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Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA

September 12, 2007

by Paulina Mis

The terms "weighted" and "unweighted" get thrown around a lot when students reach their senior year of high school. Scholarship providers, grant providers, employees and colleges are frequently unified in their interest in a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). They are not as unified in the GPA format they would like to see.

This is what is they mean when they ask for your weighted or unweighted GPA.

Weighted GPA

Many schools offer accelerated and Advanced Placement (AP) classes to students who show academic merit. To distinguish an “A” in the advanced geometry class from that in the regular one, schools often assign a different point system to harder classes. They may, for example, bump up a student’s grade by .5 points if the class they took was accelerated.  Therefore, a student with three “Bs” in a regular class may have a 3.0 GPA while one with three “Bs” in advanced classes may have a 3.5 GPA. If a student takes only accelerated classes and their school bumps up each accelerated grade by one point, they may potentially earn a 5.0 GPA. The weight a school assigns to each class varies, and straight “A” students can graduate with different weighted GPAs depending on the school they attended.

Unweighted GPA

The unweighted GPA is the average of all class grades based on a 4.0 scale. If the student earned an “A” in an advanced English class, the unweighted grade would still be a 4.0-- the corresponding number on standard grade conversion charts--instead of, for example, a 4.5. Regardless of class level, each class is graded on the same point system. Things can get a bit confusing when schools have an unweighted scale but still offer and “A+” that is worth 4.3 points. While still unweighted, this GPA is higher than a 4.0.

Generally, however, an unweighted GPA peaks at 4.0.  Students who have taken accelerated classes may have lower GPAs on this scale, but those who have a regular schedule may fare better in class rank once everyone is on the same playing field. Because the weight a school attaches to each accelerated class varies, an unweighted GPA allows schools and award providers to see a student’s performance on the same scale, regardless of the school they attended. Unfortunately, additional efforts exerted in advanced classes may not be as visible.

At Scholarships.com, students are asked to state their GPAs on a 4.0 scale. Students who received anything above a 4.0 should record their GPA as 4.0. If a scholarship provider asks the student for GPA information, they may then offer in-depth information.


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