What Is a GPA?
A GPA is a grade point average. This average takes your grades from all of the classes you’ve taken and calculates a single number to show where your performance compares to others within your class. Colleges will also compare your GPA to those of other students applying for admission, scholarships and placement into special programs. Essentially, your GPA summarizes your entire transcript in just a single number.
Calculating Your GPA
Although it sometimes depends on the course, each grade is worth a certain point value. By adding the point totals of all of your grades and dividing by the number of classes you’ve taken, you can easily calculate your own GPA.
Weighted GPA vs. Unweighted GPA
Before calculating your GPA, you must first determine if your school uses a weighted or unweighted GPA. In an unweighted system, all courses are equal, regardless of the level of difficulty. However, in a weighted GPA, some courses are worth more than others, and more difficult classes can help to raise your GPA. Classes labeled as honors, advanced or AP, for example, are worth more points within a weighted GPA.
How To Calculate an Unweighted GPA
Each school may have a different point scale, but generally in an unweighted GPA scale, an A is worth 4 points. Taking away a point for each letter grade, each B is worth 3 points, each C gets 2 points, and each D is worth 1 point, with an F earning zero points. You can calculate your GPA for each year or for your entire career.
For example, to find your GPA for 9th grade, you should first list all of your final letter grades. If you took seven courses and received three A’s and four B’s, using the scale above, the A’s are worth 12 points (3 x 4 = 12), while the B’s are worth 12 points (4 x 3 = 12) as well. Take those 24 total points, and divide by seven (number of classes) to get your 9th grade GPA of 3.42.
In order to calculate your GPA for your career, follow the same instructions. Simply assign the appropriate points to each letter grade, and then divide by the total number of courses. For example, if you completed 28 total course throughout high school an collected 18 A’s (18 x 4 = 72), seven B’s (7 x 3 = 21) and three C’s (3 x 2 = 6), you would have a point total of 99. Divide 99 by 28 to reach a GPA of 3.54.
How To Calculate a Weighted GPA
As stated above, each school may have a different point scale, which is used to calculate GPA. Although a report card with all A’s would earn a 4.0 in an unweighted system, it could reach a number close to 5.0. This is due to the fact that, in a weighted GPA system, extra points are awarded to courses that are labeled as advanced or honors. Some schools have three levels of courses (standard, advanced, honors) and award a half point for the middle level and a full point for the top level.
An example GPA within this type of system can be calculated by following these steps. If you took seven classes this year and three were standard, two were advanced and two were honors, first assign points to your standard classes. If your three grades in your standard courses were two A’s (8 points) and one B (3 points), that would give you 11 points. Adding a half point to each grade, if your grades in your two advanced courses were an A (4.5 points) and a B (3.5 points), that would give you an additional 8 points. Finally, adding a full point to each grade, if your grades in your two honors courses were a B (4 points) and a C (3 points), that gives you a final 7 points. Your total points (11 + 8 + 7) would be 26. Divided by your seven courses, this gives you a total GPA of 3.71.
In the weighted GPA, the student is rewarded for enrolling in higher level courses. In the example above, the GPA of 3.71 implies that the student maintains mostly A’s, possibly with a couple of B’s, despite the fact that this example report card would have consisted of three A’s, three B’s and a C. The student’s GPA was given a boost due to being enrolled in advanced and honors courses.
Some Colleges May Not Use Weighted GPAs
Unfortunately, during the application, acceptance and admissions stages, some colleges will recalculate each GPA, using an unweighted system. Therefore, it is always best to keep track of your GPA in both its weighted and unweighted forms in order to know where you stand.
Using the above example of three A’s (12 points), three B’s (9 points) and one C (2 points), the unweighted GPA would be 3.29, still well above a B average. Even with a recalculated (and lower) GPA, it may still be impressive to have taken advanced and honors courses for more than half of your schedule.
In order to accurately calculate your GPA, you must make sure you have your school’s specific grading scale. Some schools have unique sliding scales where each single point can affect the GPA. Others simply assign points to each letter grade. Check your school’s handbook for the official policy, and consider consulting a school counselor to check your work, especially for a weighted GPA. Your school should have someone on staff who is very familiar with the college admissions process. This person may be able to not only help you calculate your GPA, but also to assist you in navigating the entire process.
Finally, when enrolling in classes, consider whether or not the possible GPA bump is worth the extra work. If you can receive an A in your GPA for getting a B in an honors class, for example, it may be worth enrolling in the course.