A Grade Point Average Essay

For other uses, see Grade (disambiguation).

"GPA" redirects here. For other uses, see GPA (disambiguation).

Grading in education is the process of applying standardized measurements of varying levels of achievement in a course. Grades can be assigned as letters (generally A through F), as a range (e.g., 1 to 6), as a percentage of a total number of questions answered correctly, or as a number out of a possible total (e.g., out of 20 or 100).[1]

In some countries, all grades from all current classes are averaged to create a grade point average (GPA) for the marking period. The GPA is calculated by taking the number of points earned based on the grade received (usually four points for A, three points for B, two points for C, one point for D, and no points for F) and dividing by the number of classes.[2] This number can be used by potential employers or educational institutions as a metric to assess and compare applicants. A cumulative grade point average (CGPA) is a calculation of the average of all of a student's total earned points divided by the possible number of points. This grading system calculates for all of the student's complete education career. Grade point averages can be unweighted (where all classes with the same number of credits have equal influence on the GPA) or weighted (where some classes are given more influence than others).[3]


Yale University historian George W. Pierson writes: "According to tradition the first grades issued at Yale (and possibly the first in the country) were given out in the year 1785, when President Ezra Stiles, after examining 58 Seniors, recorded in his diary that there were 'Twenty Optimi, sixteen second Optimi, twelve Inferiores (Boni), ten Pejores.'"[4] Bob Marlin argues that the concept of grading students' work quantitatively was developed by a tutor named William Farish and first implemented by the University of Cambridge in 1792.[5] Hoskin's assertion has been questioned by Christopher Stray, who finds the evidence for Farish as the inventor of the numerical mark to be unpersuasive.[6] Stray's article elucidates the complex relationship between the mode of examination (testing), in this case oral or written, and the varying philosophies of education these modes imply, to both the teacher and student. As a technology, grading both shapes and reflects many fundamental areas of educational theory and practice. Over the past hundred years, various colleges, such as Evergreen State College and Hampshire College have begun to eschew grades. Ivy League university Brown University does not calculate grade-point averages, and all classes can be taken on a pass/fail basis. Additionally, several secondary schools have additionally decided to forgo grades. A notable example is Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn which was ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the number one high school in the country for having the highest percentage of graduating seniors enroll in Ivy League and several other highly selective colleges.[7]

Differing college grading standards within the United States[edit]

Different colleges give different grades. Private colleges give an average GPA of 3.3 while public colleges give an average GPA of 3.0 to equally qualified students.[8] In a traditional college classroom setting, women are given higher grades than men, especially attractive women with male professors (which the vast majority of professors are).[9] When taking online courses, this disparity virtually disappears.[10]

GPA in the United States job market[edit]

According to a study published in 2014, a one-point increase in high-school GPA translated to an 11.85% increase in annual earnings for men and 13.77% for women in the United States.[11]

College and post-college students often wonder how much weight their GPA carries in future employment. In the various broadly defined professions as a whole, internships and work experience gained during one's time in college are easily the most important factors that employers consider. In order of importance, the remaining factors are choice of major, volunteering, choice of extracurricular activity, relevance of coursework, grade point average and the reputation of one's college. The relative importance of these factors does vary somewhat between professions, but in all of them, a graduate's GPA is relatively low on the list of factors that employers consider.[12] There is also criticism about using grades as an indicator in employment. Armstrong (2012) claimed that the relationship between grades and job performance is low and becoming lower in recent studies.[13] The grade inflation that has plagued American colleges over recent decades has also played a role in the devaluation of grades.[14]

International grading systems[edit]

Most nations have individual grading systems unique to their own schools. However, several international standards for grading have arisen recently.

Main article: European Baccalaureate


In the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exam taken by secondary school students in England and Wales, grades generally range from 9 (highest) to 1 (lowest). However, in GCSE Science, Additional Science, Mathematics, Statistics, English Literature, English Language, and any Modern or Classical Foreign Language, there are two tiers (higher and foundation). In the higher tier, grades 9 to 4 can be achieved, while in the foundation tier, only grades 5 to 1 can be awarded.[15] Generally, a 4 or above would be considered a pass and a 3 or below would be considered a fail by most institutions: for Mathematics and English Language and English Literature, and possibly Science, this would require a resit.

If an examined candidate does not score highly enough to get a grade 1, then he/she will be 'Uncredited'. This is often abbreviated to a 'U' as a final result.

