Students can feel pressured or motivated by changing the weight of their grades with a plus/minus system. Graphic by Madeline Woods

Point/counterpoint: Pluses and minuses an A+ GPA system

A student’s GPA does not necessarily represent a student’s understanding of a course, and GPAs should more accurately describe a student’s work.

Throughout middle school, I was an A-minus student; when I got to high school, I’ll confess to something closer to a solid B then a B-plus average. When I came to the University of Tulsa, I adjusted very quickly to a GPA system lacking in pluses and minuses. It became normal for me to scrape by with an A, or to dip into a B with no sign for either that I was on the edge of an entirely different letter grade. Even the occasional C refused to acknowledge, as petty as it sounds, that it was damn well close to not being a C.

I understand the argument for this more rigid system of grading, I think, but it can occasionally seem to lack the precision required of a more accurate system of measurement. If our GPAs are supposed to be indicative of how well we performed academically, then I personally prefer the inclusion of pluses and minuses.

I think there are a lot of people who dislike a plus/minus grading system because it prevents their As, in the case that those As are in the low-nineties, from affecting their GPA as positively as a normal A would do. That’s a fair case, and maybe the strongest argument against the inclusion of pluses and minuses in our grading system.

Then again, many of my As have fallen in that low-nineties category, so why would I like the inclusion of A-minus? I think the plus/minus system makes a lot of sense, especially when you are looking at essays or projects not so easily graded as a test. If a professor feels you did a job that stands out from the majority of B-work they’ve graded thus far, but is especially reluctant to give you an A, they might be much more comfortable giving you a B+ or even an A-.

Though it is hardly an example of how a professional university should function, I’m reminded of a moment from my middle school, when my art teacher, who legitimately disliked me, gave an assignment of mine the “lowest A possible,” in her own words. I was actually quite content with that grade, for whatever reason. If not for the A-minus, that teacher would have likely graded my assignments as a steady string of Bs.

Am I an underachiever, do I occasionally lack a serious work ethic? Yeah. But one would think that would cause me to dislike the plus/minus system, not prefer it.

Honestly, I’m happy to take an A equal to anyone else’s, even when that A is just a tick above a B. But I don’t think it reflects anyone’s academic performance as accurately as either they, professors or future employers might hope.

Post Author: Trenton Gibbons