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Courses Is it common for people to retake a course in order to boost their GPA?

  1. May 26, 2010 #1
    By courses I mean like Multivariable Calculus, Differentials, Physics 301, etc...
  2. jcsd
  3. May 26, 2010 #2


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    I really don't know how common it is.

    You should realize, grad schools will be able to see both classes and the grades you got in each (at least at all the schools I went to, that was the case.)

    I imagine if you do it for one class, it may not be so bad, especially if you have a legitimate reason (illness, unexpected financial distress, etc.) for not doing well the first time. But if you do it for several classes it won't look so good.
  4. May 26, 2010 #3
    Wouldn't retaking courses suggest that the individual was willing to go back and improve him/herself, as long as the latest grade was better than the previous grade? Who would be most likely to be accepted to graduate school and/or hired by a company, a person who obtained a C and moved on or an individual who obtained a D, C, and finally B?

    Yes, I understand this is very subjective; I also understand the person who obtains a B+ and above would have less problems. Thanks for the information.
  5. May 26, 2010 #4

    Unless you think there is reason that retaking a class would help your understanding of the material (for example if you totally bombed the first time because of some illness or the like) it looks pretty bad to retake a class solely to boost your GPA. In general, it looks better to have a lower GPA with more advanced classes than a high GPA with less advanced ones, and while you are taking the less advanced class, you could have been taking something more advanced.

    If you failed a class, you might consider retaking. If you are retaking to boost a B to an A, it's going to look worse on the transcript than the B. If you didn't understand the material the first time, then you might want to retake the course. Retaking the course looks not great, but it's better to retake the course, than to start bombing future classes.

    Companies don't care much about GPA, and if you improve your scores by doing the exact same thing that doesn't look good for either industry employers or graduate schools. Getting a B- or even a C+ in advanced string theory looks a *LOT* better than getting an A+ in basic arithmetic.

    Actually retaking a course to turn a B+ into an A looks a *LOT* worse than retaking a course to turn a D- into a B-. If you get a C or worse, that says that your mastery of the material is incomplete, and you might want to retake the course. If you have a B, you basically do understand the material so there is no real reason other than skewing the stats to retake the course.

    The other thing to realize is that employers and graduate school committees are people, and if you do something for the sole purpose of boosting GPA, it's probably going to be transparently obvious and it's not going to look that good.
  6. May 26, 2010 #5


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    Keep in mind that most colleges will not let you retake a class if you got a C or better in it, and you cannot get financial aid to retake a class if you passed it (D- or better). So if you score between C- and D-, you'll be retaking it on your own dime - but you'd have to retake those anyway, because anything below a C usually won't count towards your major requirements.
  7. May 26, 2010 #6
    Ah ok, those are interesting points. My next set of questions is, shouldn't a person who obtains mostly Cs and Bs with a sprinkle of As consider doing something else instead? After all, that person will be competing against individuals that obtained mostly As with a sprinkle of Bs.

    There must be at least a few companies that want to hire candidates with GPAs above 3.6 over candidates with GPAs below 3.4, no? For academia, most organizations would probably want the high-scorers, no?

    I know a B Science/Engineering student will gain employment but what are the chances that person will obtain "decent" employment or be accepted to graduate school?
  8. May 26, 2010 #7
    So basically some people just cannot go to graduate school?..
  9. May 27, 2010 #8
    Well, in that the system doesn't 'owe' everyone a place in graduate school. Strive for good grades in the rest of your courses.
  10. May 27, 2010 #9

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    Not everyone gets to be an astronaut, the quarterback for the Patriots, or to play in the New York Philharmonic either.
  11. May 27, 2010 #10
    I agree with both of you on those points. No one is entitled to a place in graduate school and not everyone is able to obtain "glamorous" or "prestigious" positions; I also think no one is entitled to being a janitor, a security guard, or a Wal-Mart greeter.

    I understand Twofish-Quant's point about why trying to upgrade a B+ to an A may not be beneficial; however, I feel the "system" has some sort of double-standard built-in if a student is told the difference between a B and an A is somewhat trivial (because the student understands the material) therefore it is meaningless to try to upgrade that B; yet, an A student will more than likely be accepted into graduate school over a B student.

    What are the differences between a 3.3 GPA, 3.5 GPA, and a 3.7 GPA? Is that .2 difference significant? Perhaps the following already exists but many people would benefit from reputable statistical records of average GPA for science/engineering Bachelor's degree recipients who are admitted to graduate schools. It would certainly allay the concerns of many undergraduates that frequent these forums.
  12. May 27, 2010 #11
    I'm very interested in this.
    I took a course load WAY over my head last semester. It was a huge jump in material that the department approved from performance on earlier classes.

