How to calculate GPA

So, you need to calculate your GPA (Grade Point Average)? If you are a high school student in the midst of college applications, this seemingly straightforward task is not as easy as you might think. School use GPA's as a means of ranking students based on their academic performance. 

GPA Formula

Once upon a time GPA's were calculated on a simple scale with A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1 and F=0. Anyone with a positive number for an IQ could calculate their GPA quickly in their head.

Those days are gone.

Unfortunately, for high school students, determining a GPA has become a little more complicated. There are four ways to calculate your GPA. To make things more confusing, high schools can vary how GPA's are calculated from state-to-state and even from town-to-town. And, lest you start getting comfortable with how your high school calculates your GPA, you may discover that each college you are applying to wants a different calculation!

Never fear. We are here to walk you through the numbers and ensure that you have a thorough understanding of what each GPA figure represents.

Simple GPA

A simple GPA is the one first described. In it's easiest form, an A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0. For each class you have, you assign the correct number to the letter grade, add all of your grades together and divide by the number of classes you have taken.

How to calculate GPA - Step 1 - simple GPA

Slightly Less Simple GPA

What about that B- you received in Geometry? Some schools use the simple GPA formula with an expanded scale for letter grades. You might want to break out the calculator for this one, just to be safe.

If you assume that A is a perfect grade, and some schools do, then the new scale will be:

How to calculate GPA - Step 2 -  Less simple GPA

Using this scale, a perfect GPA would equal 4.0.

If you assume that an A+ is better than the perfect A, and some schools do, the scale you use will be as follows:

How to calculate GPA - Step 3 -  GPA Calculation

Using this scale, a perfect GPA would equal 4.33.

Weighted GPA

Many schools factor in the number of credits each course is worth, giving a 4-credit class more value than a 2-credit class.

Suppose your schedule looked something like this during your junior year:
How to calculate GPA - Step 4 -  Weighted GPA

Looking at the above we can see a three things. 

  • You're most likely going to pursue a career in engineering or sciences.
  • You earned 13 credits for the year.
  • The number in parentheses is the numeric value of your letter grade – unweighted.

To find your GPA weighted by credit hours, follow these steps:

  • Multiply each numeric grade value by the number of credits the course was worth
  • Add these numbers together
  • Divide 45 by the total number of credits you took, in this example,13.
  • Your Weighted by Credit Hour GPA = 3.46

In comparison, if you weighted these grades using the Simple GPA method above, your GPA would be 3.29.

Weighting Your GPA With AP/IB/Honor Classes

Some schools give extra credit to students taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and/or Honors classes. Check with your school to find out exact rules (some students must take and score a 4 or 5 on an Advanced Placement exam before their grade will be weighted in their GPA) for your school.

A Typical scale may look like this:​

How to calculate GPA - Step 5 -  Weighted GPA

Let's look at a report card to see how it works (the math is the same as in the first example) weighting ONLY the AP classes, NOT the credits:

How to calculate GPA - Step 6 -  Advanced Placement Courses

Let's look at a report card to see how it works (the math is the same as in the first example) • Using the Simple GPA method from above, your GPA Weighted by Your AP Classes is:

5 + 3.67 + 4.67 + 4 + 3 = 20.34

20.34/5 classes = GPA 4.068

In comparison, using the Simple GPA scale and method above would give you a GPA of:

(4 + 2.67 + 3.67 + 4 + 2) = 16.34

16.34/5 classes = GPA 3.27

Weighting Your GPA with Credit Hours AND AP/IB/Honors

Let's use the same report card as in the above example, only this time we will factor in credit hours AND credit for AP classes:

How to calculate GPA - Step 7 -  Weighted GPA with AP courses

Your GPA can factor heavily into the college admissions process. It is important to know how to calculate your GPA using each of the ways provided here. Keep in mind, though, that your GPA is NOT the only thing colleges will look at.

Some college admissions office use the standard 4.0 scale regardless of the types of classes you have taken, others will accept GPA weighted by credit hours and still others will accept classes weighted by AP, IB and/or Honors classes. No matter what a school's policy is, know that you are in the same boat as other applicants. The admissions office will also be looking at your test scores, course content and other achievements.