I never had any idea how many different types of GPAs there are! It can be overwhelming and confusing. This is unnecessary, especially considering that most of the time, when you talk about GPA, you are talking about your cumulative GPA.
Let’s look at what cumulative GPA is and a breakdown and comparison of the different types of GPAs to make it easier to understand.
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What is cumulative GPA?
A cumulative GPA is a singular number that represents your entire academic performance. It is the average of the final grades for all college classes. It is the average of all your term GPAs.
Cumulative GPA typically refers to only the grades from that college, but some people or educational institutions refer to cumulative GPA as the GPA from all educational institutions—if a college student transfers to multiple colleges, their cumulative GPA would be their GPA from all the classes they took at all the schools.
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Accumulative vs. cumulative GPA
People may say accumulative GPA since the words accumulative and cumulative both mean to build up over time. However, when talking about GPA, the correct way to say it is “cumulative GPA.”
GPA vs. cumulative GPA
People will talk about GPA in general, but as we can see, there are many different types of GPAs.
When people refer to GPA and do not specify what type, most often, they are referring to cumulative GPA since that is the form of GPA that schools use for admissions, graduation requirements, listed on their transcripts, and put on resumes.
Non-cumulative vs. cumulative GPA
Cumulative GPA is the average of the final grades from all classes students have taken at that educational institute. Non-cumulative GPA generally refers to “term GPA” or “semester GPA,” which is the average of the final grades for that semester/term only.
It is important to determine what time frame or specific type of GPA someone is talking about when they refer to non-cumulative GPA.
Comparison of different GPAs
Let’s look at many different types of GPAs.
Note: Many of these terms are not common or may be used in different ways. I tried to include the different usages, but it is important to consult your educational institution.
Academic GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Academic GPA is a GPA calculated from only academic courses, while cumulative GPA includes grades from all courses, including general education, electives, and PE.
Learn more about academic GPA.
College level GPA vs. cumulative GPA
College level GPA means that it is the cumulative GPA for all college college-level courses (typically excluding community college courses)
If college level GPA is being compared to cumulative GPA, then the person or institution is probably referring to cumulative GPA as being your GPA across institutions (and perhaps even different levels, such as community college).
Current GPA vs. cumulative GPA
A student’s current GPA is their most recent term or semester GPA, while their cumulative GPA is for their entire college career.
Degree GPA vs. cumulative GPA
The term degree GPA can be used to mean two different things:
- Degree GPA can mean the same as major GPA—the student’s GPA only includes the classes from their degree program (major) in the calculation.
- Less commonly, degree GPA can be used to mean the same as institutional GPA—the number that represents a student’s grades from all the courses the student has taken at that degree-granting school.
- Degree GPA may also refer to the student’s GPA when they are granted their degree (the cumulative GPA that they graduate with).
Department GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Department GPA is the GPA of only classes in the student’s specific department. The number represents how the student has done in their field of study versus their cumulative GPA, which represents their academic achievement in all their classes.
Department GPA is another way to say major GPA.
Enrollment GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Unfortunately, as with a lot of GPA terminology, enrollment GPA can be used to mean two different things:
- Enrollment GPA can mean semester GPA or the average grades during that enrollment period.
- Enrollment GPA can mean institutional GPA or your cumulative GPA for all the classes taken since your enrollment at that college/university.
Graduation GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Graduation GPA is the GPA a student earned at the time of graduation. This is typically their cumulative GPA for that school (which may or may not include their transfer courses, depending on the school’s policy).
Sometimes, graduation GPA is compared to cumulative GPA because graduation GPA refers to only the GPA from that school, and cumulative GPA can refer to finding a student’s GPA from all courses taken (even those from multiple institutions and after graduation).
Some grad schools will recalculate a student’s cumulative GPA using their own criteria and include courses taken from all schools and those taken after a student graduates. This is why some people may take additional classes after graduation to raise their cumulative GPA for grad school.
Learn more about if it is possible to increase your GPA after graduation.
Institutional GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Institutional GPA only includes classes from that institution in the calculation, while cumulative GPA includes all college classes taken at all institutions (both transfer courses and those taken at the current institution).
Learn more about institutional GPA.
Major GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Major GPA only includes courses related to the student’s major in the calculation of their GPA, while cumulative GPA includes all college classes.
Learn more about major GPA.
Overall GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Overall GPA and cumulative GPA usually mean the same thing—the singular number to represent their academic performance in all their college classes (and may or may not include transfer courses).
However, some people refer to overall GPA as meaning GPA from all courses from multiple colleges and cumulative as GPA from college courses taken at your current college or the college you graduated from.
Learn more about What Is Cumulative GPA vs. Overall GPA? Are They the Same?
Program GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Program GPA is a GPA that includes only courses from the student’s program or major, such as only including English courses for English majors. Whereas overall/cumulative GPA includes all college courses in the GPA calculation, such as math, English, and history.
Another difference is that sometimes only the most recent grade from a course that is retaken is included in the program GPA, but the grades from all attempts may be included in a student’s cumulative GPA.
Find out more about the different policies for retaking college courses.
Additionally, program GPA is another term for major GPA—learn more about major GPA.
Prerequisite GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Prerequisite GPA is the GPA of only the courses that will serve as prerequisites for a program. It is typically referenced for graduate school admissions. It can be looked at separately from a student’s cumulative GPA to see if they have a solid foundation of the subjects necessary.
Retention GPA vs. cumulative GPA
The common definition is that retention GPA is a student’s cumulative GPA but only includes the more recent grade when courses are retaken. In cumulative GPA, both attempts are counted.
Learn more about retaking college classes.
Technical GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Technical GPA is another term that often has two meanings:
- Technical GPA can mean GPA including only technical courses (STEM courses) in the calculation.
- Technical GPA is also sometimes used synonymously with major GPA for a technical or vocational program, and excludes general education courses or electives.
Term GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Cumulative GPA is the student’s GPA from their entire time in college, and term GPA is the student’s GPA from that specific term (semester or quarter).
Learn more about What Is Term GPA?
Total GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Total GPA can be used interchangeably with cumulative GPA—both mean the average of your final grades from all your college classes.
Learn more about total GPA.
Transfer GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Transfer GPA is the GPA from only the courses that transfer. If transfer GPA is being compared to cumulative GPA, then they are discussing the GPA of courses that transferred versus the cumulative GPA of all the courses taken at a specific college or university.
Transfer GPA is focused on when transferring to a new college, including for:
- which credits transfer
- evaluating program requirements
Year GPA vs. cumulative GPA
Year GPA is the GPA for that year only, while cumulative is for all years.
Can cumulative GPA be over 4.0?
In both high school and college, a cumulative GPA can be over 4.0 if the school considers an A+ worth 4.3 grade points.
In high school, a student’s GPA can also be over 4.0 if their school uses a weighted GPA since that gives extra points to AP or honors classes and is a 5.0 scale.
Learn more about Weighted or Unweighted GPAs.
How to bring up your cumulative GPA
Let’s look at some tips to bring up your cumulative GPA:
- Reflect, set goals, and give yourself rewards
- Go to class
- Practice active listening and participate in class
- Do your assignments and turn them in on time
- Create a study schedule and write down all due dates in your planner
- Take notes
- Ask for help–attend office hours, get tutoring, join or start a study group
Should you put your cumulative GPA on your resume?
Students should put their cumulative GPA on their resume if it is a good GPA (above a 3.5). They should put it next to their graduating college and specify the scale, such as a 3.7/4.0.
Learn more about What Is a Good GPA in College?
Now that you know what cumulative GPA is, learn how to calculate cumulative GPA.