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Excel formulas or functions to calculate grades in various grading schemes.

This Page
1. How Excel Formulas Work
2. Summing Up Scores
3. Calculating a Numeric Percentage
4. Converting Numeric Percentage to Letter Grades
5. Weighting Assignments by Points
6. Weighting Assignments by Percentage
7. Dropping Lowest Score
8. Dropping the Lowest Two (or More) Scores
9. Keeping the Highest Score
10. Keeping the Highest Two (or More) Scores
11. Maintaining a Running Grade
12. Additional Formulas (Appendix Page)

How Excel Formulas Work


Formulas are used to specify calculations based on values in designated cells. Excel supports basic
calculations as well as statistical, trigonometric and other specialized functions.
Formulas used in Excel must follow a certain syntax.
a. All formulas begin with an equals sign (=).
b. Some formulas use operands such as +,, *,/ for addition, subtraction, multiplication or
division.
For example, the formula =A1+A2+A3 would add the contents of cells A1, A2 and A3.
c. Other formulas refer to different functions such as SUM, AVERAGE and others.
For example, the formula =SUM(A1:A3) would add the contents for the range A1 through
A3.
d. Formulas can be combined with operands.
For example, the formula =10*SUM(A1:A3) would add the contents cells A1 through A3 and
multiply them by 10.

e. Functions can be nested within each other.


For example, the formula =SQRT(10*SUM(A1:A3)) would take the square root of ten times
the sum of cells A1 through A3. When functions are nested, it is important that the number of
left parentheses match the number of right parentheses.
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Summing Up Scores
For this discussion, let's assume there are six assignments that need to be added. To add a range
of scores use the SUM function and define a range. The student names are in the first column (A)
and the assignment titles are in the first row (1). Columns 2-7 are the assignment scores.
Cell B1 would contain the student's name and cells B2 through B7 would contain scores for that
student's individual assignments. See mockup spreadsheet below.
Mock Student Spreadsheet: Individual Assigment Scores Entered
A

1 Name

Ass #1

Ass #2

Ass #3

Ass #4

Ass# 5

Ass#6

2 Picard, J.

100

90

95

100

85

90

3 Riker, W.

90

85

80

90

85

100

4 Troi, D.

100

100

95

100

100

95

H
Totals

Basic SUM Function


1. Designate Column H as the "Totals" column. You can fill in a title in Cell A8.
2. Move your cursor to Cell H2, the second row in the "Totals" column.
3. Type the function =SUM(B2:G2) into Cell B8. The scores for the first student will be totaled
and shown as a number.

Fill Down Formula for Other Students


You can "populate" other cells with the same formula with the Fill Down command.
1. Highlight all cells in column H with student scores. For instance, if your class has 15 students,
you would need to highlight Cells H2 through H16.
2. Press Control+D (Win/Mac). This will copy the formula in all the cells but change the row
numbers. See the box below for alternate instructions from the toolbar or menu.
Office 2007 (Win): On the Home tab in the Editing group, select the Fill icon (down
arrow) then Down.
Macintosh/Pre-Office 2007 (Win): From the Edit menu, select Fill then Down.

Here is the mock spreadsheet with relevant formulas for all students.
Mock Student Spreadsheet: Formulas for Totals Entered
A

1 Name

Ass #1

Ass #2

Ass #3

Ass #4

Ass# 5

Ass#6

Totals

2 Picard, J.

20

18

19

20

17

18

=SUM(B2:G2)

3 Riker, W.

18

17

16

18

17

20

=SUM(B3:G3)

4 Troi, D.

20

20

19

20

20

19

=SUM(B4:G4)

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Calculating a Percent
For this class, let us assume that the course grade is based on six assignments each worth 20
points. The percentage would be the sum of all assignments divided by the maximum total of
points. Here is one way to insert the formula.

