How Do You Calculate Your Unweighted GPA? The Ultimate Guide (2023)

Your GPA is one of the most important parts of your college application.

A high grade point average tells admissions officers that you are the kind of student that takes school seriously. It means that you have worked hard for all four years of your high school career to ensure that you graduate with stellar grades. A high GPA also lets colleges and universities know that you will be able to handle the coursework at their school. This makes you a competitive candidate for admission.

Even if your grade point average isn’t as high as you’d like it to be (maybe because you weren’t thinking about the bigger picture yet, so you slacked off during your freshman or sophomore years) a solid improvement of grades during your last two years of high school still looks good on an application, because it shows dedication.

Calculating your GPA should be a relatively simple process. If you do well in school and get good letter grades, then they should translate over into high numbers. But unfortunately it is not always the most straightforward

Are you feeling confused? Well, you shouldn’t be. In this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know about how to calculate your unweighted GPA. We will also touch on what exactly unweighted means, and what steps to take once you know what the answer is.

If you are still just wondering what a GPA actually is, you can find the answers you need here.

What is an unweighted GPA?

The unweighted grade point average is the method used by most American high schools and colleges to easily quantify students’ success. You are probably very familiar with it already, even if you don’t know it yet.

Let us explain: unweighted GPAs are reported on the 4.0 scale. This means to get the perfect 4.0 GPA, you would need to be a straight A student. On the complete other end of the spectrum, if you failed literally every class you have ever taken, you would have a GPA of 0. This is easy enough to understand, right?

An unweighted GPA also means that the difficulty of a student’s classes isn’t considered when calculating his or her GPA. This means that if you take all AP® classes and earn a grade of B in most of them, your GPA will be about a 3.0. But, if your less-ambitious friend takes all academic classes and earns A’s in all of them, her GPA will still be higher than yours (likely a 4.0) even though you are actually taking harder classes.

This might seem a little unfair to you. Well, this is because it did to a lot of people. Because of this, an entirely new grading scale was created to accurately reflect the effort that upper-level students put into their honors and AP® classes.

But, if your school only reports unweighted GPAs, you don’t need to worry too much. This is because college admissions officers take a great deal of care when reading your application. They will be familiar with your school and its policies and be sure to check your transcript to see what kinds of classes you took. Your B+ in AP® Physics will not be out-shined by another student’s A- performance in its academic equivalent.

So, now you know why the 4.0 has long been touted at the ultimate achievement in the land of high school GPAs. But, you need to keep reading to find out why this assertion isn’t entirely true.

What’s the difference between weighted and unweighted GPAs?

How Do You Calculate Your Unweighted GPA? The Ultimate Guide (1)

You can read our in-depth post about how to calculate your weighted GPA here, but we’ll still give you the rundown on their differences in the paragraphs below – so stay put.

Basically, the main distinction between the two systems is that a weighted GPA considers the difficulty of the courses each student takes when calculating their average, while an unweighted GPA considers all grades to be equal.

Let us explain:

If your school gives out weighted GPAs, it means that if you take all AP® or honors classes, a perfect GPA would be a 5.0. When higher-level classes were introduced, those in education knew that they needed a way to differentiate between academic and high-achieving students. The work they were completing was just too different for it to be graded the same way.

To achieve this, you now get an additional 1.0 added to your GPA if you are enrolled in AP® or honors classes. Basically, if you get a B+ in AP® Biology, it’s the same thing as earning an A in regular biology.

Sometimes, high schools even offer “in between” classes that are a little harder than academic, but not quite as crazy as AP® courses. If you take these classes, you’ll find an extra .5 added to your GPA. So an A in an intermediate biology class would be a 4.5 on the 5.0 scale.

How do unweighted GPAs affect the college admissions process?

By now, you have probably read other articles about how to calculate your unweighted GPA. This is because the unweighted scale is most commonly used by American colleges and universities when vetting their freshman classes – so there is a definitely a lot of advice out there about it. But you need to be careful, because the guidance offered in these articles will only help you if you are taking upper-level, competitive classes.

If you want to go to a highly selective school, of course you want your GPA to be as high as it possibly can be. However, if you earn your marks solely by excelling in gym class and academic English, Harvard is smart enough to notice what you’re up to.All this to say that even if you have a 4.0, if you didn’t take any honors or AP® classes (especially if they were available to you), your college applications are going to suffer because of it.

If you are currently only in academic classes and doing great in them, talk to you guidance counselor about moving up a level in one or two of them. Logistically, it might be a little tricky to make the transition, especially mid-semester, but it never hurts to ask.

While the AP® or honors classes are definitely going to be harder and your unweighted GPA might experience a slight dip, college admissions officers will take note of how you earned it. What this really means is that you can’t expect to sail into a highly selective college with all A’s earned in super easy classes.

Remember: if you school only uses the unweighted GPA to report grades, when you start taking more challenging classes, people who are in easy classes might earn better grades than you for a little while. Let them! You’ll have the leg up when it comes time to apply for college.

There has also been some debate as whether an A in an academic class or a B in an AP® class looks better on a college application. The truth of the matter is that you should aim to earn all A’s in your AP® classes, but you can never achieve this if you don’t sign up in the first place. So go for it!

Here’s how to calculate your unweighted GPA

Okay, now we’re at the good part! Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to calculate your unweighted GPA.

For this example, let’s say you’ve just finished your freshman year of high school. If you are further along, just repeat the steps below according to how many semesters you have completed.

This chart illustrates how each letter grade translates into an unweighted GPA.

Letter Grade

Unweighted GPA


Now we’ll show you some examples of these grades in action. Like we mentioned, let’s say you just finished your freshman year of high school and your first semester looked a little something like this:



Unweighted GPA


To calculate your unweighted GPA, all you have to do is add all the numbers in the third column, then divide them by their quantity. Hence the name grade point average.If you are taking more or less than the six classes we listed, simply adjust the chart to suit your needs.

So, if these were your first semester grades, you would end the fall semester with a 3.45 unweighted GPA.

The process for the spring, and later, semesters is a little different. Imagine that these were your grades for the spring of your freshman year:



Unweighted GPA


Your unweighted GPA for the spring semester would be 3.52, but to find out your grade point average for the entire year, you’ll need to calculate the average of these two GPAs, which in this case is roughly 3.48

Remember, this only works if you take the exact amount of classes each semester. If you add or drop a period, you’ll need to go through and manually add up each of your final grades, then divide it by the total number of classes that you have taken.

A quick review

Here are a few key things you should take away from this article:

  • Your GPA is a very important part of your college application.
  • An unweighted GPA is scored on a 4.0 scale.
  • An unweighted GPA does not consider your classes’ difficulty when assigning grades.
  • Regardless of this, you should still take AP® and honors classes when available.
  • To calculate your unweighted GPA, find your letter grades’ corresponding number, then find the average for all your classes each semester.

Remember, it is also easier to raise your GPA earlier in your high school career, when you have taken fewer classes. If you wait until you are a junior to take school seriously, your GPA will suffer because of it.

What should you do next?

You should make sure to check out this article on what the average GPA is to see how you stack up. Also take a look at this in-depth look about how colleges consider weighted and unweighted GPAs.

If your school reports GPAs on a weighted scale, we covered how to handle that as well.

Good luck out there!

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