GPAs can be complicated to calculate and even more arduous to understand. Many students are confused, or they don’t know what to aim for, what impact different classes have on their GPA, or how the GPA will be used in the college admissions process.
You have to keep updating yourself with new information on GPAs and check-out tips for improving your academic profile.
Besides that, we’ll go over how GPA is calculated, trends in the research on high school grading, and guidance on how to approach course selection.
Important Note: Most American high schools use an average GPA scale of 4.0. This post uses that metric. If your school uses another scale, check out the GPA conversion calculator to convert it before you continue reading.
GPA stands for “grade point average.” In simple terms, it compiles your overall academic performance into one number. GPAs make it easier for universities/colleges to define how well you did in school without researching. GPA is a measurement of your academic success.
A number from 1–4 will assign every class you take in your high school based on your grade, and all of these numbers are then averaged. This final average is used to calculate your class rank.
Most American high schools use the grading scale mentioned below.
You are granted a certain number of grade points for every class depending on the grade you earned.
Some high-schools increase or decrease your grade point of classes based on whether you received a plus or minus in association with your letter grade. It’s pretty much obvious to add .3 for a plus and subtract .3 for a minus, where a 4.0 being the highest possible value (so an A+ will have the same value as an A).
On a 4.0 scale, the average GPA calculations are easy. If you want to find out what your GPA is right now, you can either contact your counselor’s office, or you can calculate it by hand. Calculate your high-school GPA here. An easy-to-use high school GPA calculator.
If you calculate your GPA on a 4.0 scale, you may have concluded that the highest GPA you can achieve is a 4.0. This suggests that you have gotten all A’s in all of your classes throughout high school.
Anyway, as we discussed, AP courses make it possible for students to get above a 4.0 on the traditional GPA scale. Some high-schools add one grade point for all AP courses.
Adding a point to AP courses when calculating GPA is called “weighting.” On the other hand, those who use unweighted GPAs do not consider course difficulty in their calculations.
The highest GPA depends on whether you’re using a weighted or unweighted scale. For college applications, you should calculate both GPAs and report whichever is requested. If none is mentioned, you can opt for the higher weighted GPA.
How GPAs are calculated varies from one high school to another, colleges are aware of this and will calculate your GPA using their system. This way, they can compare applicants from different schools in an ideal way.
As per a 2009 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average GPA is about 3.0, which is the grade equivalent of a B. The latest study conducted at the University of Georgia indicates that the average GPA may be even higher, at 3.38. However, this number has not been as commonly accepted.
Average GPA varies wildly depending on student demographics. In the below table, I have given an example of how girls tend to have higher GPAs than boys.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Also, students from specific racial backgrounds have average GPAs with statistically considerable differences. Asian/Pacific Islander students were among the top-scoring demographic, with average GPAs of 0.57 points higher than Black students.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
The differences mentioned above in average GPA by gender and race reflect deeper issues with the ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic factors.
Generally, students score less on main subjects but increase their grade points in other academic courses, like Fine Arts, and non-academic topics, like Health.
If you put everything together, the report card of the average American student might look like this:
Let’s be honest here, if your GPA is average or below average, then it will undoubtedly impact your chances of acceptance. If you are still a freshman or sophomore, you have the right amount of time to improve your GPA. If you’re struggling in class, be sure to get help, whether from a classmate, teacher, or tutor.
To improve your GPA, take a few classes that you can succeed in. Taking AP/IB classes will grow your weighted GPA, but if you’re not sure you can get a B or above, stick to the regular version.
If you’re already junior or senior, there is nothing much you can do to increase your GPA, as a couple of semesters is unlikely to change the culmination of your grades up until this point. In such cases, focus on outperforming everyone in the class and concentrate on bringing up your standardized test scores.
Your GPA factors into the Academic Index (AI) are just a numerical representation of your academics’ strength. Some selective schools use AI as a screening tool to automatically reject those below a specific standard. If you have no idea what to do to bring up your GPA, the best way is to bring up your AI to increase your test scores. This will help you get past the minimum AI standards.
Colleges know that course difficulty can vary from one school to another, so it is evident for most admissions committees not to compare actual numbers between students. Instead, they consider GPAs in the context of your school. Sometimes, they may even use their system to strengthen GPAs, taking school and class difficulty into account.
Remember, rather than aiming for a certain GPA, and you should aspire to be one of the top students relative to others in your high school.
Also, the more competitive the school, the higher the GPA you need. Once you enter the Top 10 Universities and the Ivy League realm, it is clear that most applicants have a near-perfect 4.0 unweighted GPA.
Remember, if you want to be part of these top schools, then you should aim for the highest grades in the most challenging classes.
GPA is a crucial factor in your college applications, but never sacrifice academic diligence to boost your GPA. Colleges know whether you pushed yourself in high school, so try to aim for more challenging courses, even if it means risking the occasional B on your transcript. If you do not think you can earn at least a B in a particular AP, consider taking a different class.
To improve your GPA, instead of taking easier classes, focus on collecting easy points. For example, if your teacher is awarding points for students who turn in assignments on time, make sure you are not submitting homework late. Similarly, if your P.E. grade depends on whether you remember to bring your gym clothes, always remember getting them.
