Weighted vs. Unweighted GPAs – A Comprehensive Guide

Hello students,

Today, we’ll discuss an important topic you should be aware of as you progress through high school: Weighted vs. Unweighted GPAs. Understanding the difference between these two GPA types is crucial when striving to achieve your future academic goals, such as getting into the prestigious [college/university name] or landing a competitive job position. I will provide critical insights and examples to help you understand the various scenarios in which one type may be more beneficial. Additionally, we will address the impact of extracurricular activities and honors courses on each type of GPA.

Weighted vs. Unweighted GPAs

First, let’s define these terms:

Unweighted GPA

An unweighted GPA is the traditional method of calculating your Grade Point Average, which ranges from 0 to 4.0. This type of GPA needs to consider the difficulty or rigor of your coursework. Thus, an A in any course—be it an honors, AP, or lower-level class—translates to a 4.0.

Example: If you have As in two classes and Bs in three, your Unweighted GPA calculation would be: (4.0 + 4.0 + 3.0 + 3.0 + 3.0) ÷ 5 = 3.4

Weighted GPA

A weighted GPA is a more complex calculation that better represents academic accomplishments because it determines course difficulty. It usually ranges from 0 to 5.0 (though some scales may increase). An A in an AP or high-level course might equate to a 5.0, whereas the same A in a standard class would translate to a 4.0. Students who excel in more challenging courses are recognized and rewarded in this scenario.

Example: Using the same grades as before but factoring in course difficulty—one A in a daily-level class, one A in an honors class, two Bs in AP classes, and one B in an honors class—your Weighted GPA calculation would be: (4.0 + 4.5 + 4.0 + 4.0 + 3.5) ÷ 5 = 4.0

Impact of Advanced Placement

When you take Advanced Placement (AP) or honors courses, they can have a significant impact on your weighted GPA. For example, receiving an A in an AP course may translate to a 5.0 on a weighted GPA scale, whereas an A in a standard course remains at a 4.0. This differentiation intends to reward students who challenge themselves with rigorous coursework.

Differences in Calculation

Unweighted GPA

Calculating an unweighted GPA is simpler compared to a weighted GPA. This is because the levels of your classes are not considered in the calculations. Let’s consider a scenario where you are taking five classes. If you have As in two classes and Bs in three, each A will be translated to 4.0 and each B to 3.0. By adding 4.0 + 4.0 + 3.0 + 3.0 + 3.0 and dividing by five, you can determine an unweighted GPA of 3.4. If your grades are more complex, refer to the following letter grade and percentage to the GPA conversion chart for convenience.

The majority of schools generally adhere to this scale when calculating unweighted GPAs. Although there may be slight variations, the differences should not be significant.

Weighted GPA

Calculating a weighted GPA can be a bit more complex due to the diverse range of courses taken at different academic levels. Building upon the previous example of unweighted GPA, let’s consider a scenario where you are enrolled in five classes. In two of them, you earn As, and in three, you make Bs. However, the twist this time is 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 means:

To determine your weighted GPA, each grade must be evaluated in relation to the class level. This entails implementing the unweighted GPA conversion scale for grades in regular-level classes, incorporating an additional 0.5 for mid-level/honors classes and 1.0 for high-level/AP classes.

  • In a regular-level class, an A would still carry a grade point of 4.0.
  • an A would be assigned a grade point of 4.5 in an honors class.
  • Both Bs in AP classes would each be equivalent to a 4.0 grade point.
  • The B in the honors class would receive a grade point of 3.5.

It is calculating the average of 4.0 + 4.5 + 4.0 + 4.0 + 3.5 and dividing by 5, results in a weighted GPA of 4.0. It is important to note that not all schools follow the same weighted GPA scale. The disparity between unweighted and weighted GPAs can be significant, depending on the types of courses taken.

Even if two students have identical grades, one may have a weighted GPA one full point higher than the other. For example, let’s consider a scenario where you have a 3.2 unweighted GPA and are enrolled in five classes. If two of the five classes are honors or AP, while the remaining three are regular-level, your GPA will increase to 3.6 on a weighted scale. This illustrates how a slight variation in the course levels can significantly impact your weighted GPA.

Significance and Interpretation: How Colleges View Different GPAs

In general, colleges may consider both your weighted and unweighted GPAs when reviewing your application. While your unweighted GPA provides a baseline for your overall performance, your weighted GPA can demonstrate your ability to excel in challenging courses. Some colleges even have their unique formula for calculating GPA.

Extracurricular Activities and Honors Courses

Participating in extracurricular activities or taking honors courses can indirectly affect your weighted GPA, as they showcase your dedication, passion, and willingness to be challenged. A well-rounded portfolio (including academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and honors courses) may set you apart from other applicants in a competitive admissions landscape.


To effectively use your GPA to achieve your future goals, consider the following recommendations:

1.    Challenge yourself academically: Take a few AP or honors courses to show colleges and potential employers that you’re hardworking and committed to learning. This can also improve your weighted GPA if you perform well.

2.    Maintain a strong unweighted GPA: While it’s essential to challenge yourself, don’t take on too many difficult courses at the expense of your unweighted GPA. Colleges and employers will still take into account your overall academic performance.

3.    Engage in extracurricular activities: Join clubs, sports teams, or volunteer in your community to develop the skills and qualities colleges and employers desire. This will also provide a more well-rounded application body, enhancing the value of your weighted or unweighted GPA.

4.    Understand the requirements of your target college or job: Research how the institutions and opportunities you’re interested in weigh different GPAs. This will enable you to focus on the aspects that matter most in your application.

With a better understanding of weighted and unweighted GPAs, you can make more informed decisions as you pursue your goals. I wish you the best of luck.


In summary, when applying for college or a job role, it’s essential to understand the difference between weighted and unweighted GPAs and how they are interpreted. Advanced courses, such as AP or honors classes, can help you boost your weighted GPA while developing essential skills.

Additionally, engaging in extracurricular activities and participating in honors courses may demonstrate that you have a well-rounded portfolio of achievements and qualities desired by colleges and employers. As you progress through high school, keeping these insights in mind will help you make informed decisions that set you up for success.