Grading systems by country[edit]

Main article: Grading systems by country

See also[edit]


  1. ^Salvo Intravaia (November 7, 2009). "Il liceale con la media del 9,93 "Sono il più bravo d'Italia"". repubblica.it (in Italian). 
  2. ^grade point average. (n.d.). WordNet2.0 Retrieved 3 October 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/grade point average
  3. ^Warne, Russell T.; Nagaishi, Chanel; Slade, Michael K.; Hermesmeyer, Paul; Peck, Elizabeth Kimberli. "Comparing weighted and unweighted grade point averages in predicting college success of diverse and low-income college students". NASSP Bulletin. 98: 261–279. doi:10.1177/0192636514565171. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  4. ^Pierson, George (1983). "C. Undergraduate Studies: Yale College". A Yale Book of Numbers. Historical Statistics of the College and University 1701 - 1976. New Haven: Yale Office of Institutional Research. p. 310. 
  5. ^Postman, Neil (1992). Technopoly The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 13. 
  6. ^Christopher Stray, "From Oral to Written Examinations: Cambridge, Oxford and Dublin 1700-1914", History of Universities 20:2 (2005), 94-95.
  7. ^April 2, 2004 Wall Street Journal, Cover Story (Personal Journal)
  8. ^Rampell, Catherine (April 19, 2010). "Want a Higher GPA, Go to a Private College". NY Times. New York: The New York Times Company. Retrieved October 20, 2017. 
  9. ^Lorah, Julie; Ndum, Edwin (November 2013), "Trends in Achievement Gaps in First-Year College Courses forRacial/Ethnic, Income, and Gender Subgroups: A 12-Year Study"(PDF), ACT Research Report Series 
  10. ^Hernández-Julián, Rey; Peters, Christina (December 2015), "STUDENT APPEARANCE AND ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE"(PDF), Metropolitan State University of Denver 
  11. ^Berman, Jillian (23 May 2014). "Female 'A+' Students End Up Making As Much As Male 'C' Students". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014. 
  12. ^"The Role of Higher Education in Career Development: Employer Perceptions"(PDF). The Chronicle of Higher Education. December 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  13. ^Armstrong, J. Scott (2012). "Natural Learning in Higher Education". Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. 
  14. ^Katsikas, Aina (13 January 2015). "Same Performance, Better Grades". The Atlantic. Retrieved 5 November 2015.  
  15. ^"Pearson qualifications - Edexcel, BTEC, LCCI and EDI - Pearson qualifications". www.edexcel.com. 

Grade Point Averages for the Ivy League

One factor that is certainly considered by all schools is an applicant’s grade point average. A grade point average, or GPA, is a testament to a student’s work in high school and reflects a scoring average from all of their classes. Often, GPAs are weighed according to the difficulty of a student’s selected courses.


To learn more about GPAs, read the CollegeVine articles What is a Good GPA for Top Schools? and Can a Good SAT/ACT Score Offset a Bad GPA?


There is no minimum GPA to apply to any of the Ivy League schools. That said, in order to be a strong candidate for one of these competitive schools, you will almost always need to achieve a near-perfect GPA. If your GPA is not as strong as that of other candidates, you will need to excel in other areas to set yourself apart.


We are often asked what GPA is needed to get into an Ivy League school. While there is no exact standard, the answer can be partially found in admissions statistics.


The average GPA of admitted students at a particular school gives you a general idea of the standards expected for admission. Of course, there is never a guarantee, and sometimes a student with a higher GPA will be rejected and a student with a lower GPA will be accepted. It ultimately comes down to your overall profile as a candidate, rather than one single number on your application.


It’s difficult to look at the average GPAs of admitted students at Ivy League schools, because these statistics are not officially released by the schools themselves. Instead, the statistics must be gleaned from existing data that is mostly self-reported by students. As such, these statistics cannot be counted on to be 100% accurate. They should give a rough idea of the GPA expected at these schools but not an exact idea.


If you’re wondering if you have what it takes to get into an Ivy League school, check out these admissions statistics, including the average GPA of admitted students at each Ivy League. As you review this data, keep in mind that its accuracy relies on self-reported numbers, so it cannot be 100% confirmed. Also keep in mind that these numbers are based on weighted GPAs on a 4.0 scale.


For more about the difference between weighted and unweighted GPAs, see our article Is Weighted or Unweighted GPA More Important?


Average GPA of Admitted Students at Ivy League Schools

Brown University: Overall acceptance rate 9%. Average GPA of admitted students: 4.05. 

Columbia University: Overall acceptance rate 6%. Average GPA of admitted students: 4.13.

Cornell University: Overall acceptance rate 14%. Average GPA of admitted students: 4.01.

Dartmouth College: Overall acceptance rate 10.5%. Average GPA of admitted students: 4.1.

Harvard University: Overall acceptance rate 5.2%. Average GPA of admitted students: 4.04.

University of Pennsylvania: Overall acceptance rate 9.4%. Average GPA of admitted students: 3.9.

Princeton University: Overall acceptance rate 6.5%. Average GPA of admitted students: 3.9.

Yale University: Overall acceptance rate 6.3%. Average GPA of admitted students: 4.19.


As you can see, average GPAs are not directly correlated with the acceptance rate at each Ivy League school. Instead, many different factors affect the decisions made by admissions committees as they evaluate the pool of applicants.


For more information about the Ivy League, check out these popular CollegeVine posts:



For more information about a specific Ivy League school, check out our series of Ultimate Guides:



If you are a high school student interested in attending an Ivy League school, but you would like some help to ensure that you present the strongest application possible, consider CollegeVine’s Mentorship Program. This program provides practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students who have been in your shoes.

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