The Reliability of College Grades

Adam S. Beatty, Philip T. Walmsley, Paul R. Sackett, Nathan R. Kuncel, Amanda J. Koch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Little is known about the reliability of college grades relative to how prominently they are used in educational research, and the results to date tend to be based on small sample studies or are decades old. This study uses two large databases (N > 800,000) from over 200 educational institutions spanning 13 years and finds that both first-year and overall college GPA can be expected to be highly reliable measures of academic performance, with reliability estimated at .86 for first-year GPA and .93 for overall GPA. Additionally, reliabilities vary moderately by academic discipline, and within-school grade intercorrelations are highly stable over time. These findings are consistent with a hierarchical structure of academic ability. Practical implications for decision making and measurement using GPA are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
JournalEducational Measurement: Issues and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the National Council on Measurement in Education.


  • Course grades
  • Grade point average
  • Measurement
  • Reliability


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