Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA: Difference and How to Calculate

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Do you know the difference between weighted vs. unweighted GPA, and do you know how to calculate each? A student’s grades are a primary factor considered in college admissions decisions. They reflect how well a student has performed in their courses during high school and also tell the college admissions office if the student will be able to handle the coursework at their college.

Learn the difference between weighted and unweighted GPA, how to calculate each, and what schools look for. We’ve included two charts outlining conversions for both GPA calculations.

 

Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA

Grade point average (GPA) is calculated by averaging the grades received in various courses. If you did well in your mathematics courses, this calculation might sound straightforward. The trouble is this average can be calculated in several different ways.

There are two primary differences in how GPA is calculated: weighted vs. unweighted GPA.

Essentially, an unweighted GPA is calculated the same way for every student in every course. The difficulty of the course is not a factor in this calculation.

On the other hand, weighted GPA is calculated so that the difficulty of the course is taken into account. More difficult courses, such as advanced placement or honors courses, have more “weight” in this calculation.

 

Unweighted GPA Calculator

Most high schools and colleges will calculate a student’s unweighted GPA as an indicator of how well they have performed in their classes. This is simple to do using the unweighted GPA calculator below.

To calculate the grade point average, first convert the grade received in a specific course into a grade point. The grade point is a number on a scale from 0.0 to 4.0. The highest number on this scale is 4.0, which corresponds to an A or A+ grade if your school uses letter grades, and 93% or higher if it uses percent grades.

Unfortunately, on this scale, an A+ corresponds to the same grade point as an A because the maximum grade point on the scale is 4.0. The lowest grade point on the scale is 0.0, which corresponds to a failing grade, 65% or lower, or an E/F marking.

The unweighted grade point calculator below can be used to find the grade point for any letter grade or percent grade.

Letter GradePercent GradeGrade Point
A+97-1004.0
A93-964.0
A-90-923.7
B+87-893.3
B83-863.0
B-80-822.7
C+77-792.3
C73-762.0
C-70-721.7
D+67-691.3
D65-661.0
E/FBelow 650.0

 

Once you have the grade point for every course, the unweighted GPA is calculated by adding all of the grade points together, then dividing the sum by the number of courses that were added. This is how averages are calculated, which is why this is called a grade point average.

For example, if a student took 6 courses and received 6 letter grades, these are converted into grade points outlined in the table below.

ClassLetter GradeGrade Point
AP EnglishA+4.0
CalculusB+3.3
ChemistryB3.0
World HistoryA4.0
BandA+4.0
AP SpanishA4.0

To calculate the student’s unweighted GPA, the grade point for each course is added together (22.3). The sum is then divided by the number of courses that were added (6). This final figure is rounded to the nearest one or two decimals. In this example, the student’s unweighted GPA is 3.72.

The student took two advanced placement courses (AP), one in English and one in Spanish. Though advanced placement classes are more rigorous than a standard class, this is not considered when calculating the unweighted GPA. To account for advanced and honors courses when calculating the grade point average, weighted GPA is used.

 

Weighted GPA Calculator

Weighted GPA accounts for the greater difficulty of courses, such as advanced placement or honors level courses. There are many ways to calculate a weighted GPA, and each high school may use a different method to calculate it. However, generally, more difficult courses receive more weight than standard courses in the calculation.

One of the most common ways of calculating a weighted GPA is by increasing the grade received in a class by one full grade point. Therefore, the maximum grade point and grade point average available is 5.0, while the lowest is 1.0. The average is calculated in the same way as unweighted GPA: the grade points for each course are added together, then the sum is divided by the number of courses.

We will use the same example to show how an unweighted and weighted GPA will differ for the same student.

ClassLetter GradeUnweighted Grade PointWeighted Grade Point (+1 full grade point)
AP EnglishA+4.05.0
CalculusB+3.34.3
ChemistryB3.04.0
World HistoryA4.05.0
BandA+4.05.0
AP SpanishA4.05.0
GPA3.724.72

 

In this example, the unweighted GPA is 3.72, while the weighted GPA is 4.72. Using this grade point scale from 0 to 5 means that it is possible to have a GPA that is higher than the unweighted maximum of 4.0. In fact, a student receiving all A grades will have a 5.0 average. While the 0 to 5 scale is commonly used to calculate weighted GPAs, some high schools may use a scale out of 4.5, 6.0, 9.0, 10.0, or other grading scales.

 

Do Colleges Look at Weighted or Unweighted GPAs?

Weighted GPAs are typically higher than unweighted GPAs, so it is logical that students want colleges to only look at their weighted GPA. Unfortunately, admissions offices are wise to the differences between the two and the inflation of weighted GPAs. If a school provides only one or the other, the admissions office uses contextual information to know whether they are looking at a weighted or unweighted GPA.

Colleges also look at more than just the average of your grade point. They also consider how many difficult courses you took in general—schools consider more difficult courses to be a good thing, even if you didn’t perform as well in those courses.

In fact, to account for the difference between weighted and unweighted GPAs, many colleges will recalculate all of their applicant GPAs so that they are all on the same scale. To make this calculation, they often exclude non-academic classes, like physical education, and use only unweighted grade points from major courses, such as English, mathematics, science, history, etc.

 

What’s a Good Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA?

What is considered a good GPA will be different for every college or university. For Ivy League schools, the standard GPAs can be extremely high. However, there are some general guidelines for what’s considered a good weighted and unweighted GPA.

A good unweighted GPA is relatively straightforward. The maximum score is 4.0 and is the result of a student receiving all As and A+s. A student who receives an even mix of A and A-s will receive a 3.85, and more As than A-s will push the GPA closer to a 3.9 GPA. This is the kind of GPA that Ivy League schools expect in their applicants.

Another important cutoff that colleges consider is an unweighted GPA above 3.5, which is considered a very good unweighted GPA. A student with an even mix of As and Bs will have a 3.5 GPA, and anything below 3.5 means the student received more Bs than As.

A GPA that is below 3.2 may be a red flag for competitive schools because it means the student received some Cs as well. However, colleges pay close attention to how many AP or honors classes you take, so even if you have a lower unweighted GPA, if you have taken many challenging courses, this may still be reviewed favorably by college admissions.

What is considered a good weighted GPA varies because the way weighted GPAs are calculated varies from school to school. In general, the closer to the maximum possible weighted GPA, the better. The key to both a weighted and unweighted GPA is to take enough challenging courses while maintaining a high GPA.

 

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