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University X offers course Y with Z credits. The course is mandatory, and very important. It lasts for more than one semester with heavy workload. The University awards Z credits for the course Y, but it only includes Z/2 credits in the GPA calculation.

This is where the story gets a bit personal. I assume the University includes only Z/2 credits in GPA calculation because the majority of the students do very bad in this course. But, that is not the case for me. If I have the Z amount of credits calculated for my GPA, it is increased for 0,3, which I believe can make the difference at some point.

I asked the officials at the examination regulation department about this situation, they said: "that was the case from the day when the program you study was established". Not convinced at all.

What should I do? Should I complain somewhere, should I ask for a specific GPA calculation for myself. In the end of the day it should be in the interest of the University to have students with good GPAs, hence I believe they do all this calculation "trick". And I believe I would not be asking for something "illegal".

What is the clever thing to do when one finds such regulations in own University which can be used on one's own good?!?


In case of need GPA calculation is done as follows:

(sum over all (number of credits for the given course x grade)) / number of credits used in calculation

example:

((course with 4 credits x grade) + (course with 6 credits x grade) + (course with 12 credits x grade)) / 22 (4 + 6 + 12 this case)

Note: From the comments it seems as my intention is to get in a battle of changing regulations at my University. That is not the case at all. I am just trying to find a nice way of using this situation on my benefit, by having some convincing discussions with the officials.

Additional Note: After digging through some documentation, I found an examinations regulations document which states clearly how the GPA is calculated, but does not give a reason for this type of calculation. I am also surprised to learn that minor subjects are not included in the GPA calculation. I also learned that the Final Thesis awards M credits, but in GPA calculations is weights ~2M credits. What bugs me at the moment is, why the University officials hide this information in all the other publicly available presentations. And their answers are not convincing to me.

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Are you saying that you told the school already and they have confirmed that it is intentional and that they do not intend to change it? That's the sense I get from your writeup but the other comments suggest that might not be the case. –  Benjamin Mako Hill Jul 15 at 23:41
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How far along are you in your degree? I find it hard to comprehend how half weight on a single course, even if that course is weighted at 4 times, could make any appreciable difference to your GPA. Arguing this doesn't seem worth your time. –  sapi Jul 16 at 8:33
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@WolfgangKuehne I can't tell what your question is anymore. You agree that the GPA calculation they used matches what the regulations say. What do you want to know? –  user15623 Jul 16 at 19:35
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@WolfgangKuehne "What is the clever thing to do when one finds such regulations in own University which can be used on one's own good?!?" - That is your question? Why do you bring up GPA, and complaining, and not being convinced of things and hiding information. If you can use the regulations for your own good, use them for your own good. I don't get your question. –  user15623 Jul 16 at 19:39

6 Answers 6

up vote 32 down vote accepted

I'd hold off on your conspiracy theories as to why the GPA is computed the way it is. You are entitled to a grade computed in an accurate and transparent manner, but if you go into this process assuming the university is out to get you, you're going to have a bad time.

(Note that from your terminology, I think that your university system may be different from the US ones I know, so take with a grain of salt.)

Credit for classes isn't assigned at someone's personal whim. If the university does have a policy of computing the GPA based on Z/2 credits for this class, that's a decision that must have been made by some committee and approved by some administrators, and there will be a record of it. Most likely, it would be published in the university's course catalog or official regulations, so my first suggestion would be to read through those carefully. If it's mentioned there, then you are expected to have understood and agreed to it, and that's the end of it. (If the policy was put in place after you entered the university, you may have the right to have the previous policy applied, but it doesn't sound like that is the case here.)

If you don't find it, it's reasonable to ask someone if they can show you where the policy is documented. (If you have an advisor or someone else assigned to advise you about which courses to take and your progress in the program, they may be helpful too.)

If you still don't get a good answer (probably unlikely), you could talk to more people (e.g. a department chair). Note that if you were told about it in advance, even informally, you'll probably be considered to have understood and agreed, and the best you can hope for is to get it more clearly documented for future students.

