GPA Weighted or Unweighted Meaning and FAQs

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So many different terms are used to discuss GPA—it can get confusing. Two such terms are weighted GPA and unweighted GPA. Luckily, the difference is actually fairly simple.

An unweighted GPA is the average of the student’s grades in their classes. A weighted GPA is also the average of the student’s grades, but it gives more points to more challenging classes. A weighted GPA considers both the grade and the difficulty of the class.

Read on to find out the meaning of weighted and unweighted GPA, what courses are weighted more, the scale they are on, and how to know if your GPA is weighted or unweighted.

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What is GPA in high school?

First, it is important to clarify that when discussing weighted or unweighted GPAs, we are discussing high school GPAs—colleges do not use weighted GPAs.

A student’s GPA (grade point average) in high school is a singular number that represents the average of all their grades in their high school classes.

It doesn’t include classes before high school.

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What is a weighted vs. unweighted GPA?

GPA (grade point average) can be either weighted or unweighted.

An unweighted GPA is based on only the student’s grades—it does not consider the difficulty of the class. It is typically on a 4.0 scale. A weighted GPA takes into account both the student’s grade and the difficulty of the course. Additional weight (or points) is given to more challenging classes.

The exact method for calculating an unweighted or weighted GPA varies depending on the school, so you should check what method and scale your school uses.

Unweighted GPA

An unweighted GPA is generally on a 4.0 scale:

Letter GradeGPA

If you get a B in history and AP Chemistry, both are worth 3.0 grade points.

Weighted GPA on a 5.0 scale

A weighted GPA is generally on a 5.0 scale because honors or AP classes can be given an extra half point or extra point.

Some schools give an extra half point to honors classes and give an extra point to AP classes. Example:

ClassGradeGrade points
Chemistry B3.0
Honors Chemistry B3.5
AP ChemistryB4.0

While other schools give all advanced classes an extra point:

ClassGradeGrade points
Chemistry B3.0
Honors Chemistry B4.0
AP ChemistryB4.0

A weighted GPA recognizes students who take more challenging classes and do well. A “B” in an AP class is the equivalent of an “A” in a regular class.

Unweighted GPA vs. weighted GPA example

Let’s look at an example of the difference between weighted and unweighted GPA:

ClassLetter gradeUnweighted grade pointWeighted grade point
Spanish A4.04.0
AP United States HistoryA4.05.0
AP ChemistryC2.03.0
GPA:Unweighted GPA: (4+4+4+2+3)/5 = 3.4Weighted GPA: (4+5+4+3+3)/5 = 3.8
Note: In this example, each class is worth 1 credit, and AP courses are worth an extra point.

What courses are weighted more?

Each school decides what courses are weighted more. Generally, honors classes, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, dual enrollment college courses, or other advanced courses are given more weight on a weighted GPA.

How to know if your GPA is weighted or unweighted

To know if your GPA is weighted or unweighted, you can:

  • Check your school policy—it might be found in the handbook or school website. Look for anything about how GPA is calculated, a weighted scale or chart showing the extra points assigned to which classes, or guidelines for advanced courses.
  • Ask your guidance counselor.
  • Compare your grades—look at your GPA points in a class and see if it matches an unweighted or weighted scale. Do you have an extra point (or half a point) for AP or honors classes?

Best GPAs

Let’s look at the best possible unweighted and weighted GPAs.

Best unweighted GPA

The best unweighted GPA is generally a 4.0. If the school gives a 4.3 grade point for an A+, then the best possible unweighted GPA would be 4.3.

Best possible weighted GPA

It is more difficult to determine the best weighted GPA since it varies depending on the school.

In theory, the best weighted GPA is a 5.0 if they count an A+ as a 5.0 grade point or a 5.3 if the school counts an A+ as a 5.3. However, that would only be achievable if the student got all A+’s in their classes and took all advanced classes (which is not possible).

Weighted GPAs generally go to 5.0, but the highest weighted GPA depends on how many advanced classes a student is able to take.

Do colleges look at weighted or unweighted GPAs?

Colleges understand that different schools use unweighted or weighted GPAs and may have different ways of calculating their GPAs and that students generally do not get to pick what GPA they get to submit.

Colleges will look at unweighted or weighted GPAs. They consider the student’s GPA in the context of their transcript. They will look at the types of courses the student took and what was available to them (some schools do not offer AP classes).

Many colleges recalculate GPAs by their own system so they can more easily and uniformly compare.

Frequently asked questions

Let’s look at some frequently asked questions about unweighted and weighted GPAs.

Is valedictorian based on weighted or unweighted GPA?

Generally, the valedictorian is based on a weighted GPA. It is the person with the highest weighted GPA, so that person had to get excellent grades and take challenging classes. However, some high schools do not have weighted GPAs, so then it is the person with the highest unweighted GPA.

Consult your school to see if they use weighted or unweighted GPAs.

Can a weighted GPA be on a 4.0 scale?

In general, a weighted GPA cannot be on a 4.0 scale because weighted GPAs give additional points to advanced classes beyond a 4.0.

Unless your school uses the term weighted GPA without actually assigning more weight (and therefore points) to the GPA of honors or AP classes, your weighted GPA should not be on a 4.0 scale.

Can an unweighted GPA be above 4.0?

In general, an unweighted GPA is standardized on a 4.0 scale. However, some schools count an A+ as a 4.3. Other schools may use a different GPA scale entirely. It would be important to ask your school what GPA scale they use.

Can a weighted GPA be lower than an unweighted one?

In general, a weighted GPA cannot be lower than an unweighted GPA because a weighted GPA gives the same points for regular classes and extra points for advanced classes. The extra points make the GPA higher.

However, it may seem like your weighted GPA is lower if you think of your unweighted GPA as a 3.4 out of 4 and your weighted GPA as a 3.8 out of 5. Colleges understand the difference and will know what they are looking at.

If your weighted GPA is actually lower than your unweighted GPA, you should talk to your guidance counselor to understand why this is—was there an error in the calculation, or does your school use a very different calculation?

Now that you know the difference between unweighted and weighted GPA, find out is cumulative GPA is weighted or unweightedOpens in a new tab..

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