Many intelligent students work hard in AP courses only to miss out on these points, which are easier to collect, only if you’re wise. Work Smarter, Not Harder to improve your GPA.
Many students in the world hate the word "grade." It tells them they will get assessed on a scale and a simple number or alphabet. And this grade will measure their months of hard work.
But when it comes to a college student, the grade takes a more complex form and gauges many things. It becomes a GPA. Before understanding GPA calculation, we need to know what GPA is.
Grade Point Average, also known as GPA, is a number that indicates how high you scored in your courses on average. It's the scorecard that determines how good you are with your classes. Whether high or low, the GPA measures that on average. It also sees your ability to achieve the requirements and standards set by many colleges.
Looking at it, GPA does sound simple when you think about it. You might think that calculating a GPA is like calculating the cost of attending college. However, GPA calculations are pretty complex and confusing at times.
The two GPAs where we get confused the most is the Cumulative GPA and overall GPA. Let's see what's the difference between Cumulative GPA and Overall GPA.
While GPA is the number that shows your scores you've got from your subjects on average, there's more to it. Cumulative GPA and Overall GPA are the two ways GPA gets calculated further.
Cumulative GPA is the grade point average of all grades a student has secured in a semester or term. However, Overall GPA is an average of all cumulative GPAs a student has secured in all semesters.
Cumulative GPA shows how you performed on an average in the semester. And overall GPA shows how you performed on an average in all semesters you have taken.
For schools, that's a different story. They can use these 2 GPA types to see if they could meet the standards and requirements they've put out. It can also help them understand the trend of how students perform.
There are also two ways to count GPA, known as two main types of GPA. These are weighted GPA and unweighted GPA. Let's see the difference between both of them.
In an unweighted GPA, a school doesn't take the difficulty level of classes into account. For calculation, the unweighted GPA model uses a scale from 0.0 to 4.0.
In contrast, In a weighted GPA, a school takes the difficulty level of classes into account. For calculation, the weighted GPA model uses a scale from form 0.0 to 5.0 (6.0 sometimes). Here, schools give a high numerical value to grades earned in AP, IB, or honors.
For example, one student scored an A grade in standard class, and the other student scored an A grade in an AP class. An AP class needs more effort than a standard class and is harder to pass if compared.
But unweighted GPA will consider both classes the same and score both of them on the scale of 4.0. However, the weighted GPA will consider both classes differently. It will convert the standard class score on a scale of 4.0 and the AP class score on a scale of 5.0. It’s because a weighted GPA will count the difficulty level of the class.
Now, as you understood, the GPA and its types, we will move towards calculating an unweighted GPA.
Unweighted GPA results from the average of all your scores regardless of how difficult it is. It also uses the standard scale between 0 to 4.0. In this, 0 is the lowest score, and 4.0 is the highest score.
With all this said, how do you even calculate your GPA? You can designate your grades on the scale for the unweighted GPA, depending on its excellence. So if you're studying in a country that uses letters for grading, A can be 4.0 while F can be 0. It's all up to you how you'd like to designate the calculations. But in general, the better your grade, the higher your score will be on the scale. Once you have the numbers, you can add them up, divide them by the number of subjects you took. By doing this, you'll have an unweighted GPA.
Depending on which GPA type you'll go for, you can do it in a few ways. If you're aiming for the cumulative GPA, you'll only factor in the subjects for one semester or term. For the overall GPA, you'll factor in all the subjects you've taken in all the semesters or terms.
It can be overwhelming when you have to consider so many numbers while calculating your GPA. Don't worry; there's a more prominent way to do this. Below is a step-by-step example:
To get good with calculating the unweighted GPA, you'll need to know how a grade gets converted to the score. For this example, we'll go with the letters (A-F). Here's a chart to help you understand:
When you are familiar with how each grade will give you the scale, you can calculate the cumulative GPA. For example, here are calculations you'd get if you were to consider four semesters. In this, the two semesters are from the first year and two from the second year.
For calculation, you need to create a table mentioning each class's GPA for each semester. After this, add all the GPAs to a table and then divide it by the number of classes. It's how you will get the cumulative GPA of each semester.
The following are the four tables of class's GPA and cumulative GPA:
As we can see, for the first semester of your first year, you got a cumulative GPA of 3.2. In the second semester, it's 3.26.
In the first semester of your second year, you got 3. And in the second semester of the second year, the cumulative GPA you got is 3.06.
After getting numbers, now you can calculate the Cumulative GPAs and get the overall GPA.
All in all, your overall unweighted GPA in total for the four semesters will be 3.13.
Although you should keep in mind, it only works if the number of subjects is the same each semester. If there are some extra classes in some semesters, you can do it in another way. You can do an overall GPA calculation instead of adding all the subjects you took. Later then divide the results by the number of subjects.
In the end, the GPA is a measure that can come in handy when knowing your strength with your grades.
The difference between all GPA types can also help you understand what it'll take to get you into college. It may even help you be more determined than ever to be on your A-game to pass your subjects with pride.
Don't think of the GPA as some gauge that only the experts know. Let it be your guide in achieving what you want out of your education, and integrate it well with confidence.
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