Grades awarded to undergraduate students at Brigham Young University over a 20-year period were analyzed to determine to what extent the mean GPA may have increased. Study variables included enrolled freshman mean ACT, enrolled freshman mean AP credits, faculty research productivity, student evaluations of teaching (SET), and a university policy change regarding course withdrawal dates and calculating students' mean GPA. Other study variables included the overall grading philosophy of the college or school (normative, mastery, or other) and the course level (upper division, lower division). The study employed a regression model with splines for the residual, or yearly trend. Upper division courses have higher mean GPA than lower division courses, and mean GPA in mastery-based grading colleges are higher than in normative-based grading colleges. Mean GPA in upper division courses are consistently higher than mean GPA of lower courses, regardless of college grouping, but the difference between the upper and lower division mean GPA scores of the normative-grading classification is significantly larger than the difference between upper and lower division mean GPA of the other two grading classifications. Faculty research productivity had no impact on mean GPA. SET scores are highly correlated with college grading philosophy and course level and did not further predict mean GPA. The university policy change had no statistically significant effect on most mean GPA, but there is a marginally significant negative local effect on mean GPA of the lower division normative courses, as well as a marginally significant positive effect on mean GPA of lower division mastery courses. Grade trends vary between colleges with differing grading philosophies. They also likely vary across departments within colleges and from course to course within departments. Trends also differ between course level. Except for the non-significant effect of the policy change, mean GPA trends across most categories at the university have leveled off for more than a decade and are likely to remain so. Study results indicate there is no reason for alarm and that no systemic, rampant pattern of grade inflation is evident.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Instructional Psychology and Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





grade inflation, grade increase, trend analysis