FAQs About Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA

By Huntington Learning Center

You probably have a pretty good idea of how your teen’s Grade Point Average (GPA) is calculated based on your own experience as a high school student. But these days, many schools weight GPAs, giving new and confusing meaning to the term “4.0 student.” Here are answers to some frequently asked questions to clear things up:

  • What is the difference between a regular GPA and a weighted GPA? A weighted GPA takes into account how challenging classes are, while an unweighted GPA does not. In other words, your student might receive up to 5.0 grade points for an Advanced Placement (AP) English class but only up to 4.0 grade points for a regular English class. So, a B in that AP class earns the same amount of grade points as an A in the regular class.
  • How do colleges compare students’ GPAs correctly? Because high schools across the country might have different policies for calculating GPAs, you might wonder: how do colleges compare students in an “apples to apples” way? Rest assured, they have their methods. Admissions officers scrutinize transcripts to look at the classes that students take and their rigor, and they probably recalculate weighted GPAs to their own scale.
  • How can colleges tell that classes are weighted? If your teen is worried about this, put him at ease: the marking system for weighted vs. unweighted grades will appear on the high school transcript. Some schools might include a school profile with the transcript that goes into even more detail on the grading scale, number of honors/Advanced Placement courses offered at the school, and the like.
  • What if a teen takes some regular classes and some honors/advanced classes? Your teen’s high school guidance counselor can explain how a GPA is calculated, but remember that each class’s grade is calculated based on its level. That might mean combining 4.0 grade points for four As in regular classes (16 total points), 4.5 grade points for an A in an honors class and 5.0 grade points for an A in an AP class: all As, but some worth more than others.
  • What’s a typical grading scale? Every school is different, but many schools go with each decile being a new grade. So, 90-100% = A, 80-89% = B, and so on. Some schools go with a +/- scale—for example, 97-100% = A+, 93-96% = A, 90-92% = A-, and so on.
  • What’s a typical marking system? Again, this varies school to school, but typically, unweighted classes receive 4.0 grade points for an A, 3.0 for a B, 2.0 for a C, 1.0 for a D and 0.0 for an F. Many high schools award additional grade points for Advanced Placement (AP), honors, International Baccalaureate (IB) or other college preparatory courses. Weighted classes might receive 0 grade points for an A, 4.0 for a B, 3.0 for a C, 1.0 for a D and 0.0 for an F. It is possible that AP classes will receive more points than honors or IB classes.

The GPA is a significant factor in college admission, but it’s also essential that teens also show colleges that they are challenging themselves in high school. A student who takes a rigorous class load and earns mostly As might seem like a stronger candidate to a competitive college than one who takes all regular classes and earns As and Bs.

As always, encourage your teen to work hard and push himself. And if you need support, contact Huntington. We’ll help your teen build the knowledge and skills to do his best in high school.