Understanding the numbers - Canadian university grading system

Posted 14 July 2015
Canadian university grading system

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Your academic record is critical in your acceptance to a university in Canada, however, given the differences in grading systems in your home country versus your study destination, it is often hard to evaluate your eligibility. Read on to understand how Canadian universities determine a student's GPA.

When international students apply to Canadian universities, one item that stands out is GPA – Grade Point Average.  For many international applicants, this is an important issue if they wish to study in Canada.  The student’s GPA is an important part of getting accepted into a Canadian university.

What makes matters a bit more confusing is that the GPA used in Canadian universities is different from the GPA standard of other countries – that is different countries have different numbering systems.  Some countries have a GPA out of 5.0, while others have one out of 20.0.  Most Canadian universities have a GPA out of 4.0 – but some use a GPA out of 9.0.

The tables below show the basic percentage equivalency for the two scales.


Letter Grade % GPA Number
A+ 92-100 4.33
A 88-91 4
A- 85-87 3.67
B+ 82-84 3.33
B 78-81 3
B- 75-77 2.67
C+ 72-74 2.33
C 68-71 2
C- 65-67 1.67
D 55-64 1
F 0-54 0


Letter Grade % GPA Number
A+ 90-100 9.0
A 80-89 8
B+ 75-79 7
B 70-74 6
B- 65-69 5
C+ 60-64 4
C 55-59 3
C- 50-54 2
D 40-49 1
F 0-39 0

What some may see is the difference between these two scales with the percentage for the letter grade (e.g. a “B” requires 78% for the 4.0 scale, but a “B” requires 70% for the 9.0 scale) – the specific percentage depends on each Canadian university.  Again, the 4.0 GPA scale is the more common one in Canada.

The other consideration is the number of credit hours that a course is worth.  For example, usually a course is 4 months or 8 months.  If it’s 4 months, then the course is usually worth 3 credit hours.  If it’s 8 months, then the course is 6 credit hours.

To calculate your GPA when applying to a Canadian university, you must look at your letter grade (e.g. a “B” or 3.0) and the credit hours (e.g. 3 credit hours).  You must then multiply the grade with the credit hours for each course and divide by the total number of credit hours.  Here’s an example of a student who has taken 1 year of university courses:

Course Grade (Number) Length/credit hours GPA Value
Math B (3) 3 9
Physics A (4) 3 12
Biology C+ (2.33) 6 13.98
English C (2) 3 6
Sociology B (3) 6 18
Communications B- (2.67) 3 8.01
Chemistry A (4) 3 12
Statistics A (4) 3 12
Total 30 90.99

The student has taken 30 credit hours over two semesters (8 months), which is the typical course load for a Canadian student.  The overall GPA number is 90.99.  This number must be divided by the number of credit hours to get the current GPA – i.e. 90.99/30 = 3.033.  The student has a GPA of 3.033.  In other words, the Canadian university considers this student to be a “B” student.

One important hint to students wishing to do well and be successful in obtaining a Canadian degree: do not take credit for some of the courses you did well in your home country.  For example, some students have already done well in subjects like Statistics or Biology in their home countries.  These students then sometimes ask to get these courses recognized, so that they don’t have to take Statistics or Biology again… BUT they should take those courses again for two very good reasons:

  1. Doing the courses in English at a Canadian university will help build the student’s English vocabulary in those subjects.
  2. The student will likely do very well in these courses… which will HELP his or her GPA.

Use this information to increase your GPA and get a Canadian university degree!