Whats the Difference Weighted vs Unweighted GPA

 

In high school, most students place a high value on their GPA. Without a doubt, your GPA is one of the most important pieces of information that colleges will consider when reviewing your application. GPA, on the other hand, can vary greatly depending on how it is calculated at different schools. Unweighted GPAs are used in some high schools, while weighted GPAs are used in others. I’ll explain the distinctions between the two and what each type of GPA might mean in the context of your personal experiences.

Basic Differences Between Weighted and Unweighted GPAs

So, what is the difference between weighted and unweighted GPAs? Here are the key distinctions between the two.

Unweighted GPA

GPA is traditionally calculated on an unweighted scale. GPA is calculated on a scale of 0 to 4.0. It does not consider the difficulty of a student’s coursework. An A as a 4.0 in an honors class, AP class, or lower-level class is represented by an unweighted GPA.

Weighted GPA

High schools frequently use weighted GPA to better represent students’ academic achievements. Instead of providing the same letter grade to GPA conversion for every student, weighted GPA takes course difficulty into account. Weighted GPA is typically measured on a scale of 0 to 5.0, though some scales go higher. An A in an AP class may result in a weighted GPA of 5.0, whereas an A in a regular-level class will result in a weighted GPA of 4.0. Many schools also offer mid-level classes (such as honors classes) with a maximum weighted GPA of 4.5.

Differences in Calculation

As one might expect, unweighted and weighted GPAs are calculated differently. In this section, we will go over how to calculate both types of GPA in detail.

GPA unweighted Unweighted GPA is far easier to compute than weighted GPA. This is due to the fact that the levels of your classes are not taken into account in the calculations. Assume you’re taking five classes and have As in two of them and Bs in the other three. The two As correspond to 4.0s, while the three Bs correspond to 3.0s. Adding 4.0 + 4.0 + 3.0 + 3.0 + 3.0 and dividing by five yields an unweighted GPA of 3.4.

If your grades aren’t quite as straightforward, here’s a quick letter grade and percentage to GPA conversion chart to help.


Letter Grade

Percentage

GPA
A+ 97-100 4.0
A 93-96 4.0
A- 90-92 3.7
B+ 87-89 3.3
B 83-86 3.0
B- 80-82 2.7
C+ 77-79 2.3
C 73-76 2.0
C- 70-72 1.7
D+ 67-69 1.3
D 65-66 1.0
F Below 65 0.0


For unweighted GPAs, most schools use a scale similar to this one. Yours may be slightly different, but not significantly so.

 

Weighted GPA


Because you may be taking a variety of courses at different academic levels, the calculations for weighted GPA can become a little more complicated. Continuing with the unweighted GPA example, let’s say you’re taking five classes and getting As in two of them and Bs in three of them. But let’s pretend that one A is in a regular-level class, one A is in an honors class, two Bs are in AP classes, and one B is in an honors class this time.

How is your weighted GPA determined? Each grade level must be considered in conjunction with the class level. This means using the unweighted GPA conversion scale for regular-level grades, adding 0.5 for mid-level/honors classes, and adding 1.0 for high level/AP classes. That is to say:

  • An A in a regular-level class is still a 4.0.
  • A 4.5 in an honors class would be an A.
  • Two Bs in AP classes would be 4.0s.
  •   A B in honors class would be a 3.5.

A 4.0 weighted GPA is obtained by adding 4.0 + 4.5 + 4.0 + 4.0 + 3.5 and dividing by 5. Remember that not all schools will use this exact weighted GPA scale, but as you can see, there can be a significant difference in the numbers you receive for unweighted GPA and weighted GPA depending on the types of classes you’re taking.

Even if two students have identical grades, one may have a full point higher weighted GPA than the other. Assume you have a 3.2 unweighted GPA and are enrolled in five classes. Even if only two of the five classes are honors or AP, and the rest are regular-level, your GPA will rise to 3.6 on a weighted scale. A small difference in the levels of your classes can have a significant impact on your weighted GPA.

 

 

What Does All of This Mean for You?

