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__Understanding WAM and GPA__There exists much confusion around the two averages used at different tertiary education institutions, the Grade Point Average (GPA) and the Weighted Average Mark (WAM). This confusion is compounded by the fact that each university has adopted their own variations of the particular systems.

In this guide the difference between the two systems, how to calculate your average and some common misunderstandings will be discussed. It's good to keep in mind that most employers are aware of this fact and it should not be a problem when seeking employment, and that your average is not going to be the only criteria considered for graduate jobs.

WAMWAM

The

**WAM**is typically the mean value of all your marks out of 100. The "weighted" in the title refers to the fact that subjects are weighted against their respective credit point value. Despite what the name suggests, subjects are not weighted ("scaled") by difficulty. Some universities or faculties do weight subjects in later years heavily compared to first year subjects, but you will have to read up on this at your universities' site. A simple google search for "WAM *your university name and faculty*" should help you find this.

In NSW, the WAM system is used at the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and the University of Wollongong. Most other universities use GPA. At some universities which officially use GPA, a WAM is still used behind the scenes for transfers, the dean's list and honours calculation.

Assuming no weighting of subjects according to the year they are completed in, your WAM can be calculated using this formula:

That is, the sum of all your marks multiplied by their credit point values divided by the sum of all credit point attempted. If all of your subjects are of equal credit point value, this formula can be simplified to:

GPAGPA

The

**GPA**is a number out of either 4 or 7 and works by assigning each grade a respective value known as a grade point.

Your GPA is the average of this value across all of your subjects. The immediately obvious downside of this is that the GPA system treats all marks in a single grade range as the same. A credit mark of 65 and a credit mark of 74 are treated as equivalent.

The typical 4 point scale uses 0,1,2,3,4 grade points. This means a fail is 0, a pass is 1, a credit is 2, a distinction is 3 and a high distinction is 4. The typical 7 point scale uses 0,4,5,6,7 grade points. Thus, a fail will hurt your GPA under a 7 point scale considerably more than under a 4 point scale.

Unfortunately it's more common to find a university using a variation on these than finding one that uses the typical values. Macquarie in particular use an odd variation on the 4 point scale where grades are shifted up by a whole point with distinctions and high distinctions weighted equally.

There is a great table on wikipedia with all the different grade weightings across all Australian universities here, but make sure to check with your universities site. You should be able to find this by googling "GPA *your university*".

As mentioned earlier, when assigning grade points you consider only the grades and not your marks. This is the formula for calculating your GPA:

Assuming all of your subjects are worth equal credit points, this formula can be simplified to the following:

FAQFAQ

How do I convert WAM to GPA? (or vice versa)How do I convert WAM to GPA? (or vice versa)

This just can't be done due to the way the GPA system rounds down to grades. It's also worthwhile noting that the GPA is not a linear function as the difference between all grades is 1 on the typical 4 point scale yet a fail grade will typically range from 0 to 49, a pass 50 to 64, a HD from 85 to 100 with the remaining grades in intervals of 10. Specific universities' variations on the GPA system often add to the complexity of this. The combination of these two facts necessitates starting from scratch if you would like to know what your average under a different system would be.

But that's not fair! I almost have a HD average by WAM but just a Credit average by GPA!?But that's not fair! I almost have a HD average by WAM but just a Credit average by GPA!?

Unfortunately, that's just how it works. It also brings up an interesting observation, a 4.0 GPA (or HD average under GPA) is only achievable with straight high distinctions. This is harsh, but makes logical sense.

There are benefits and disadvantages to both systems but the WAM is no doubt the superior system in the eyes of the average student as it will almost always result in a higher average and seem more fair. By not rounding down the WAM system means getting borderline grades is not something that will affect your average considerably. Getting a 64/74/84 is unfortunate, and much worse when your univeristy uses GPAs. Additionally this means that achieving above the HD cut off is rewarded.

One disadvantage of the WAM system is that it acts strange with fails. There exists a certain fail grade at most universities where a mark of above 50% is recieved but a compulsory assesment has either been not completed or a hurdle mark not achieved (i.e. "You must get a mark of 50% in the final to pass"). The WAM system inadvertently encourages or awards these "fails".

Despite the fact that a fail is a fail, as a result of working off marks and not grades the WAM system also severely punishes considerably low fail marks yet softens the blow of border line fails (relative to a 4 point GPA scale). While not discriminating against borderline grades is a positive of the WAM system, in the case of a fail/pass it does makes sense that a 49 is much worse than a 50. Additionally due to large range of fail grades (0-49) the WAM system effectively discriminates considerably between different fail grades in comparison to how it differentiates between marks within other grades.

LinksLinks

Wikipedia: Academic Grading in Australia, Grade Point Average

UNSW WAM

Usyd WAM

UTS Calculating GPA

Macquarie University GPA Calculator

UWS Cumulative Grade Point Average

UoN GPA Calculation Guideline

University of Wollongong General Course Rules (scroll down for WAM info)