How to Calculate GPA

How to Calculate GPA

Your grade point average, or GPA, is an integral part of your experience at school. It’s something that students and teachers have to deal with. Due to this, there are a lot of questions that may revolve around how to calculate the score, what it means, and what you can do with it all. All that you’ll need is either a scrap piece of paper and pen/pencil, or if you want to make it even easier, a handy calculator (we prefer the calculator).

What exactly is the GPA formula?

Unfortunately, there’s no single answer because the real answer, like most things in life, is “well, that depends.” But fear not, the general method of averaging numbers will always be the same, even if it doesn’t look like it for some of the trickier cases (like weighted classes).

But if you’re looking for a simple formula, it is

Total Points Earned / Total Classes

We can start with the easiest method, which is when you’re looking at a simple GPA score. It’s calculated with a scaling method that rates class grades from 0 to 4. If you get an A, that’s 4 points. B’s are worth 3. C’s are worth 2. D’s are worth 1, and of course, F’s net you exactly 0 points.

To get your total points, simply add up all the points for each class. So, if you have a semester of five classes where you earn three A’s, one B, and one C, your total points will be 17. 

(4+4+4+3+2 = 17)

To determine your GPA from this number, per the formula, divide by the total classes you took, which is five in this case, and you get a GPA of 3.4.

What is an Expanded GPA Formula?

When is an A not really an A? Or rather, when are certain A’s worth more than others? As you certainly already know, it takes a lot more work to earn an A+ than an A- for a class. The former means you aced it all, while the latter means you might have had a slip here and there but still did very well.

Schools and colleges quickly realized this and wanted a way to take into account such things. As such, a grading system was developed that essentially added or subtracted 0.3 points depending on whether or not you earned a plus or a minus. This means that an A+ was now worth 4.3 points, and an A- was worth 3.7 points. An A, however, remained the same at 4.0.

Now, even though we’ve thrown a few extra point variations in, the overall method for calculating your GPA remains the same. All we do is add up all the points earned and divide by the total classes taken. So, let’s go back to our original semester with three As, one B, and one C. Let’s say that one of those A’s was an A+ and you also scored a C+ as well.

Adding up the points would then be 4.3 + 4 + 4 + 3 + 2.3 for a total of 17.6.

Divide by your total classes (which again is five), and your new GPA is 3.52. 

Not too shabby!

What about GPA on a 5-Point Scale?

What about it? Guess what? Nothing changes! If you scored an A in AP Chemistry, and that’s now worth five points instead of four, you simply add everything up as you did before. This is how you can earn a GPA over four points on a 4.0 scale (of course, if you’re acing AP Chem, you know this). 

What About GPA With Weighted Classes?

Ah, yes, the dreaded weighted average.

Bad news first. This will take a little more work than before. The good news is you won’t have to do a single thing you haven’t already. We just need to add a few things together first.

So, a little backstory as to why this is now a thing. You’ve probably realized that some classes are longer and/or are more intensive than others. If you haven’t come across these yet, you absolutely will in college.

Most college courses are worth three credit hours. Some courses, say something like biology, will also have another course attached to it, like biology lab. This lab course is worth an additional one credit. You don’t go to lab nearly as often as your biology class, but it’s there, and it’s graded, and there has to be a way to allow it to affect your GPA while at the same time, not making it as impactful as the full course of biology.

This is where weighted courses come in. And they don’t simply have to be college courses based on time, either. Some high schools offer honors, IB, and AP classes, which are weighted as well. But again, figuring out a weighted GPA always has the same method. 

With that in mind, let’s say at the end of the semester, you earn the following:

We’ll keep the grades as the standard without plusses and minuses just for ease, but as we talked about previously, nothing changes to how you do this when you start throwing those into the mix.

Now then, the only thing you’re going to do differently is that instead of using the formula of:

Total Points / Total Classes

You’re going to tweak that into:

Total Weighted Points / Total Credits

Before you do a double take and think you missed something, Total Weighted Points is making sure we add up a class’s total worth. How do we do that? Simple. We multiply its grade score by its credits.

So, Calculus, which is 2 credits, is worth a total of 8 points this semester (2 x 4 = 8)

Contrast that to Japanese II, which is worth 3 points (1 x 3).

That’s all there is to it. Finding the weighted points is that simple. Total Credits is just like Total Classes, except you’re adding up all the credits you earned, not the classes you took.

Why are we using total credits now instead of total classes? The reason for that is because classes are no longer worth the same. A single class can be anything from one credit to three credits going by the above (in college and grad school, they can be even bigger!). That means getting an A in a three-credit class and a C in a one-credit class will have a very different GPA than the other way around!

Got it? Awesome. Let’s calculate our GPA now using the above. You’re a pro by now, but it never hurts to practice.

For our total weighted points, we’ve earned 8 for Calculus, 9 for US History, 3 for Japanese, 2 for Team Sports, 6 for English, and 8 for Physics.


For our total credits, we’ve earned 2+3+1+1+2+2, which is 11.

Plop them into our formula of Total Weighted Points / Total Credits and we get

36/11 = 3.27

And that’s all she wrote on figuring it out. Now then, what can you do with it? Well, you can see where you stand with your peers and see whether or not it’s high enough for that school you want to get in to. If it is, great! Keep up the good work. If not, well, you’ll be able to see how many points you need to raise it by so you can hit the books a little harder.


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