Your GPA, or grade point average, is a way of quickly summarizing your academic performance. As the name implies, you get a GPA by assigning a point value to each grade, and then calculating the average of those points. While the actual process of calculating your GPA is pretty easy, there are two different GPA scales you can use to assign point values to your grades: The "standard" unweighted scale, or the weighted scale, which assigns extra points to classes with extra difficulty.
Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA Scales
In the unweighted GPA scale, each letter grade receives the following point value:
- A = 4
- B = 3
- C = 2
- D = 1
- F = 0
The unweighted, or four-point, grading scale is also sometimes called the college grading scale because it's the one most typically used by colleges.
Weighted GPA scales are typically used by high schools that offer honors, college credit or other types of AP/advanced placement classes. The most common weighted GPA scale assigns an "extra" point to each grade level, as follows:
- A = 5
- B = 4
- C = 3
- D = 2
- F = 1
With that said, there are several different scales that may be applied to a weighted GPA; for example, your school might assign 5 points to an A for college placement classes, but "only" 4.5 points for an A in an honors-level class. Always double-check with your high school to confirm which weighted GPA scale they use.
How to Calculate Your GPA
To calculate your GPA, first identify the appropriate point value for each of your grades, and then add them all together. For example, if your school uses an unweighted GPA, you took four classes in your senior year, and your final grades were three As and one B, you'd give yourself four points for each of the As and three points for the B, which looks like this:
Once you've added up all your grade points, divide the total by the number of grades you got to find the average. In this case, since your 15 points came from a total of four grades, your GPA is:
Calculating a Weighted GPA
The process works the same if your school uses a weighted GPA; just remember to verify which of your classes the weighted GPA applies to. For example, imagine that you took two regular high school classes and three AP classes. You got As in both regular classes; because those classes use the unweighted scale, you get four points for each "regular" A.
In the AP classes, you got one A and two Bs. After double-checking with your advisor, you find out that your scale uses a five-point weighted GPA for the AP classes. So for those grades only, you get five points for the A and four points for each of the Bs.
Now that you know the point values for each of your grades, you can add them all together:
Next, divide the total number of points by the number of grades you added. In this case, there were five grades, so your GPA is:
Another Way of Talking About GPAs
You may also hear GPAs described with words. For example: "He has a high B GPA" or "She has a low B GPA." In this case, the people in question are just taking the number value you got for your GPA and converting it back to a letter value. For example, the 3.75 GPA from the first example would be considered a "high B," because it's close to the top of the B grade range. Having a GPA like 3.1 or 3.2 could be called a "low B," whereas a GPA like 2.75 or 2.8 would be called a "high C," since it's toward the high end of the range for a C grade, and so on.
About the Author
Lisa studied mathematics at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and spent several years tutoring high school and university students through scary -- but fun! -- math subjects like algebra and calculus.