Knowing what you need to score on a final exam can give you peace of mind and help you study effectively, but grading systems can be complicated, and teachers have different formulas for assigning grades. For this reason, it's difficult to guess or estimate what grade you need to pass a class. To be sure which grade you need to aim for, you'll need to calculate your grade yourself.
Items you will need
- Contact information for your teacher
- Calculator, pencil and paper or a spreadsheet program
- Class syllabus and/or grading scale
- All class assignments or list of grades so far
Understand the grading system. If you teacher refuses to tell you what grade you need, ask him how he calculates your grade. Ask whether he uses a percentage system, a points system or a letter system and ask how much each assignment is worth in the total grade. Find out what grade is needed to pass the class, and ask if he rounds grades off. For example, some teachers required a 70 to pass, but they will round up if you get a 69.5. Also, find out if the teacher has any “automatic F” rules. Some teachers fail students for missing too much class or cheating on an assignment, no matter what their grades are. If you are unable to contact your teacher, find this information in your class materials or on the class website.
List all of the grades you’ve earned so far, including attendance, homework and participation. If you don’t have this information, get it from your teacher. If your class uses a computer program or website, your grades may be listed there. If you have to guess at some of your grades, guess low to give yourself room for error. For example, if you think you’ve only missed three classes, assume you’ve missed five instead. When you’re aiming for a grade, it’s better to set your sights too high than too low.
Calculate your grade so far. Add up your grades, making sure to adjust for the weight of each grade. For example, let's say your teacher uses a percentage system and counts attendance as 10 percent, two papers at 25 percent each, a midterm at 20 percent and a final at 20 percent. Your attendance grade is 80. Multiply 80 by 0.1 (the decimal equivalent of 10 percent). This gives you 8. You made a 70 and a 65 on your papers, and a 60 on the midterm. Follow the formula for each grade, and your total should be 54.
Subtract this total from the grade you need. Let’s say you need a total grade of 70 to pass the class. This gives you 16.
Divide this number by the percentage the final is worth in your total grade. Convert this percentage to a decimal first. In this example, you would divide 16 by 0.2, giving you an 80. This means you need an 80 on the final to pass the class.
Double check your work. Multiply your final grade goal (80) by the percentage the final is worth (0.2) and add it to the number you got in Step 4. Your result should be the minimum grade you need to pass the class.
- If your teacher uses a points system, the calculations are easier. Simply add up the points you’ve earned so far and subtract them from the total to find out how many you need. Just make sure you understand how the points are assigned. For example, find out how many points you lose for each absence.
- If your teacher uses a letter system, she probably assigns a numerical value to each letter and calculates the grades that way. In that case, you must ask your teacher for her formula before calculating your grade.
- Understand your teacher’s grading system. The percentage system should work for most classes, but some teachers calculate grades differently and take other factors into account when assigning a final grade.
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