GPA: what are you made of?
In university, your academic result will be summarized by a magic number that is called the GPA, the Grade Point Average (In NUS, the GPA is called the CAP, the Cumulative Average Point). It may sound unfamiliar to you now, but that single digit number will accompany you during your 3-4 years of study and has a lot of impact on your life in the near future. Do you want to get a high GPA in university? If you do, then the first step is to understand the system in which GPA is calculated so that you can take the best advantage of it to maximize your result.
Two components of GPA
To calculate GPA, you need to know only two things: the number of credit the modules carry and the grades you get for the modules you choose. Essentially the four universities in Singapore use the same way of calculating GPA, with minor differences among them. The university education is module-based where you choose a number of required modules for completion during one semester. Each module carries certain number of credit and the credit usually corresponds to the number of lesson hours for that module every week. For example, if you take a module that carries 3 credits, you are required to attend 3 hours of that lesson every week. Moreover, after the final exams results are released, you will get a grade for each module and the grade usually ranges from A+ to A, B+, B, B-, C+ etc. Now you need to check the corresponding GPA point for the grade you get. For example, in universities other than SMU, getting A+ or A gives you 5.0, getting B+ gives you 4.0, with each grade occupying a half point range. In SMU, the situation is slight different. Since their maximum GPA is 4.0, getting A gives you 4.0, getting A- gives you 3.7 and so on. Now that you know both credit and grade, let us do the final math. You need to times the GPA point for each module by the number of credit the modules carry, sum them together and finally divide the sum by the sum of total number of credits you have taken for the whole semester.
Well, here is an example for you to better visualize it. Let’s say you take 5 modules for one semester, and you get the grades of A+, A, A, B+, B-. If we follow the NTU system as an example, your GPA points for the five modules are 5.0, 5.0, 5.0, 4.5, 3.5. The first four modules carry 3 credits each while the last one carries 4 credits. So your final GPA for that semester is (5.0*3+5.0*3+5.0*3+4.5*3+3.5*4)/(3+3+3+3+4)=4.53. Did you get the same number? And a quick note on GPA calculation in SMU. In SMU, each module usually carries 1 credit, though 1 credit there corresponds to 3 hours of lesson time each week. So you just need to substitute in the formula with different numbers. Nothing substantial is changed.
Which class are you from?
Now that you get the number of 4.53, what does it really mean? To interpret your GPA, you need to another concept that is called “class”. A class is a method of differentiating students based on their academic results. The highest class is called the first class, followed by the second upper class and the second lower class. Out of the maximum of 5.0, 4.5 and above is considered the first class, 4.0-4.5 is considered the second upper and so on. So if you get the GPA you just calculated, which class do you fall under? Yes, you are in the first class. Again, SMU is a bit different. Out of the maximum of 4.0, 3.8 and above is summa cum laude, the equivalence of the first class, 3.60-3.79 is the magna cum laude and so on.
You may be wondering how you should calculate GPA over several semesters. That is a fair question. In fact, the GPA you obtain for one semester is called CGPA (Continuous GPA). Your GPA over several semesters, or the final GPA that you will graduate with, is the average of all the CGPAs that you have.
Having a good GPA is important in many respects. Getting a higher class makes you more attractive to employers and is a huge plus if you plan to apply for graduate studies. Many opportunities in university, such as going for exchange or applying for mid-term scholarship or special programs, take your GPA into account when selecting candidates. In NUS where there is no direct honor system, your GPA at the end of your year 3 study determines if you can graduate with honor that differentiates you from the rest.
As you can see, GPA is more than a number. It actually means a lot to you. It is good that you now know in detail how GPA is calculated so you have a big picture of the academic study in university in mind. The next thing that you need to do is to work hard and work smart.
Click here on SMU GPA system.
Click here on NTU GPA calculation that is the same for NUS and SUTD.
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