    I did okay in my physics classes, but got a C in an advanced differential equations course that was filled with nearly all graduate students (it was a 5000 level course, but I had expected it to be about 50/50 graduate to undergrad ration...and I suppose I also expected it to be a bit less time consuming than it was).

    I had a 3.9 going in to that semester, and obviously that dropped with the C in that class.

    I am scheduled to retake it later this summer. I don't feel that I learned the material well enough and want to retake the class regardless of the grade. However, I expect to do much better this time.

    I'm wondering if taking it for credit isn't the best option now?
    Would it look better if I audit the class....so as to show that I intended to properly learn the material I didn't the first time?
    Or should I just take it for credit and get a better grade, and possibly still graduate summa cum laude? (that may be a lame reason to take it for credit, I can accept that)
  13. May 27, 2010 #12
    The problem with getting C's and B's is that they suggest poor planning. You can get A's and B's by setting up your coursework so that you take classes that you can get A's and B's in. The fact that you didn't do that suggests something wrong.

    This is the problem with retaking the course. If you knew you were going to get a C in the course, why did you take it in the first place?

    Companies generally do not care about GPA. It might make a difference for your first job since it may be the only thing that separates candidates. Anything after that, no one cares, and it's not even worth putting on your resume since it's a waste of space.

    No. GPA's tend to be important at the lower end. If you have below a 3.0, it suggests poor planning. At the other end, no one is going to care about the difference between 3.95 and 3.98.

    Work performance often has very little to do with how well you do on the test.

    Pretty good. If you are a US citizen with a 3.0 GPA and you want to go to physics graduate school, you will find a graduate school somewhere to take you. It might be bottom-20 physics graduate school, but it's there, but even bottom-20 graduate schools need cheap labor to teach intro classes.

    The thing about bottom-2o physics graduate schools is that they aren't that hard to get into, because most US citizens if they can't get into a top or middle-ranked school, then they decide to skip physics and go into law or management.
  14. May 27, 2010 #13
    It's trivial for one class. If it happens over and over again, then it may mean something. Also GPA's very quickly become unimportant once they are decent. The difference between 3.0 and 3.5 is something of a big deal, but between 3.5 and 3.7 isn't, and a transcript with lots of hard classes that give you a 3.5 will put you in better shape than easy classes that give you a 3.7 or 4.0.

    One reason that GPA's aren't taken to be important once they are decent is that there is a lot of variation between schools. It's a lot easier to get an A at Harvard than it is at UT Austin for example.

    The good news is that if you really want to get into physics graduate school, and you really want a Ph.D. badly enough, you aren't going to have much problem finding someone that will take you.
  15. May 27, 2010 #14


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    At my university, you're obligated to pass all the courses in order to receive the undergraduate diploma. The passing grade is 4/10. You can't retake a course if you got a 4/10 or better. On the other hand, you're obligated to retake the exam if you scored under this grade.
    Note that the final exam (4 hours long for each course or even more in case of a lab+oral exam) is worth 100% of the grade.
  16. May 27, 2010 #15
    Think that would still be the case with an 8 year gap? I took calc 2 in 2001 and got a B, I then took it again in 2009 and got an A. The reason was to refresh my memory after such a long time out of school. They were taken at a community college, and I've since transferred to a 4 year university.

    Hopefully it won't come into play at all.
  17. May 27, 2010 #16
    No. If your case you had a good reason other than 'just to improve my GPA' to take the course: you wanted to refresh yourself with the material.
  18. May 27, 2010 #17
    Thank you all for the information provided.
  19. Jul 25, 2010 #18
    From my experience at the couple schools I've attended, one could only retake a course IFF he received a C or below. Thus, you wouldn't be able to turn a B into an A, for example. Though you could turn a D into a B (though both grades still remain on your transcript for all the world to see).
  20. Jul 27, 2010 #19
    so my GPA is barely a 2.5... but I'm a single dad going back to school to finish a BS in math. Why? Because after the wife left I looked at my kid and said "Kid... If I ever want to tell you to finish what you start, I'd better get busy!".

    So here I am. This is all pretty discouraging to hear.
  21. Jul 27, 2010 #20
    So if I retook a course there I would receive a C or below? That is pretty discouraging :P
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