When you study at a US higher education institution, each course you take is assigned a value called a “credit” that usually corresponds with the number of hours the class will meet over a one-week period.
For instance, a three-credit course will typically meet for one hour of lecture three days a week (usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) while a four-credit course might meet for two hours each day on Tuesdays and Thursdays or three hours a week for lecture along with a one-hour lab.
Generally, you should plan to work two-to-three hours outside of class for every credit hour, so a three-credit course might require nine hours of study/homework along with three hours of lecture.
To be awarded college credits, you must pass the course. Often, your grade will be based on:
- Examinations – Many college classes have large exams – either written or oral – including a mid-term and a final exam, along with smaller exams throughout the semester.
- Project work – Many classes require project work such as lab work, research papers or group projects.
- Class attendance and participation – If you attend large lecture-style classes, these will probably count less than if you have a smaller class size.
Your professor will usually give you a breakdown of the requirements for completing the course at the beginning of the semester and clearly explain how much each will influence your final grade.
All class grades are recorded on your permanent record (also called your transcript) and used to calculate your accumulated grade point average (GPA) for your degree program. Typically, grades are calculated like the following:
|A or 4.0||Excellent|
|B or 3.0||Above Average|
|C or 2.0||Average|
|D or 1.0||Minimally passing|
|F or 0.0||Failure|
Your institution will have its own grading policy for what is the minimal cumulative grade point average you must maintain to earn your degree.