Why is GPA Bad for Measuring Academic Success?

Why the GPA System is Flawed

Grade Point Average – or GPA, has been used globally since the 1700’s. Since its inception, many have questioned the legitimacy of using GPA as a determinant to measure student success. 

Legit or not, using GPA as the primary grading system is flawed.

Now, why is GPA bad for measuring academic success?

Firstly, it appeared two centuries before the birth of modern-day theories and technologies of quantitative educational assessment. So yes, it’s just a little outdated and historical

To highlight this, let’s look at how the 4.0 GPA scale is calculated in Ontario. This was taken directly from the University of Toronto’s grading policy.

Why the GPA System is Flawed

Essentially, a student’s GPA is calculated and converted based on the overall percentage grade they received in a given course. Looking at this chart, it becomes evident that whether a student finishes with a 99% or an 85% overall, they receive a 4.0 as their GPA value. 

This is problematic because this GPA value is extremely broad and fails to appreciate, or even recognize, the actual measure of success that the student has earned. 

Ultimately, it is not fair that someone who earns a higher grade receives the same GPA value as a student who earned their place by only a slight margin.

Reasonably, a students’ average should consist of the grade they actually obtained, not its conversion. This will reward and distinguish students for their work, instead of placing them in a category that is made to define their abilities, yet far too extensive to be a precise portrayal. 

Additionally, the current GPA system opens doors for added inequality.

Rounding policies combined with mere luck can move students higher on the scale. In the end, their grade is no longer an accurate reflection of their work or intelligence. Instead, their apparent position on the scale is due to narrowly meeting the minimum by a fluke. 

In today’s modern society, the issue of mental health is prominent. How does this relate to GPA?

Well, the answer is simple. Consider Student A that receives a 79.9% overall grade in a class. As you know from the figure above, this would technically translate to a 3.7 on the GPA scale when rounded. However, this student unfortunately has a professor that does not believe in rounding up grades, so they receive a 3.3.

What if this was the difference in having an average to declare a certain major? – or maybe it caused the student to fall just below the cut-off range for co-op! Consequently, student A feels like they aren’t good enough – even though they achieved the exact same mark. Who knows what impact the result could have on their future mental health status!

Now, compare this with Student B that achieves the exact same mark, but this time the professor decides to round up – well, you get the idea. The system is not accurately measuring the intelligence of both students equally. 

Who knows what impact the result could have on their future mental health status. This could also lead to high levels of stress and anxiety.

Why the GPA System is Flawed

Using the GPA system assumes that grades are awarded consistently amongst all courses, professors, and schools, which is far from the truth. From this, it is clear that GPA grades no longer yield accurate information. 

The GPA problem is further amplified when comparing Canadian students to international ones – because a “good” GPA in Canada differs from a “good” GPA in another country. 

Regardless of the fact that both countries use the same scale as a determinant for success, the two students are viewed differently when examining their academic performance. For students applying to graduate school, the competition is then assessed on an uneven playing field. 

So, what can be done differently to fix the issue?

Bucknell University’s Committee on Instruction proposed a system that was adopted by both Princeton University and Dartmouth College.

The idea was that transcripts would include another section titled, GPA of Medians – or GPAM’s. This metric would reveal the GPA that a student receives if they were to achieve the median grade in all their classes.

While this policy has actually provided stunning results, there are still questions as to whether or not it’s worth it.

Revamping the GPA system will ultimately require the collaboration of several countries, creating a challenge for any new procedure to be administered – but nothing will change without someone stepping up to form a proposal.

So, what do you think would be an effective way of accurately determining student success?

Share your thoughts, questions, and suggestions in the comments below!

We hope this article shed some light on a topic that is a significant part of students’ academic career and ultimately their future.

For more on the education system, check out this article!

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Thanks for reading!

2 Replies to “Why is GPA Bad for Measuring Academic Success?

  1. You are quite right in that the GPA is not a great measure of academic success. Unfortunately, it simplistic nature makes it accessible to all and is generally the first indication of school “success” that most kids see. Most higher learning facilities (like colleges and universities) use multiple criteria to judge a candidate for admission, so hopefully the GPA isn’t something that holds too much weight anymore. 

    Thanks for sharing this insight into education and GPAs!

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