Reading and understanding a college transcript isn't difficult once you learn how the transcript is laid out and what the acronyms and abbreviations stand for. Most colleges and universities use the semester system, but some schools and online universities use quarterly or monthly systems. Regardless of the calendar system, you must look at the units earned, grade and total grade points to read and evaluate your transcript. College transcripts typically have a column format with spaces between each semester, quarter or month, to make them easier to read.

Detailed Headings

The heading is an important part of college transcripts because it lists contact information for the registrar office, the student's name, the school-issued student identification number, the student's date of birth, the type of degree such as undergraduate, graduate or professional, and the student's major. The heading helps potential employers route your college transcripts to the appropriate hiring department when you're applying for a job. It also ensures that your transcripts clearly identify your major and degree.

Course Completions

Transcripts organize and list academic courses according to the date they were completed, starting with the oldest courses first. Semester, quarter and monthly courses all have course codes and specific class titles to describe them. Colleges use abbreviations for departments, but often spell out entire course names. For example, your transcript might read in column format, "Fall 2014, PSY 101 -- Introduction to Psychology, ENG 121 -- English Composition, FRN 102 -- French II and ART 123 -- Art Appreciation." If you're on the quarter system, your transcripts will list your course completions by quarter, not just by Fall, Spring or Summer headings. Transcripts from online universities often list course completions by month or date.

Credits and Points Earned

The units or credits earned, grade, and grade point columns provide numeric data used to tally your total credits and calculate your grade point average. Academic letter grades each have a point value, such as an "A" is worth 4 points, a "B" 3 points, a "C" 2 points and a "D" 1 point. Multiply the units or credits for each class times the letter grade value to get your grade points for each course. For example, if you got a "B" in a 3-credit semester history course, you would receive 9 grade points. If you received an "A" in a 1-credit online business course, you would receive 4 grade points. By adding up your total units, you can see how many credits you earned toward your degree.

Validation Section

The bottom section of your transcript is the certification area. There is usually a key that defines acronyms and abbreviations. For example, the letter "H" represents Honors, "I" stands for Incomplete, "N" often represents Internship, "TC" stands for Transfer Credit and "P/F" stands for pass/fail classes that weren't eligible for grade points but counted as course credits. An official registrar signature at the bottom of the page validates the transcript. A textured official school seal ensures the transcript is original and isn't a photocopy. The date specifies when the transcripts were issued, not when individual credits were earned.