Percentage of Sum
1. Insert another row after the Totals column and label it "Percentage". This will be column I.
2. Move your cursor to cell I2 (first student row) and insert the formula =H2/120 (6
assignments times 20 points each is 120 points total). Since cell H2 contains the total, the
formula will access the total points earned by the student. A ratio (e.g. .9333) will be
displayed.
3. Highlight all cells in column I with student scores then press Control+D (Win/Mac) to fill in
the percentage formula in all the cells.
Note: The fill down command is also available in the Editing toolbar (Office 2007/Win) or the
Edit menu (Mac/older Win).
4. To change the decimals to percentages, highlight the cells with the percentage formula and
press Control+1 (Win) orCommand+1 (Mac). Click the Numbers tab and
choose Percentage in the left column. You can also select how many decimal places should
be displayed.
Note: The format as percentage option is also available in the toolbars.
Mock Student Spreadsheet with Percentage Formula for Assigments
A

1 Name

Ass #1

Ass #2

Ass #3

Ass #4

Ass# 5

Ass#6

Totals

Percent

2 Picard, J.

20

18

19

20

17

18

112

=H2/120

3 Riker, W.

18

17

16

18

17

20

106

=H3/120

4 Troi, D.

20

20

19

20

20

19

117

=H4/120

Alternate Formulas
In addition to the formula specified above, you could use one of these formulas in the first row.

=SUM(B2:G2)/120 - Directly sums assignments in numerator and divides by total maximum


points.

=SUM(B2:G2)/(6*20) - Includes calculation for maximum number of points in denominator.

See the running grade section for another method of calculating percentages.
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Converting Percentages to Letter Grades


This section explains how to use the IF formula to specify a letter grade based on a numeric
range. This section will explain a simple "Pass/Fail" formula before moving on to letter grades, or
you can skip to the final formula.

Syntax of the IF Formula


Unlike the previous formulas, the IF formula does not calculate a number, but performs an action
based on whether whether a condition in another cell meets a specified criteria or not. If the
criteria is met, the formula causes one action to happen. Otherwise, some other action happens.
The IF formula requires three parts - the criteria, action if criteria is met and alternate action.
The syntax is =IF(Criteria, Action if Criteria Met, Other Action)

Pass/Fail Formula
In the Pass/Fail scenario, instructors designate a minimum passing grade. If the percentage is
above the minimum, the student passes. Otherwise the student fails.
Returning to the spreadsheet example, recall that the percentages are listed in column I. Let's
assume that the minimum passing grade is 70% or "PASS", otherwise it is "FAIL." The formula for
the first student would be:

=IF(I2>=70%,"PASS","FAIL")
Note that the desired grades "PASS" and "FAIL" are marked by quotes in the formula to
indicate that text should be written into the cell

This formula will refer to cell I2. If the number is 70 or higher, then the cell will contain the text
"PASS". Otherwise, the cell will contain "FAIL".

Mock Student Spreadsheet with PASS/FAIL Formula


A

Name

Totals

Percent

Pass/Fail

Picard, J.

112

93.3%

=IF(I2>=70%,"PASS","FAIL")

Riker, W.

106

88.3%

=IF(I3>=70%,"PASS","FAIL")

Troi, D.

117

97.5%

=IF(I4>=70%,"PASS","FAIL")

Zellig,W.

83

69.2%

=IF(I5>=70%,"PASS","FAIL")

Here is the mockup spreadsheet showing just the totals and percentages.

Possible Glitches

If you use "70", instead of "70%", the passing grade will be calculated as 7000%

If your numbers are not formatted as percentages, then the formula should
be =IF(I2>=.7,"PASS","FAIL").

If you see "True" or "False" in a cell, then your formula may be missing a condition in the
syntax.

The formula could be rewritten as =IF(I2<70%,"FAIL","PASS")

Simple Letter Grades


When calculating letter grades, the formula used evaluates a series of nested IF formulas. First it
checks to see if the score is 90% or above. If yes, the cell gets an "A", otherwise, it checks to see
if the grade is above 80%. If the score is not a "B", it sees if the score is 70% or above and so on.
Formula

=IF(I2>=90%,"A",IF(I2>=80%,"B",IF(I2>=70%,"C",IF(I2>=60%,"D","F"))))
Tip: As you add conditions to a nested formula, first add a set of empty parentheses, then fill
in the formula.

