I'm writing this because it's getting towards the end of semester and it's that time when a lot of my friends mention that they're trying to lift their WAM (Weighted Average Mark) to some target. Maybe from a Credit to a Distinction or a Distinction to a High Distinction.

When I hear this, I always follow up with "What do you need to get this semester to do that?" and almost every time, they have no idea.

I'm all for setting goals and working hard, but I think it's important to be realistic about how you will get to where you want to be. Sadly, towards the end of your degree it's extremely hard to budge your WAM at all.

Let me illustrate with an example.

You're in the first subject of your third year, and your current WAM is 70.2, a high credit (at my university; others will have different grade 'names'). Let's say you want to raise it to at least 75, a Distinction. If you've been studying full time, four subjects a semester, then you'll have done 20 subjects at the end of this semester.

This means your target WAM of 75 translates to a total mark of 75 * 20 = 1500.

Your current WAM is 70.2, across 16 subjects. 1500 - (70.2*16) = 376.8 total marks this semester. Divide this by 4 - you're studying 4 subjects - and you need to get an average mark of 94.2 this semester.

This is usually the point at which the person I'm talking to goes 'What the fuck?!'

Yes, to raise your WAM from 70.2 to 75, in third year of university, you need to be scoring in the 90's.

The intuition most people have is that if you're about 5 marks below your target, then you should need to compensate past your goal by the same amount, so maybe aim for about 80. Sadly, this forgets the weight of all the subjects you've already studied. If you don't actually do the math, you wont realise how high a mark is needed - and how hard you have to study to get there.

I don't want this to seem all doom and gloom. I'm not trying to say that once you're in third year or more, you're screwed and you have to live with your WAM. But it is important to be realistic. If that number is really high, you need to know exactly what to aim for. And if that number is over a hundred... maybe you need a plan B.

If you want to answer the same question for your own situation, the formula is:


And if you find out you need to hit the books - good luck!

Note: None of this applies if universities scale later/more difficult courses to count more heavily towards your WAM. As far as I have observed at my own university, there is no weighting involved after your grade is given to you, all the weighting is within the course - that is, scaling a 70 up to a 90 at the end of semester if nobody scores over 80.