Your class rank and experiences in the college admissions process can be influenced by whether your school uses weighted or unweighted GPA.

If Your School Uses Unweighted GPAs…

Admissions committees evaluate your coursework in conjunction with your GPA to determine your academic potential. They are aware that some schools do not consider the difficulty of students’ classes when calculating GPA. If you push yourself in your classes but don’t have a perfect GPA, you’ll look better in college admissions than someone who takes regular-level classes and has a 4.0.

It may be more difficult to distinguish yourself from your classmates with your GPA because more students will have GPAs that are at the same level when class difficulty is not taken into account. If your class rank is solely determined by unweighted GPA, it may not accurately reflect your efforts.

Despite being more academically motivated, students who took a lot of AP classes may have lower unweighted GPAs than students who took less difficult classes.

But don’t be too concerned. College admissions officers are aware of the unweighted system’s limitations, and they will carefully examine your course record to determine whether your GPA accurately reflects your academic potential.

If Your School Uses Weighted GPAs…

To begin, you should be aware that having a 4.0 weighted GPA does not guarantee admission to any college. A 4.0 may be the widely accepted gold standard, but when GPAs are weighted, everything shifts upward. A truly elite GPA under the weighted system will be close to 5.0, so you’ll need to adjust your idea of what constitutes a high GPA to fit this model.

Because your GPA is a reflection of both your grades and the levels of the classes in which you earned them, your class rank is more likely to reflect your academic drive and ability when you have a weighted

GPA. You will be ranked higher than someone who receives the same grades as you in lower level classes.

Weighted GPAs should be used with caution because they can be deceptive. A lot of the advice out there is geared toward unweighted GPAs, so you’ll need to adjust your thinking to account for the size of your school’s GPA scale.

The bottom line is that whether your GPA is weighted or unweighted, colleges will look deeper than the raw numbers when evaluating your high school academic record. Admissions officers will be able to tell which classes you took and how hard you worked, so your GPA is only one part of a much larger picture.

In order to walk at graduation, you will also need to lift the weight of your GPA multiplied by 40, so start training now. Why do you think valedictorians are always in such good shape?

Do Colleges Look at Weighted or Unweighted GPAs?

So, which is more important to colleges, your weighted or unweighted GPA? The short answer is that most colleges value weighted GPAs because they better reflect the difficulty of the classes you took.

Colleges, on the other hand, value your entire course record rather than just your GPA in isolation. They’ll look at which classes you took, how difficult those classes are on average, and your class rank. All of these elements will help them understand your GPA better. So, if you’re wondering which GPA is more important, the real answer is that colleges will look at all of the information they’re given to get the most accurate picture of your academic abilities. They will not simply look at your GPA and decide whether it is a good number or not without considering other factors.

Even if your GPA isn’t perfect, colleges will be impressed if your transcript shows increasing difficulty in your coursework. If you have a 4.0 GPA but only took the easiest classes in high school, colleges will be less impressed because you did not challenge yourself academically. This means you should keep working hard to take difficult classes and get high grades in order to be as impressive as possible.

Summary

Your high school GPA can be calculated on an unweighted or weighted scale. The main distinction between the two is that weighted GPAs consider the difficulty of your coursework, whereas unweighted GPAs do not. The majority of unweighted GPAs are recorded on a scale of 0 to 4.0, while the majority of weighted GPAs are recorded on a scale of 0 to 5.0.

In general, whether your high school uses unweighted or weighted GPA should have no bearing on your college application process. Colleges will consider your GPA, but they will also look at the big picture. Their main concern is that you’ve managed to intellectually challenge yourself with your coursework. GPA is important, but evidence of your perseverance and determination in the face of academic difficulties is often more impressive than a 4.0.

What’s Next 

Want to learn more about interpreting your GPA during the college search process? Learn what it means to have a good or poor GPA in college.

Is your GPA above the national average? Do you need to practice bringing it up? Find out more about the typical high school GPA.

Your college GPA may differ significantly from your high school GPA. To find out what’s in store, read this article about average GPAs in college.