Adding the Plus and Minus


In theory, you could expand the nested formula above to include more steps for A-, B+, B- and so
forth. Unfortunately, Excel only allows "nested" levels, so the formula must be split into two parts.
For this exercise, we assume the following grading scale

A = 95 to 100%

A- = 90 to 94.9%

B+ = 88 to 89.9%

B = 83 to 87.9%

B- = 80 to 82.9%

C+ = 75 to 79.9%

C = 70 to 74.9%

D = 60 to 69.9%

F = 59.9% and below

1. Assuming the worksheet previously used, insert the following formula into cell J2.
=IF(I2>=95%,"A",IF(I2>=90%,"A-",IF(I2>=88%,"B+",IF(I2>=83%,"B",IF(I2>=
80%,"B-","")))))
This formula calculates grades down to B-. If the score is not a B-, then the cell is left
blank ("").
2. In cell K2, fill in this formula:
=IF(J2<>"",J2,IF(I2>=75%,"C+",IF(I2>=70%,"C",IF(I2>=60%,"D","F"))))
This formulas checks to see if there is a score in Column J (J2<>""). If there is a score, it
copies the value in cell J2; otherwise it calculates grades for C-F.
Here is a copy of the mock spreadsheet showing the results of both formulas.
Mock Student Spreadsheet with Letter Grade Results
A

J
Intermediate

Name

Totals

Percent

Final Letter Grade

Picard, J.

112

93.3%

A-

A-

Riker, W.

106

88.3%

B+

B+

Troi, D.

117

97.5%

Zellig,W.

83

69.2%

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Weighting Assignments: Total Points


Most courses weight course work so that each part is worth a different percentage. In Excel, this
can be treated in two different ways - by a total points scale or by assigning weights to parts of a
score. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages.

Assume that you have a class with the following grading scheme.
Requirements by Percentage
Assignment

Percentage

10 Problem Sets

45%

Midterm

20%

Final Exam

30%

Participation/Attendance

5%

One way to keep track of grades throughout the semester is to assign a total number of points to
the course (often 1000) and divide them among the assignments in a equal percentage.
Requirements by Percentage
Assignment

Points

10 Problem Sets

450 (10 assignments, 45 points each)

Midterm

200 points

Final Exam

300 points

Participation/Attendance

50 points (1-2 points per class)

For a final percentage, the scores will be calculated by simply adding points with the SUM function
and dividing by 1000. See mock spreadsheet below.
Mock Student Spreadsheet with Total Points (Col B-K are problem set scores)
A
1 Name

L
All Problem Sets

Midterm Final Participation

P
Percentage Formula

Q
Num

2 Picard, J.

430

180

276

50

=SUM(L2:02)/1000

93.6%

3 Riker, W.

415

200

280

30

=SUM(L3:03)/1000

92.5%

4 Troi, D.

438

187

296

50

=SUM(L4:04)/1000

97.0%

5 Zellig,W.

365

155

220

30

=SUM(L4:04)/1000

77.7%

Letter Grades
Use the letter grade formula above to convert percentages to grades.
Advantages to Total Points

Easy to maintain a running total percentage for students.

Students can easily convert assignment points to a letter grade.

Formulas easy to construct

Disadvantages

Requires preplanning to split into points

Points can be "artificial" (e.g. participation)


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Weighting By Percentage
Instead of dividing course grades into a number of points, you can add the composite of weighted
percentages. This requires you to track of the percentage for each individual assignment or group
assignments then to add them.
Assume that you have a class with the following grading scheme.
Requirements by Percentage
Assignment

Percentage

10 Problem Sets

45%

Midterm

20%

Final Exam

30%

Participation/Attendance

5%

To Add Weighted Assignments


1. Determine maximum points for each assignments or group of assignments.
2. Divide each score or group of scores by the maximum number of points to determine a total
percentage for that section. For instance, if the final was worth 150 points, then the final
exam percentage would be the score divided by 150 (=Q2/150 in the mock spreadsheet
below).
3. For the final percentage, multiply each percentage by its weight (in decimal format), then add
the scores. For instance, the formula for the final percentage in the mock spreadsheet would
be calculated as:
=(.45*M2)+(.2*O2)+(.3*Q2)+(.05*S2)
Note: Percentages like 5% must be divided by 100 to be converted to decimal (.05).
See the mock spreadsheet below.

