What are Weighted Grades?
In most classes that you take, there are several types of assignments. For example, you might have homework grades, quizzes, tests, special projects, presentations, etc. When an instructor designs a class, he or she puts a certain weight on the different assignments. In other words, the teacher is giving value to different types of work that you will complete to reflect the importance of each type of assignment.
How to Calculate a Weighted Class Grade
To understand weighted grades, and how they work, sometimes it helps to look at how grades are calculated when they aren't weighted.
Let’s say you’re enrolled in a Physics class. In the course syllabus, the instructor has a list of each of the assignment categories:
10 homework assignments
1 group presentation
In this example, each type of assignment has equal value—since there are five different types of assignments, each category of assignment is worth 20% of your grade (20% x 5 = 100%).
Fast forward to the end of the semester, and here are the grades you received for this class, by assignment type:
To find out what your final grade is, you would simply take the average of all your grades, since everything has an equal value.
First you would add all your grades up, then divide by 5 to get your final grade.
90% + 85% + 85% + 95% + 90% = 445 ÷ 5 = 89%
In this example, your final grade is 89%, or a B+ GPA, depending on your school or instructor.
However, final grades in real life are rarely calculated this way. Typically an instructor or professor will assign varying weights to different aspects of your grade. Let’s look at a more realistic example.
Homework (100 points available) worth 15% of your grade.
Quizzes (100 points available) worth 10% of your grade.
Chapter Tests (1000 points available) worth 30% of your grade.
Project (100 points available) worth 20% of your grade.
Final Exam (100 points available) worth 25% of your grade.
Now, it gets a little tricky, but let’s pick it apart.
Let’s say these are your grades at the end of the semester for this class:
|Homework||90/100||15% of grade|
Since each grade category is weighted, we have to now figure out how this factors into your final grade. This time it's not a simple task of averaging all your grades together. We need to look at how your grades are calculated using a weighted grade formula.
We do that by multiplying your grade category percentage by the weighted value percentage. It looks like this:
When we add up the weighted grades, we get 89.65, which, when rounded up to the nearest whole number, is a grade of 90, or an A- GPA.
Strategies for Success
As we can see above, in a weighted grade, different aspects of your class are worth more or less, depending on the professor or instructors. In that example, the biggest portion of the grade is the Test category: so, the professor is emphasizing the importance of the value of your chapter test scores. In the same example, quizzes are worth just 10% of your grade.
Pay attention to every aspect of your grade
However, it’s important to not just look at what is weighted the highest. For example, if you were to only focus on Chapter Tests and the Final Exam, you’d only be paying attention to just a little more than half of your eligible points.
Even though grade categories that comprise just 10% of your grade may not seem that important in the big picture, it's critical to pay attention to every aspect of your grade. Every homework assignment and every quiz.
Doing well on homework and quizzes, for example, gives you a cushion as you move into the tests, final and project score. If you're preparing for a final exam you can see this in action by using our final grade calculator. Ignoring homework and quizzes means you'll need much higher grades on your chapter exams, the final and your class project.
As an extreme example, let’s say you don’t even bother with completing homework or studying for your quizzes. But, you do great on your tests, projects and final exam. Here’s how your weighted grade might look, and how to calculate your final grade:
You just went from an “A” to a “C” even though you paid good attention to 75% of your grade. Ignoring that 25% which was comprised of homework and quizzes really knocked you down. Homework really adds up, doesn’t it?
Prepare for your final
In most classes, your final exam is worth a very high percentage of your total grade; sometimes up to 40–50% of your final grade.
Studying and preparing for a final exam can raise up a low grade. Let’s take a look at an example of this might play out. Below, we see “C” grades up until the final, and what happens if you prepare and study well for the final, achieving a high score of 95%. When the final is worth 45% of your grade, as in this example, you can see how it benefits you to do well on your final exam:
By doing well on the final, you increased your grade from a “C” average to a solid “B.” But remember, if you pay attention to every aspect of your grade before you take your final, you will have a bigger cushion, and can relax a little bit (although not too much 😉).
If you end up not getting a desired grade in one individual class, don’t fret. You can make up for it, and keep your GPA high by working extra hard in the rest of your classes. Let’s look at that in the next section.
How Weighted Grades Factor Into Your Cumulative GPA
Every class you take will affect your cumulative GPA, so whatever class you are taking, it will either increase, decrease, or keep your GPA the same. We’ve all taken, or will have a class, where our grade isn’t up to our expectations or goals. Some students get discouraged and give up. But, the good news is that one class is not the end of the world if you don’t do well. Not even two or three if you are able to turn things around with hard work, assistance and support.
The most important thing to do is to pay attention to your GPA—it’s far more important than your individual grade in any one class. For example, future employers, scholarship committees and grade school admissions committees rarely pay much attention to individual class grades. They want to know one thing about your grades; your cumulative GPA. If you haven't already, check out our cumulative GPA calculator, it'll save you time and effort calculating your cumulative GPA, and save it for future reference.