There are many different ways to assess students on the information they learn in a particular class. In some classes you may receive a pass or fail, while in other classes there is no grading at all.
However, most high school and college classes are assessed in terms of letter grades, often from A to F.
Each letter grade can be converted into a numerical value, and when averaged, it is called a Grade Point Average or GPA.
Because it’s helpful to understand how GPA works as you progress through your college career, this article explores the different ways GPA is calculated: weighted vs unweighted GPA and cumulative GPA.
What is Unweighted GPA?
The easiest type of GPA to consider is your unweighted GPA. Your unweighted GPA only takes into account the actual grades you receive in each class. you then convert each letter grade to a numeric value.
Generally, an A is worth 4 points, a B is worth 3 points, and so on, with positive and negative ratings receiving a slightly higher or lower score. From there, multiply each numerical value by the total number of credits to get your unweighted GPA.
Here is an example of a sample college semester that will hopefully make it easier to understand how to calculate your weighted GPA:
With 53.1 GPS points and 16 total credits, this student’s GPA for the semester is 3.32. It’s also important to note that even with an unweighted GPA, you still weight the grades you receive by the total number of credits each class is worth. It’s considered unweighted because you don’t adjust the numerical GPA points you receive based on class difficulty.
What is Weighted GPA?
Although unweighted GPAs are common in college and other colleges, many high schools choose a weighted GPA. This is because there are many different course levels in most secondary schools and the workload can be very different. Most high schools have decided that students shouldn’t be punished for taking a more difficult class (and possibly getting a lower grade than they would in a more basic version of the class)
Although each school may calculate weighted GPA in its own way, a common system is to add 1.0 points to the numerical value you earn if you take a Advanced Placement Class (AP) and 0.5 points if you take a specialized course. If you are taking a standard high school class, your numerical grade is not changed.
Here is an example of a high school student’s semester grade, using a weighted GPA and a 1.0/0.5 adjustment for PA and honor classes.
In this example, has 23.0 GPA points and 5.5 credits, for a GPA of 4.18. It is usually through honors and AP courses that you can see students with GPAs above 4.0. Generally, unweighted GPAs cannot be higher than 4.0.
What is Cumulative GPA?
Another GPA term is cumulative GPA. Your cumulative GPA represents your total GPA over the series of several different terms or semesters, and can be weighted or unweighted. To calculate your cumulative GPA, you simply add up all the GPA points you’ve earned from attending that particular school and divide it by the total number of credits you’ve earned.
It’s also important to note that you can’t just take the average of each of your semester GPAs. Because you may have a different number of credits earned each semester, taking a simple average of individual semester GPAs will not produce an accurate cumulative GPA. Instead, you need to add up the total number of GPA points you’ve earned and divide that by your total number of credits earned.
As you can see, most schools calculate your grade point average (GPA) to gauge your performance in the courses you take, but there are several different forms of GPA. An unweighted GPA does not take into account class difficultywhile a weighted GPA can give extra credit for taking advanced courses.
Last but not least, there is the cumulative GPA, which represents your performance to date over several different semesters or terms. Regardless of the type of GPA calculation used, do your best in all your courses will help keep your GPA high.