You may want to retake classes to raise your GPA if you failed a course or are trying to get into grad school.
If you don’t pass a course that is required for your degree, you will have to retake the course. If you do pass but you have a low grade, then you will have to decide if it is worth it to retake the class to raise your GPA or if you would be better off taking additional courses to raise your GPA.
As a general rule, students should retake a course if it is required for their major, needed for grad school, or teaches fundamentals that other courses build on. They should not retake classes that they got a C or higher in or if they do not think they can do significantly better the second time.
Let’s look at some of the factors to consider when deciding if you should retake classes.
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Factors to consider when deciding if you should retake a class
Will your school let you retake the course?
Before you spend time trying to decide if you should retake a class, check your school’s policy to ensure that you are even allowed to retake the course.
Depending on the school, you may not be allowed to retake the course if:
- your school does not offer grade replacement (This would be rare, most schools do.)
- you have already retaken the course
- you have already met your school’s maximum for grade replacement courses
- you did not fail or get below a C- (Schools vary on what grade a student must get to be able to retake a course. Some require the student to fail, others require the student to get an unsatisfactory grade of a C- or below, and others have no grade requirement.)
Check your school’s website and handbook, or talk to your academic advisor to determine if you can retake the course.
To find out more about who can retake college classes, the requirements for retaking courses, how your GPA is affected, and how they appear on your transcript, check out our post: Answers to All Your Questions About Retaking College Classes.
What is your school’s policy on factoring retaken classes into your GPA?
Each college has its own policy on factoring retaken courses into a student’s GPA.
Calculating the student’s GPA with the most recent grade is the most common policy, but some schools include both grades in the GPA, and others average the grades. On a rare occasion, there are schools that will only include the higher grade in their GPA.
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5 reasons you should retake classes to raise your GPA
1. It is a required course
If the course is required for your degree and you did not meet the minimum standard, you will have to retake the course.
2. The course teaches prerequisite knowledge that later courses will build on
If the course is a prerequisite for a required course and you fail, you will have to retake the course.
Even if you are not required to retake the prereq course, if later courses build on what the class teaches, it is a good idea to retake the class to make sure you understand the material and concepts.
This is especially true if the course is in your major.
Retaking a class you had trouble in can help you prepare for future classes.
3. Retaking the course will raise your GPA
Knowing the school’s policy on factoring retaken courses into your GPA can help you decide if you want to retake the course. Obviously, if your school allows your new grade to replace your old grade (or they use the higher grade), you have more incentive to retake the course than if your school counts both grades or averages the grades.
Even in that case, you will need your new grade to be significantly higher (such as an A instead of an F) to raise your GPA enough to be worth retaking the course if you don’t need to.
If you are retaking a course to raise your GPA, you have to retake the class at the same school.
4. The course is important for grad school
If the class is a requirement for a grad degree and you did not meet the minimum grade requirement, you should retake the class.
However, graduate programs often only focus on your grades in your core classes for your major, so retaking an elective that you did poorly in will not have much impact on getting into grad school (aside from the small increase in GPA).
5. There were extenuating factors for why you did poorly
Extenuating factors can contribute to you doing poorly in class, such as an illness, mental health struggles, or the death of a close friend/family member.
If you have gotten the help you need (such as disability accommodations or counseling) and are now in a better place to succeed, it may make sense for you to retake the course.
6 reasons you shouldn’t retake classes
1. You do not think you can master the material
If you do not have the fundamental knowledge needed to understand this course, it would be better to take a lower-level course or get tutoring before you consider retaking the class.
If you think you have the basic knowledge needed but did poorly because of a lack of commitment, consider if you are willing to adjust and put in the time and effort.
You will need to go to class, do your assignments, and study for tests. You may need to join study groups, go to office hours, and get tutoring.
Retaking a class can be challenging. You have to deal with your feelings about doing poorly the first time, and you may get bored having to sit through the same lectures you already attended. If you aren’t confident that you can get a significantly higher grade this time, you shouldn’t retake the class.
2. You do not need the course
If the course is not a requirement for your major, a prerequisite that future classes will build on, or needed for grad school, it is probably not worth retaking the course.
3. You got a C or higher the first time
If you got a C or higher, you have met a satisfactory grade, and it is not necessary to retake the class.
If your grade was a C or higher, even retaking the course and getting an A+ will not significantly raise your GPA, especially if your college uses both grades or averages the grades to calculate GPA.
4. Your other grades are much better
An isolated bad grade will be viewed as more acceptable than if you continually do poorly, especially if the class isn’t relevant to your major.
If your other grades are better, it is probably unnecessary to retake classes that you previously did poorly in unless they are required. This is particularly true if your more recent grades are better and you are showing progress and improvement.
You can explain one bad grade in grad school applications, and many potential employers don’t even look at your transcripts. Check out this post to learn more about how to explain problems on your transcript or a low GPA.
5. Your school has strict limits on how many times you can use grade forgiveness
Many schools limit how many times a student can use the grade forgiveness policy, such as the University of Illinois only allowing students to use it 4 times.
If your school has strict limits on how many times you can use the grade forgiveness policy for grade replacement, you need to make sure that you only retake courses you really need.
If you waste your limited times retaking a class on an elective, then if you do poorly on a core class, you may have met your limit and not be able to retake the class.
6. Retaking the course will delay graduation
A final reason why students may want to rethink retaking a course is if it will delay their graduation. If graduating in the standard time frame is important to you, check that retaking classes will not delay you or see about taking courses over winter or summer term.
Now that you know if you should retake classes to raise your GPA, read our 11 Tips for Retaking a Class in College.