Understanding Grades

Being able to understand your grades and calculate your GPA will help you monitor your academic progress. You will be able to set goals and make plans to ensure you are on-track to graduate on time. You will also know whether you are eligible for various academic, financial, and athletic opportunities.

What is a Grade?

A grade is a score that represents your level of success in a course. Your instructor will grade your assignments during the course, and they must also assign you a final grade (or notation) at the end of the course.

Letter grades range from A+ (the highest score) to F (the lowest score). The possible grades are A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-, and F. Not all instructors use plus and minus grades.

Although a D- is the lowest “passing” score, you typically must earn a C average to graduate. (See “Calculating Your GPA,” below, for more information.)


In some courses and situations, you might earn a notation instead of a letter grade. Common notations include:

  • I (Incomplete): a student who is on-track to pass a course and has completed most of the assignments is unable to complete the course due to serious circumstances. Incomplete work must be completed within one calendar year.
  • P (Pass): assigned when a student successfully completes a Pass/Fail course. They earn course credit, but their GPA is not affected.
  • S (Satisfactory): assigned when a student passes an internship, workshop, practicum, or field experience course. They earn course credit, but their GPA is not affected.
  • U (Unsatisfactory): assigned when a student fails an internship, workshop, practicum, or field experience course. It negatively affects their GPA.
  • W (Withdrawal): a student officially drops a course via the Student Hub after the drop deadline but before the withdrawal deadline. Typically, the course does not affect their GPA, but they do need to pay all tuition and fees.

Where Your Grade Comes From

Your instructor must provide you with information about how they calculate final grades. Check your course syllabus or grading policy.

Refer to the Academic Calendar to find when grades are due from faculty and available to students online via the Student Hub.

Where to Find Your Final Grades

Go to the Student Hub and click the Grades link under Course Info.

Calculating Your GPA

GPA stands for Grade Point Average. It is a number that represents your average grade. The highest possible GPA is a 4.0, and the lowest possible GPA is a 0.0.

To calculate your GPA, first convert each letter grade to a number. The point values for each grade are as follows:

  • A+: 4.00
  • A: 4.00
  • A-: 3.67
  • B+: 3.33
  • B: 3.00
  • B-: 2.67
  • C+: 2.33
  • C: 2.00
  • C-: 1.67
  • D+: 1.33
  • D: 1.00
  • D-: 0.67
  • F: 0.00

Next, calculate the average value of all your grades. To do this, add up all of the point values, then divide by the number of grades. Your GPA will be between 0.00 (the lowest possible GPA) and 4.00 (the highest possible GPA at MSU Denver).


Let’s say you earned two As, one A-, one B+, two Bs, one C+, and one C in your first year of school. First, convert all of the letter grades to numbers:

A, A, A-, B+, B, B, C+, C becomes 4.00, 4.00, 3.67, 3.33, 3.00, 3.00, 2.33, 2.00.

Next, find the average of those values. To do this, add them all up, then divide by the number of grades (eight).

(4.00 + 4.00 + 3.67 + 3.33 + 3.00 + 3.00 + 2.33 + 2.00)/8 = 25.33/8 = 3.17

In this example, your GPA is 3.17.

Math Tip: If you are using a calculator, make sure you use parentheses as shown in the example above, or hit “Enter” after you finish adding all the grades together (before you divide). Otherwise, your answer will come out wrong.

Consequences of a Low GPA

Usually, a 2.0 average is required to graduate. You are in “academic good standing” if you have a 2.0 or higher. If your GPA is below a 2.0, you will be placed on academic warning status. If you are on academic warning status and your GPA falls below 2.0 in the next semester, you will be placed on academic probation. If you are on probation and not making progress toward returning to good standing, you may be prohibited from registering for future classes. This is called Academic Suspension.

Additionally, a low GPA can cause you to lose scholarships, financial aid, or eligibility for sports. Although 2.0 is a common minimum GPA requirement, refer to the individual scholarship or aid package.