Throughout the process, I recommend keeping the tone of "I'm confused by the system and am trying to understand it better" rather than "you've cheated me out of my rightful grade". And always keep track of what you actually hope to gain and whether your efforts are worth it - if you lock yourself in an epic battle with the university just over "the principle of the thing", it's not going to have good results for your academic career, your relationship with your professors and peers, or your own sanity.

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Well, I did my research prior to this post. Officials and other students say that is the case, but we don't know why. I went through the University regulations and welcome presentations. Everybody emphasizes the importance of the course by pointing to the fact that is has ~4 time more credits than another course, but no one says that only half of the credits will be used in GPA calculation –  Kristof Tak Jul 16 at 12:53
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It appears to me that the course is something like 4 credits but you only get 2 credits towards your GPA. Well if you are getting 2 credits then you should only pay for 2 credits and not 4... This is something your university should consider –  N0ir Jul 16 at 21:11

What is the clever thing to do when one finds such regulations in own University which can be used on one's own good?!?

I'm so glad you asked. The clever thing would be to realize that the best way to raise your GPA is to do excellent work in all your courses. Aside from being the optimal strategy GPA-wise, this has the fringe benefit that it is the only strategy with inherent rewards beyond the GPA game.

Look, I don't know where you're enrolled, but your university has taken a step down a dark road by playing with weighting GPA's differently than the number of credits or course hours (which is the weighting which corresponds to the actual instructional time and, ideally, to the workload of the course). You're contemplating a further step down this dark road by trying to play games with their game. It is up to them how they compute the GPA. I disapprove of their strange weighting system, but do you know what's even worse than a globally enforced strange weighting system? A student who asks for "a specific GPA calculation for myself".

Just rise above. See if you can recapture the quaint idea that your goal is to learn the course material rather than attain a certain number at the end. Or, if you feel that the world has moved on and that number that you get at the end is too important to your future to so naively dismiss, then respond by GETTING BETTER GRADES. Merciful Minerva, we live in strange days.

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Interesting article in a recent NY Times about "internal motivation", a generalization of your excellent answer: nyti.ms/1qG0jiO –  Morgan Sherman Jul 16 at 7:24
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@pete I agree with the overall idea of your answer. But I don't see why asking for my credits being computed appropriately would be a continuation of the dark game. Moreover, how "a (correct) specific GPA calculation for myself" is worse than institutional misbehavior. –  Kristof Tak Jul 16 at 13:03
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@Wolfgang Kuehne I used to be a pretty much extreme version of what Pete seems to describe (too GPA conscious). The good things about it are: [1] You have a clear goal you can set and track each semester [2] It makes you look good indisputably. Later I learn to realize that [2] is minor, many people at high places don't really care. I still think I got the material quite well that is I got from each course more than just a (good) number, but the GPA conscious mentality set up the habit and tendency of being too .. 'calculative'. Most people don't see that as a good human characteristic. –  InstructedA Jul 16 at 15:20
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@Wolfgang: If you actually find out that your GPA is being computed incorrrectly, then sure, you should get it fixed. But there is no evidence of that whatsoever: rather it is being computed in a way that turns out to be less than advantageous to you. –  Pete L. Clark Jul 16 at 16:14
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I can't agree with the "your fault" part. All the introductory presentations prior to the start of that course strictly emphasized its importance by pointing to the fact that it has 4x as much credits. Due to that I skipped some other courses & lectures; This, today has time/financial/learning consequences on me. As you point out, its true that I worked much harder on that course, got the best grade, and now am disappointed that the hard word "does not pay off" –  Kristof Tak Jul 17 at 12:06

If your university uses a method to calculate GPA that is transparent, publicly documented, and reproducible; you will have to live with it (or transfer to another school). If GPA calculations are opaque and at the whim of some school official, that's cause for legal action (being patently unfair). Your first task is to find out which camp your GPA calculation falls into. It may seem to be a stupid formula, but if it's evenly and fairly applied (and anyone can accurately calculate their own GPA), what's your recourse?

As for "that is the case, but we don't know why", that is an unacceptable answer from the school. Someone should be able to officially tell you the reasoning behind it. It's possible that it dates back to a cheating scandal 200 years ago, or that they don't want to change it so that they can compare GPAs from year to year, but somewhere there must be a clear reason behind it. Go through the proper channels before raising a public stink about it, and don't be confrontational about it. There may be a perfectly good reason (in their minds, anyway), for calculating your GPA that way, but it should be publicly known.

