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Calculating semester gpa? did my school make a mistake?

  1. Dec 23, 2009 #1
    ok i know ill come off as a smart *** here..but im a premed major, and im dealing with very stiff competition. every single point on my gpa means a lot to me. with that being said this semester i didnt do so hot. i got an A- in a 4 credit biology course, a B in a 4 credit math course, and an A in a 5 credit chemistry course.

    i calculated my semester GPA to be a 3.6 and my cumulative gpa to be a 3.89. i went onto the site where my grades are posted and it said that my semester gpa is a 3.59. once again i know this sounds stupid, but its important to me. am i in the wrong here? its also saying my gpa is a 3.88.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 23, 2009 #2


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    Does the school's software round numbers or truncate numbers?

    Is an A- worth 3.7 points? It's kind of hard to truncate 3.60 into 3.59. None the less, it's almost certainly because of the software they use to calculate GPA's. The last significant digit is always uncertain (which is why they go through all the trouble to teach you sig figs at the beginning of all your freshman math/science courses).
  4. Dec 23, 2009 #3
    Premed is a major?... I thought you were majoring in "science."
  5. Dec 23, 2009 #4
    im not sure what trunctuate means, but i dont know if they do either. my cumulative gpa they might round to the nearest 2 decimals though since my cumulative is 3.88 and my semester is 3.59. however its strange that both my cum and semesters gpa are exactly 1/10 less than on the goa calc site i used for this,.
  6. Dec 23, 2009 #5


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    Truncating means cutting the digits off after 2dp so, for example, 3.5879 becomes 3.58. Rounding means taking account of the last digit you cut off, so 3.5879 becomes 3.59.

    It's likely that this is the difference, or you have calculated your results by rounding at an earlier stage in your calculation.
  7. Dec 23, 2009 #6


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    1/100 of a point in your GPA is NOT going to make a difference. Letters of reference and personality on an interview is going to have more impact than that tiny difference in GPA. And, when it's time to apply to med schools, your GPA at your school actually becomes meaningless, because you'll completely recalculate it to normalize the numbers on the AMCAS forms. The reason is that not all schools use the same grading scales. While you earned an A-, there are places that don't give minus grades, and an A- would have been either an A or a B+ or maybe even a B.
  8. Dec 23, 2009 #7


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    The handling of plus grades and minus grades can vary, too. If an A- is worth 3 and 2/3 points, then the school calculated your GPA correctly. If they used 3.7, then your semester GPA would be 3.6.

    If you used a website's calculator to calculate your GPA, do you know how your school calculates GPA? There's no guarantee the website uses the same method.

    I can understand your concern. Results from all these different schools, that used different methods to calculate their GPA, will be combined into one ordered list and your results ranked against the others.

    Just like football. A player runs the ball out of the endzone, a referee estimates where the ball was when the player was tackled and plants a stake. Then, after four plays of eyeballing where the ref thinks the ball should be place, they measure how far away the ball is from that original spot with great preciseness. If the ball comes up just a wee bit short, they lose the game even though no one ever knew exactly where the ball should have been spotted for any single play!

    Just try not to be the guy on the cutoff line. By time you're splitting people that finely, it's just luck and they may as well flip a coin as to who gets admitted and who gets rejected. Other than that, you're worrying yourself over fine details that you only have a rough control over.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2009
  9. Dec 23, 2009 #8
    yeah, its just a 3.6 looks so much better for a term than a 3.59. and i still get paranoid about ever ounce of my gpa, because a lot of students are so competitive that adcoms looks at all things. its my break though, so im going to get in some doctor shadowing, and maybe plan for next semes.
  10. Dec 23, 2009 #9
    i don't understand the reasoning for +/- grades. is it a response to grade inflation (hey, i'm old, it was an issue like 20 years ago) to inject more competition into the process now that overall grades are higher?
  11. Dec 23, 2009 #10
    i think its to make things fair. if you have somebody with an 89.5 average and someone with a 100 average, and they both get an A, its hard to tell who has really mastered it.
  12. Dec 23, 2009 #11
    i think usually, those who master the material are excellent at most things they do, and their overall GPA will differentiate that ethic after 4 years.
  13. Dec 23, 2009 #12
    Sportsstar, I don't blame you for being worked up over this. Medical school admission is indeed a stressful and extremely competetive process. First of all, you might want to talk to someone at your school and make sure they didn't just screw up. It's hard to believe that this would happen, given that it's all computerized. But the phone call is free and should only take five to ten minutes, so why not?

    Secondly, as Moonbear already mentioned, AMCAS recalculates your GPA anyway. So even if your school has a weird way of calculating GPA that puts you at a disadvantage, this will ultimately not matter, because the GPA that medical schools see is your AMCAS GPA. You might want to check out this PDF document:


    These are the instructions for AMCAS 2010. On page 7 you'll find all of the information about how AMCAS calculates your GPA.
  14. Dec 23, 2009 #13
    yes, but if you have someone consistently getting 89.5s, and someone consistently gettin 100s in their classes, and they each have the same 4.0 gpa, it will be hard to see whos mastering the material enough to get 100s, and who has a good grasp to get an 89.5, but not exactly brilliant enough to get the 100 score. im kind of on the fence about plus or minuses. on one hand, if a studenmt recieves an 87 in the class, they will recieve an A- which is a benefit, because they other wise would have got a B with no plus or minuses. on the flip side however, if you have an 89.5, instead of getting the A you will get screwed and get the a min.
    thnks man i appreciate this. i actually checked another calculator, that had the same results as my school.
  15. Dec 23, 2009 #14


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    That's an easy system.
    At the one school I knew that used pluses and minuses, it took a 93 for an A (and there was no A+). 90-92 was an A-. 87-89 was a B+. 83-86 was a B 80-82 was a B-, etc.

    Whether an 89.5 got you an A in the old system or an A- in the new system depended entirely on the professor. Some professors rounded up to the nearest integer. Some rounded up to the nearest 10th, etc. Some would even truncate, meaning an 89.9997 was just an 89.
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