Surprises are great under most circumstances, but not so much when it comes to your grades. Knowing how to calculate your grades can help you avoid unpleasant surprises on your report card. To determine what your grade for a given class will be, you’ll need to know the grades you’ve earned on each assignment, the grading scale and if the teacher uses weighted grades.

Grading Scale

A grading scale refers to the system that a teacher will use to convert student numerical scores into letter grades. Traditionally, the grading scale ranges from A for top performing students to F for the lowest performing. Each letter grade is usually accompanied by a percentage that indicates how many questions you answered correctly on an exam or assignment. While there are variations for grading scales that account for plusses or minuses (A+ or A-, etc.), the most common grading scale is:

  • A = 90-100 Percent
  • B = 80-89 Percent
  • C = 70-79 Percent
  • D = 60-69 Percent
  • F = 59 Percent and below

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Weighted vs. Unweighted Grades

In an unweighted system, grades have point values, and you find the final grade with how many points you earned out of the total possible points. A point is a point and no one point has more value than another, even though some assignments may be worth more overall points than others. A teacher may assign homework to be worth 10 points per assignment and tests to be worth 15 points each, or all assignments may be worth the same number of points. Point distribution is at the discretion of the teacher, so check your syllabus for information on how the teacher has set this up. The course will have a total point value, and your letter grade will come from the number of points you earn out of the total possible points.

Weighted grades take the type of assignment into consideration so that some are worth a higher value than others. The teacher creates categories for grading and assigns a percentage value to each with all categories adding up to 100 percent. Homework, for example, might be worth 10 percent of the class grade, tests and quizzes worth 30 percent, classwork worth 50 percent and participation worth 10 percent. In a set up like this, homework will always amount to 10 percent of the grade no matter how many homework assignments you get and the same goes for every other category. Check your course syllabus for information on which categories the teacher has created and how much weight each carries.

Calculate Your Unweighted Grade

If your teacher uses a point system that does not weigh the grades, calculating your grade is relatively simple. You will need to know the total number of points possible for the course, the amount of points you have earned and the grading scale. To determine your grade, add up your total points earned by the number of possible points then check the grading scale to see what letter grade lines up with the number of points you’ve earned.

Calculate Your Weighted Grade

If your teacher uses a weighted grading system, calculating your grade requires slightly more mathematics than an unweighted system would. You’ll need to know the grading categories and the assigned weight for each one along with the percentage you’ve earned in each category. To calculate your grade, multiply your percentage in each category by the weight of that category. The sum of your weighted score in all categories represents your final grade percentage.

Online Gradebook Programs

Thanks to technological advances, teachers are no longer required to calculate grades manually. Most schools use electronic gradebook programs that make grading simple and efficient. Teachers using electronic gradebook programs can choose to use either point or weighted grading systems. While point systems are still more popular because they are more familiar to teachers and students, electronic grading programs make weighted grading easier by allowing teachers to create categories and assign values that are later calculated automatically by the program. These programs also make it easier for teachers to keep their records current throughout the semester and allow students to keep tabs on their progress so that neither is overwhelmed or surprised at the end of the semester.

About the Author

Kristina Barroso earned a B.A. in Psychology from Florida International University and works full-time as a classroom teacher in a public school. She teaches middle school English to a wide range of students from struggling readers to advanced and gifted populations. In her spare time, she loves writing articles about education for TheClassroom.com, WorkingMother and other education sites.