The school does owe you an explanation for exactly how (and why) your GPA is calculated. They don't owe you a change in the calculations to match your expectations, or even to match "industry standards".

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+1. Ultimately you may never be "convinced" of the reasonableness of many practices and requirements you encounter in life. You unfortunately can't force people to explain things to your satisfaction. The only thing you can (usually) do is hold them to what they said they would do. –  BrenBarn Jul 16 at 22:49

You say:

After digging through some documentation, I found an examinations regulations document which states clearly how the GPA is calculated

Since the GPA calculation is defined in regulation, the only way to have your GPA calculated differently from regulation is to have the regulation changed, and then applied retroactively.

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I think the answer to this depends if you are an undergraduate or graduate student. If you are a PhD student (and possible a Master's student) your reputation with your future colleagues is much more important than you final GPA and I would suggest you just go with the flow. As an undergraduate student (and possible a Master's student) your GPA is really important and assuming the recalculated GPA is noticeably better, it is worth the fight.

For example, my UK department calculates an unofficial GPA that is then used to determine the degree classification (first, upper second, lower second, ...). The formula we use gives zero weight to first year marks, single weight to second year marks, and double weight to final year marks (it is a 3 year program). If the resulting degree classification were to improve by using a uniform weighting (either of all 3 years or just the final 2 years) and the student filed a formal complaint with the University, it would not surprise me if the University would not cave and change the degree classification. In fact, this year the University demanded that we change our policy and look at students who are one percentage point below the degree classification cutoff boundary and see if they would have done better with a uniform weighting.

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If the University understands the issue and does not want to change, one solution might involve listing both GPAs (e.g., on a CV). I think this might be OK as long as this is completely transparent and you (a) include your official GPA (b) make it clear that your recomputed GPA is not your official GPA and (c) that you explain how both are computed and why you have two. This might be hard to do concisely but you might say:

3.9 [Official GPA] / 3.95 [Self-computed GPA: Sum(Grade * Credits)/Credits]

That said, doing this seems likely to be a distraction and pointing out two different GPAs is likely raise some red flags. If you're doing good work, how we choose to count really shouldn't matter. And if how we count does matter, you can't be doing that well. The other answers make this point very well and I won't try to reiterate it here.

You mention that this class is mandatory and most mandatory classes are taken early on. Is that the case here? Some graduate schools do not consider grades in the first year or two and most give much more weight to later years. StrongBad's comment makes it clear that some schools even try to incorporate this into the official GPA calculation itself!

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Interesting idea, especially as I recall most grad schools asking me to self-compute a particular GPA anyway (by telling me what courses to exclude, though, not by asking me to change to formula). –  Chris White Jul 16 at 15:32
    
This is a great idea if you want to present yourself to employers as the sort of person who will haggle, nitpick and complain about everything. Not many employers are looking for people like that, but OP might be happiest with one of the few who are. –  jwg Jul 17 at 14:09
    
@jwg, I think the downvote and saracastic comment is unjustified. I spend a third of my reply making the exact point you make and suggest that I do not go into even more depth because the other answers do so already. I agree with you and said as much but I was also trying to answer the question as asked. –  Benjamin Mako Hill Jul 18 at 0:38
    
What's the point of spending half the answer putting forward a really bad idea and another third explaining why it's a bad idea? Doesn't that make it a bad answer overall? –  jwg Jul 18 at 0:57
    
@jwg, Wolfgang suggested that it might make a "big difference." It's up to Wolfgang to decide if the risk of being seen nitpicking (IMHO, small but real) and the benefit of presenting a second/higher GPA is worth it. Wolfgang suggests it could change the GPA by 0.3. If the official GPA is tweaked and massaged by the university so that it really was that different, I would want to know this as part of evaluating a student's undergraduate work. Of course, I'm sure students wouldn't tell me in the situations that I really wanted to know. –  Benjamin Mako Hill Jul 18 at 1:48

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