How to Improve Your GPA

Getting straight A’s won’t guarantee success, but it sure doesn’t hurt. A high GPA will help you make more money, pursue further education, or change career paths. If you’re going to spend many thousands of dollars on a college education, you might as well make the most of it.

Updated by Harsh Rao on 27th February 2020

How Grade Points Work

Being smart will help you get good grades, but it isn’t required. Neither is studying nonstop. The key to academic success is being disciplined and efficient in your study habits. 

Before you can take steps to raise your GPA, you need to understand how your university calculates it. In theory, this should be some straightforward arithmetic. In practice, it’s a bit more complicated due to the different ways that universities calculate GPA.

 

Letter Grade

GPA

Letter Grade

GPA

A

4.00

C

2.00

A-

3.67

C-

1.67

B+

3.33

D+

1.33

B

3.00

D

1.00

B-

2.67

D-

0.67

C+

2.33

F

0.00

 

Now that you understand the elements of the GPA formula, here’s an example of how to calculate it. Let’s say you’re taking the following courses at Iowa State:

  • Calculus 101: 4 credit hours, for “C” grade = 2.0 GP
  • Spanish 102: 4 credit hours, for “B” grade = 3.0 GP
  • Philosophy 101: 4 credit hours, for “D” grade = 1.0 GP
  • Biology 101 + Lab: 5 credit hours, for grade “B” = 3.0 GP

 

Next, multiply the grade points for each course by the number of credit hours:

  • Calculus 101: 2.0 grade points x 4 credit hours = 8 total GP
  • Spanish 102: “B” = 3.0 grade points x 4 credit hours = 12 total GP
  • Philosophy 101: “D” = 1.0 grade points x 4 credit hours = 4 total GP
  • Biology 101 + Lab: “B” = 3.0 grade points x 5 credit hours = 15 total GP

 

Now, add all of your total grade points together. 8 + 12 + 4 + 15 = 39. This is your “total GPA earned.”Next, we’ll add up the credit hours for all of your courses to get 17. This is your “total number of credit hours attempted.” Finally, we just divide the total number of grade points earned by the total number of credit hours attempted.

 

Therefore, 39 total GP / 17 credit hours attempted = 2.29 GPA

 

Through this process, you can find out your own GPA for the current semester. By doing so, you may make changes and improvements to the 

Now that you understand how to calculate your GPA, let’s get into how you can raise it. 


How to Raise your Semester GPA

Getting straight A’s won’t guarantee success, but it sure doesn’t hurt. A high GPA will help you make more money, pursue further education, or change career paths. If you’re going to spend many thousands of dollars on a college education, you might as well make the most of it.

1. Go to class regularly — I know this one is mind-numbingly obvious but it’s important. Many professors lecture directly from PowerPoint and post the slides to the internet. This makes it tempting to skip class, download the lecture notes, and learn the material on your own. Although you can probably get away with this in easy courses, you’ll face problems in challenging ones. By skipping class, you miss out on a few important things:

  • Detailed verbal explanations that are key to understanding the material
  • The chance to ask questions and listen to the Q&A of other students
  • Special announcements
  • Opportunities for extra credit

It’s also important to consider how skipping class affects your reputation. In most classes, grades are somewhat subjective. This means that the grader’s perception of you can make or break your grade. If you frequently miss class, you’ll be perceived as someone who lacks respect for the professor and the subject matter. Why should they give you the benefit of the doubt or round that B+ up to an A-?

It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s too important to not mention. Skipping class can make you look bad in the eyes of your professor. Since grades are somewhat subjective, it’s a good idea to avoid irritating the person who will be handing out the marks. If attendance is an issue, you could be stuck with a B versus the A- you deserve.

2. Turn in All Your Homework on Time — Always turn in your homework, even if you don’t understand the material. Many professors grade homework for completion, so it’s a quick way to boost your GPA without having to do a ton of extra studying. Plus, doing the homework for each class will help you recognize gaps in your knowledge that could cause issues on exams and final projects.

