A Grade-Point-Average or GPA is a number that represents the accumulated average of the final grades earned over time. A GPA is typically measured on two scales- weighted and unweighted. Universities employ the cumulative average to calculate the GPA of students. The highest possible GPA you can get in university is 4.0, which is reported on an unweighted scale.
Calculating the unweighted GPA
Regular grades (A, B, C, D, E) correspond to grade points (4, 3, 2, 1, 0). If you score an A in a subject, then your grade point for that subject is 4. For B, it’s 3; for C, it’s 2, and so on. Your subjects are also measured by the number of units or credits assigned to them. To calculate your cumulative GPA, you must:
- Multiply the grade points you have received in a subject by the number of credits representing that course. For instance, if you have scored an A (which equals a grade point of 4) in MATH 303 (3 units), then your grade points are 12 for this subject.
- Calculate the grade points for all the subjects. Let’s assume your grades for ANTH 115 (2 units), ENGL 103 (3 units), and ECO 305 (4 units) are B, B, and A, respectively. Your grade points for these subjects would be
ANTH 115: 2 x 3 = 6
ENGL 103: 3 x 3 = 9
ECO 305: 4 x 4 = 16
- Add all the grade points and the total number of credits for all subjects separately.
Total grade points = 12 + 6 + 9 + 16 = 43
Total credits = 3 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 12
- Divide the total grade points by the total credits to get your cumulative GPA.
In this case, your cumulative GPA would be = 43/12 = 3.588
The highest GPA you can score on an unweighted scale is 4.0. You can achieve this by getting straight A’s in all your courses.
How is the weighted GPA different?
A weighted GPA takes into account the difficulty of the subjects. Weighted GPAs are used in many high schools and are scored on a scale of 5.0, meaning the highest possible GPA on the scale is 5.0. As the name suggests, the weighted GPA gives ‘weight’ to your GPA by emphasizing your performance in your AP or honors classes.
When using a weighted scale, different subjects have different grade points assigned to them for the same grade. For example, a B (3.3 grade points) in an honors class is worth more than a B (3-grade points) in a regular class. Students who take higher-level classes will likely have a higher weighted GPA.
Colleges especially pay attention to a weighted GPA as it gives them an idea of how many AP or honors courses you are taking and how well you are doing in them.
If you are a student about to enter university, you must know how to calculate your unweighted and weighted GPAs. If you have an idea of how the cumulative grade point average scale works, you will find it easier to manage your coursework by prioritizing the subjects with more credits. You will also know where to focus if you want to raise your GPA if your current GPA is low.
Similarly, it is crucial to know how a weighted GPA is calculated. Remember that even if two candidates have the same weighted GPA, colleges will choose applicants who have taken higher-level courses and/or performed better in them.