What is the point of the Grade Point Average?

Larry Moran is calling for the abolishment of the Grade Point Average, favouring the reporting of grades exclusively in percentages. I have long wondered about the utility of the GPA system.

What is the value of the GPA system? This has perplexed me for years. Take a look at the GPA conversion chart of the University of Toronto:


What is the value of treating a grade of 85 as being the same as a grade of 100,  a grade of 49 as being equivalent to a zero, and collapsing the rest of the spectrum of values into points representing ranges of three or four percent? Why do academic systems say more in order to say less (many schools report both GPA and percentage grades)? This is the opposite of efficiency and prudence, as far as I can tell. What is the value in being less precise?  

Does anyone have any idea why the GPA system was ever implemented and what value it could possibly have over simply reporting grades in percentages?

4 Responses to “What is the point of the Grade Point Average?”
  1. Jaban says:

    Standardized performance evaluation.

    Grades can be used to weight a particular course differently towards your overall average, or to weight a course differently for different programs of study.

    For example, a marine biologist and a computer programmer both need to learn some discrete mathematics. But they use the knowledge differently and don’t necessarily need to perform the same. A grade of 70% in Discrete Math 101 may be more than is needed for a biology student who just needed the basics, but barely acceptable for a computer science student who will continue with more advanced math courses.

    A percentage grade reflects your performance within the course, but it may not accurately reflect your performance based on the intended use within your program of study.

    Of course, I don’t know of any schools which actually use grade points like that. Most of them do what that graph shows – convert the percentages into less accurate “grades”, and nothing more.

  2. John Medley says:

    The GPA was invented by the American academic administrators to protect the poor academic performance of their undergraduates. Essentially it allows a mediocre, American frat-boy to squeak out B+ or A- grades and look good in GPA while converting top students from foreign universities (Canada for example) with percentage grades to the same (or even lower) GPA. It is, quite simply, a travesty of academic justice and a self-serving corrupt system perpetrated by Americans for their own gain.

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess the GPA is an average within itself. I hate schools. They are full of ass holes. They make it so not all the smart people even learn because they think they know how to learn better than anyone else. I bet they couldn’t figure out anything on their own. They would die out in the woods because they are too stupid and weak. They are not well rounded people. Which makes their brain oblong. Smart people know more than one thing.

  3. Zachary Johnson says:

    By calculating my average perecentage grades in school, I got an average grade of 99 percent in my classes. But my GPA was only 11.286. This GPA can be converted into a grade of 94.05 percent, which is lower than any of my percentage grades. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.

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