Mock Student Spreadsheet with Total Points (Col B-K are problem set scores)
A
1 Name

L
All Problem
Sets

M
%age

Midterm %age

Final %age

430

95.56%

90

90.00%

138

92.00%

3 Riker, W.

415

92.22%

100

100.00%

140

93.33%

4 Troi, D.

438

97.33%

93.5

93.50%

148

98.67%

5 Zellig,W.

365

81.11%

77.5

77.5%

110

73.33%

Max
Points

450

100

150

Part. %age Final

2 Picard, J.

100% 93.6%
60%

92.5%

100% 97.0%
60%

77.7%

Letter Grades
Use the letter grade formula above to convert percentages to grades.
Advantages to Weighted Percentages

Assignments can be given any point value as long as percentages are accurately tracked

May be beneficial for courses with smaller numbers of assignments.

Disadvantages

Requires extra columns to calculate each assignment's percentage

Final formula more complex

More difficult to track running grades.


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Drop the Lowest Score


Many courses with weekly assignments allow students to drop the lowest score.
1. Group weekly assignments in adjacent columns (e.g. six assignments in
Columns B through G).
2. In the next column to the right, insert the following formula will add total points and subtract
the lowest points
=SUM(B2:G2)-MIN(B2:G2)

3. When calculating a final percentage, make sure the total points subtracts points for the
dropped assignment. For instance, if you give six assignments worth 20 points, the
maximum points is 100 (5 x 20), not 120.
See Mock Spreadsheet
Mock Student Spreadsheet with Drop Formula
A

Ass
#1

Ass
#2

Ass
#3

Ass
#4

Ass#
5

Ass#6 Totals

2 Picard, J. 20

18

19

20

17

18

=SUM(B2:G2)MIN(B2:G2)

=H2/100

3 Riker, W. 18

17

16

18

17

20

=SUM(B3:G3)MIN(B3:G3)

=H3/100

4 Troi, D.

20

19

20

20

19

=SUM(B4:G4)MIN(B4:G4)

=H4/100

1 Name

20

I
Percent

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Drop the Lowest Two (or More) Scores


In this case, you use the SMALL function to find the first smallest and second smallest scores,
then subtract them from the total. The first part of the SMALL fourmula specifies the range, and
the second part specifies the rank with "1" being the lowest and "2" being the second lowest.
1. Group weekly assignments in adjacent columns (e.g. six assignments in
Columns B through G).
2. In the next column to the right, insert the following formula will add total points and subtract
the sum of the lowest and second lowest scores.
=SUM(B2:G2)-((SMALL(B2:G2,1)+SMALL (B2:G2,2))
3. To drop additional scores, subtract additional SMALL functions. For
instance, SMALL(B2:G2,3) would find the third smallest score and the drop lowest three
formula would be
=SUM(B2:G2)-((SMALL(B2:G2,1)+SMALL (B2:G2,2)+SMALL(B2:G2,3)).
4. When calculating a final percentage, make sure the total points subtracts points for the
dropped assignment. For instance, if you give six assignments worth 20 points and dropped
two of them, the maximum points is 80 (4 x 20), not 120.
See Mock Spreadsheet
Mock Student Spreadsheet with Drop Formula
A

1 Name

Ass
#1

Ass
#2

Ass
#3

Ass
#4

Ass#
5

Ass#6 Totals

Percent

Picard,
J.

20

18

19

20

17

18

=SUM(B2:G2)((SMALL(B2:G2,1)+SMALL
(B2:G2,2))

=H2/80

Riker,
W.

