OK Students – This one is for you. It is that time of year when you are thinking to yourself, “How much do I need to study for this final exam?” You likely have an overall goal in mind for what you would like to make in the course. We can run through some simple math to determine what your final exam grade needs to be in order to meet that goal!
This is powerful information. Knowing what you need on an exam can either add tons of stress or take away tons of stress. This can cause you to either go into studying overdrive or total studying apathy. This information alone can dictate how much fun you are allowed to have the weekend before final exams.
Think you can handle it? Read on…
Calculating Your Final Exam Grade Using Percentages
You will need your average grade so far and a copy of your course syllabus. (Side note: Here is a great article about why you should actually read your syllabus).
Find the section of your syllabus that looks something like this:
Keep in mind that your syllabus may list totally different categories, a different number of categories, or way different percentages.
So what does this tell me? In both of the cases above the final exam is worth 20% of my grade, meaning everything else is worth 80%. The formula below shows how my overall grade in the course would be calculated. You can see that I have converted those percentages into decimals (fancy talk for moved the decimal two places to the left).
Rearrange this formula to solve for the final exam grade:
At this point, decide what grade you are hoping for in the class and plug it in for your Overall Average. For example, if your school is on a 10 point grading scale, and you are hoping to pull off an A in the class, plug in a 90 for the overall average. (Or if you think things are going to be really tight, plug in an 89.5 😉 ).
In this first example, we will assume that some sort of classroom management system is helping you track your grade. Maybe your course uses Moodle, Blackboard, PowerSchool, or some other program that is calculating your grade as the semester progresses.
These programs typically calculate your grade based one what has been entered so far. They ignore any grades that have not been entered yet and ratio the percentages up as if the other grades do not exist. This means that even though your final exam grade has not been entered yet, the program is giving you a weighted average of what your grade is up to this point.
For this example, we will assume that so far in the semester you have a 91 average. The final exam is worth 20% of your grade. You are hoping to achieve an A in the course – meaning you need at least a 90 in the course.
We will plug 90 in as your Overall average and use our handy dandy equation to determine what you need on the final exam to keep your A.
(Watch your order of operations friends – all of that stuff on the top needs to be calculated before you divide).
So this means that as long as you get an 86 on the final exam, you get to keep your A in the course.
In our second example, we will pretend that we do not have a handy program calculating your average so far for you. Consider the quarterly scenario in the picture we saw earlier where the 1st quarter counts 40%, the 2nd quarter counts 40%, and the final exam is 20%.
We will assume that you earned an 85 in the 1st quarter and a 73 in the second quarter. You are hoping to maintain a B average in the course – meaning you need at least an 80.
Rearrange this to solve for the final exam grade:
As long as you get an 84 on the final exam, you get to keep your B in the course.
Now For the Bad News
Occasionally I show a student this calculation, they run the math, and then they ask me to check their calculation. Something must be wrong because it is giving them a 114 as an answer.
Best case scenario: they did the calculation incorrectly.
Worst case scenario: they did the calculation exactly right. This means that their desired grade is out of reach. In some cases, a grade is too low going into the exam and there is no way to pull it up to the desired grade.
How Did It Turn Out For You?
Did you find this post helpful? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.