Weighted versus Points Grade Books

Grade books come in two flavors:

  • Weighted (recommended)
  • Points based

There are pros and cons for both. In general, students (and many instructors) usually understand the points system better when it comes to computing their final grade. A point is a point toward the final grade. But in a weighted system, a point is weighted differently depending on the assignment/assessment. In contrast, a weighted system makes more sense to a student when computing a grade for an individual assignment/assessment.

The advantages to using a weighted grade book are many. For one, with a weighted system, an instructor can easily change how much “weight” you want to assign a particular exam. A 100 question exam, can be weighted as 40% of a final grade or 20% without a lot of complex math or shuffling of points. You still use points in a weighted system to figure out a grade for an assignment or assessment but the value of that assignment or assessment can be “weighted” differently when computing the final grade.

With a points based system, a 100 question exam would probably be worth 100 points or a fraction or multiple of 100, but if you wanted to change how much it contributed to the final grade, you would either have to change the number of questions or do some complex math or shuffling of points between other assessments. The instructor has to bend to the grade book instead of the grade book working for the instructor.

Also to be considered is how an instructor can explain the points of an individual assignment/assessment to a student. A point should be easy to explain, and when a student can get part of the answer correct, they should get partial points. This is easy with the weighted grade book system, because you can assign as many points to an individual assignment/assessment as makes sense using a rubric. But with the points based system, the instructor again has to bend to the grade book in order to make the points work out to their pre-determined final grade total. This usually means that questions/assignments/assessments point values are based more on the math of the grade book than the possible points a student could earn.

And so, we recommend the Weighted grading system and suggest you list the weight of each grade category on your syllabus, so students understand that a point on one assignment/assessment is not worth the same as a point in another assignment/assessment. The Learning Management tool (Brightspace for Pellissippi State) has tools to show a student how the final grade is computed.

Here are the instructions from Educational Technology Services on setting up a gradebook.  (For more detailed instructions, see the Brightspace documentation on Assess and Grade Learners.

Here’s a blog post about the pro’s and cons of weighted vs. points based grading systems. Read the comments too!