3. Get Ahead in Class

  • Take notes. This helps your brain sort out what is important and makes the information easier to retrieve. Go over your notes each day while the lecture is still fresh in your mind. 
  • Sit near the front. According to a University of Colorado study, students who sit in front of the class are more engaged and successful. Some teachers even call the front and middle of the class the “zone of participation”. If you have trouble staying focused and engaged, sitting in the front might make it easier.
  • Speak up. Ask questions and join discussions. You'll retain content much better than if you stay quiet.
  • Keep up. Don't fall behind on assignments. Ask for help if you do.
  • Improve reading and writing skills. This will not only help your high school grades but also help you create strong applications and do better in college. Get help from your English teacher if you struggle with reading comprehension or writing. And, read for pleasure whenever you can. Studies show that students who read for pleasure outside of the classroom get better grades.

4. Organize yourself — If you don’t have a study strategy, you can study all day and night and still not get anywhere. The only sure way to make the most of your study time is to employ a study strategy that complements your schedule and learning style. Getting organized is one of the easiest ways to raise your GPA in college. When you’re organized, you automatically reduce the amount of time and effort that it takes to do well in college. Things you should organize (besides your thoughts) include - your class schedule, notes, study time, reading assignments and handouts.

Different professors have different teaching styles. Some lecture, some use PowerPoint slides and some depend on handouts and textbooks. The inconsistency can make note-taking problematic from class to class. The best way to handle this is to develop a note-taking system that works with each professor’s teaching style. The sooner you can get started on your assignments, the better. Try keeping a list of proven information sources, web apps and other dependable resources so that you can find something the second you need it. The saved time can be used to study, have fun or just sleep.

5. Study Effectively

  • Quiz yourself. Research shows that self-testing, such as with flashcards, helps students retain knowledge more effectively. The results are even better with a friend or study group.
  • Vary your study locations. This keeps your brain alert and allows better retention of the material.
  • Space it out. According to an American Psychological Association article, research shows that spacing out study sessions over a period of time rather than cramming right before a test improves long-term memory. If you have 12 hours to spend on a subject, it’s better to study it for three hours each week for four weeks than to cram all 12 hours into week four.

6. Do a weekly study review — A common problem students encounter is trying to learn an enormous amount of material right before the midterm or final exam. This is practically impossible. You’ll find it much easier if you take a gradual approach to study. At least once a week, review your notes starting from the beginning of the course. This only needs to take 15 or 20 minutes, just enough time to build familiarity with the material. By doing a weekly review you’ll gradually memorize everything and will better understand how one concept builds on the next. Putting in small amounts of effort on a consistent basis will drastically reduce the amount of studying you need to do right before the test.

7. Stay on Top of Your Exam Schedule — Exams and papers often determine the majority of your GPA for a given course, so doing well on them is the highest impact way to raise your GPA. But you can’t succeed on tests and papers if you don’t give yourself time to prepare. For this reason, make sure you put all exam dates and paper due-dates on your calendar. 

8. Take Care of Yourself

  • Get enough sleep. Your brain needs rest to function at its best.
  • Reward yourself. Celebrate your achievements, big and small.
  • Ask for help. If you feel you're floundering, get help from a teacher, counselor, tutor, friend or parent.

9. Consider Dropping a Course — In certain cases, the best thing for your GPA may be to drop a course altogether. This is a drastic measure, so only do it if you’ve tried other steps for improving your grade. If you’re doing poorly in an elective that you don’t strictly need, for instance, then you’re hurting your GPA for nothing. Don’t let the sunk cost fallacy trick you into “sticking it out” just because you already invested time in a course. Sometimes, it’s best just to walk away. It doesn’t mean you’re a “failure.” It just means you’re making a tactical decision.

10. Get a Tutor — Sometimes your professor or TA might not be the best at explaining a difficult concept. Or, you may need more help than they have time to give you. In these cases, look into getting a tutor. Your university likely provides them for free in most subjects (particularly in STEM and language courses). You can then arrange to meet with your tutor on a regular basis for help with homework or exam prep.