18

17

16

18

17

20

=SUM(B3:G3)((SMALL(B3:G3,1)+SMALL
(B3:G3,2))

=H3/80

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Keep the Highest Score


Some courses may allow students to keep the highest score in a set of practice quizzes.
1. Group the assignments in adjacent columns (e.g. six assignments in Columns B through G).
2. In the next column to the right, insert following formula =MAX(B2:G2).
3. Make sure the percentage in column I is calculated based on the maximum number of points
for one assignment.
See Mock Spreadsheet
Mock Student Spreadsheet with Max Formula
A

Ass
#1

Ass
#2

Ass
#3

Ass
#4

Ass# 5 Ass#6 Highest Score

2 Picard, J. 20

18

19

20

17

18

=MAX(B2:G2)MIN(B2:G2)

=H2/20

3 Riker, W. 18

17

16

18

17

20

=SUM(B3:G3)MIN(B3:G2)

=H3/20

4 Troi, D.

20

19

20

20

19

=SUM(B4:G4)MIN(B4:G4)

=H4/20

1 Name

20

I
Percent

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Keep the Highest Two (or More) Score


Some courses may allow students to keep the highest score in a set of practice quizzes.
1. Group the assignments in adjacent columns (e.g. six assignments in Columns B through G).

2. In the next column to the right, insert following


formula =LARGE(B2:G2,1)+LARGE(B2:G2,2) This formula adds the first highest and
second highest score.
3. To add additional high, add additional LARGE functions. For instance, LARGE(B2:G2,3) would
find the third highest score and the keep the highest three scores formula would be
=LARGE(B2:G2,1)+LARGE(B1:G2,2)+LARGE(B1:G2,3).
4. Make sure the percentage in column I is calculated based on the maximum number of points
for number of assignments scored. Here the maximum would be 40 points (2 x 20).
See Mock Spreadsheet
Mock Student Spreadsheet with Max Formula
A
1 Name

Ass Ass Ass Ass Ass#


Ass#6 Highest Score
#1 #2 #3 #4 5

Percent

2 Picard, J. 20

18

19

20

17

18

=LARGE(B2:G2,1)+LARGE(B2:G2,2)

=H2/40

3 Riker, W. 18

17

16

18

17

20

=LARGE(B3:G3,1)+LARGE(B3:G3,2)

=H3/40

4 Troi, D.

20

19

20

20

19

=LARGE(B4:G4,1)+LARGE(B4:G4,2)

=H4/40

20

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Maintaining a Running Score


One way to track how well students are doing throughout the semester is to create a row which
tracks maximum points for each assignment. Percentages can be calculated by referring to the
sum of the scores divided by the maximum number of points.
1. In your spreadsheet, insert a row at the top or bottom and name it "Max Points". In the mock
spreadsheet, I will insert the Max Points row at the top (Row 2).
2. For each assignment, enter the maximum point value.
3. Use the same formulas for adding/dropping scores that you would for student scores. This will
generate the maximum number of points that can be earned throughout the semester.
4. When calculating percentages, divide by the values in the Max Points Row.
5. To ensure that the reference in the formula refers to the same row, use the "$" symbol before
the row number (e.g.=H3/H$2). When the formula is copied through Fill Down, the row
reference remains the same.
Mock Max Points Spreadsheet with Drop Formula
A

Ass
#1

Ass
#2

Ass
#3

Ass
#4

Ass#
5

Ass#6 Totals

Max
Points

20

20

20

20

20

20

=SUM(B2:G2)MIN(B2:G2)

=H2/H$2

3 Picard, J.

20

18

19

20

17

18

=SUM(B3:G3)MIN(B3:G3)

=H3/H$2

4 Riker, W.

18

17

16

18

17

20

=SUM(B4:G4)MIN(B4:G4)

=H4/H$2

5 Troi, D.

20

20

19

20

20

19

=SUM(B5:G5)MIN(B5:G5)

=H5/H$2

1 Name

Percent

As more scores are added, the max points will be updated, and the percentages easier to
recalculate.
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