, or 83% (according to the curve, that's a B).

Now, do the same for your Quizzes.  You received 79 points out of 90 possible, or 88% (that's an AB).

Next, your Midterm is 88% (that's an AB).

Last, your Final is 92% (that's an A).

Now, you are ready to determine your overall grade. Take the amounts you earned in each area, then multiply by the percent each area is worth:

Grading Your grade x % section is worth =
Homework 83 x .25 =20.75
Quizzes 88 x .25 =22.0
Midterm 88 x .25 =22.0
Final 92 x .25 =23.0

Total   87.75

Your total is 87.75.  You would get an AB in the course.



There are many 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 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.  

Pre-set Curve

Some people call their specific grade distribution a "curve."  For example, an instructor 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%, 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:

"This scale may change based on overall class performance, but it will only be adjusted downward."

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

This type of curve is for your benefit.  After looking at all grades at the end of the semester, the professor may decide to adjust the scale to allow more students to receive an A, B, or C.  This type of curve will not harm your grade; instead, it is intended to boost your grade.