Key Differences Between Weighted vs Unweighted GPA

A weighted GPA reflects the difficulty level of a student's courses, whereas an unweighted GPA treats all courses equally, regardless of their difficulty.
Key Differences Between Weighted vs Unweighted GPA

The grade point average (GPA) is a crucial metric for both high school and college students, influencing academic standing, college admissions, and future career prospects. However, the calculation of GPA can vary between institutions, with some using an unweighted GPA and others employing a weighted GPA.

Understanding the differences between these two systems and their impact on your academic journey is essential for navigating the complexities of academic performance assessment. Let's explore the key differences between weighted vs unweighted GPA and their significance in educational contexts. 

What is Weighted GPA and Unweighted GPA? 

In the U.S. education system, two primary types of GPAs are weighted and unweighted GPAs. These types of GPAs are used to assess a student's academic performance but are calculated differently and serve different purposes. 

What does an unweighted GPA mean? How to figure out your unweighted GPA? 

An unweighted GPA is the grade point average that assigns the same value to every class regardless of its difficulty. The purpose of an unweighted GPA is to provide a straightforward measure of a student's overall academic performance without considering the rigor of their course load. 

Unweighted GPAs are commonly used for internal assessments within schools and for certain scholarship or program eligibility requirements. 

New York University (NYU) primarily looks at the unweighted GPA of applicants during the admissions process. According to the university's admissions data, students admitted to NYU have an average unweighted GPA of 3.8. This unweighted GPA is an essential factor in the evaluation of a student's academic performance and is considered during the admissions decision-making process. 

To calculate your weighted GPA, follow these steps:  

Step 1: Assign Values to Grades 

Start by assigning numerical values to each letter grade according to the standard 4.0 scale: 

  • A = 4.0 
  • B = 3.0 
  • C = 2.0 
  • D = 1.0 
  • F = 0.0 

Step 2: Calculate GPA for Each Class 

For each class, multiply the numerical value of the grade by the number of credits for the class. Add up these values for all classes. 

Step 3: Calculate Cumulative GPA 

Add up the total grade points earned in all classes and divide by the total number of credits attempted. 

Example of Unweighted GPA Calculation: 

Let's say a student took the following classes in a semester: 

  • English (4 credits) - A (4.0) 
  • Math (4 credits) - B (3.0) 
  • Science (3 credits) - B (3.0) 
  • History (3 credits) - A (4.0) 

Calculating the GPA: 

Total grade points = 4.0 * 4 + 3.0 * 4+ 3.0 * 3 + 4.0 * 3 = 49.0 

Total credits = 4 + 4 + 3 + 3 = 14 

Unweighted GPA = Total grade points / Total credits = 49.0 / 14 = 3.50 

What is a weighted GPA? How to figure out your weighted GPA? 

Weighted GPA reflects the difficulty of the courses taken. Typically, more challenging courses such as AP or honors classes are given extra "weight" or points. The purpose of a weighted GPA is to provide a more nuanced reflection of a student's academic achievements by recognizing the rigor of their course load. 

Weighted GPAs are often used in the college admissions process to assess a student's academic preparedness for college-level coursework. 

Most of the colleges in the U.S. use weighted GPA (the 5.0 scale) to assess student’s performance. At Stanford University, an A is equivalent to a 4.0 GPA, while an A+ is worth 4.3. As of 2023, the average GPA at Harvard University on an unweighted scale is reported to be approximately 3.9 to 4.0. When converted to a weighted GPA scale, which awards additional points for honors or Advanced Placement (AP) courses, this translates to around 4.2. 

Here is how to calculate your weighted GPA: 

Step 1: Assign Values to Grades 

Similar to unweighted GPA, start by assigning numerical values to each letter grade. However, for weighted GPA, advanced courses such as AP or honors classes may have higher values. For example: 

  • A in regular class = 4.0 
  • A in honors class = 4.5 
  • A in AP class = 5.0 

Step 2: Calculate GPA for Each Class 

Multiply the numerical value of the grade by the course's credit weight (standard credits for regular courses, plus any additional weight for honors or AP courses). 

Step 3: Calculate Cumulative GPA 

Add up the total weighted grade points earned in all classes and divide by the total number of credits attempted. 

Example of Weighted GPA Calculation: 

Using the same classes as before but with weighted values for honors and AP classes: 

  • English (4 credits) - A (4.5) 
  • Math (4 credits) - B (3.0) 
  • Science (3 credits) - B (3.0) 
  • History (3 credits) - A (5.0) 

Calculating the GPA: 

Total weighted grade points = 4.5 *  4 + 3.0 * 4 + 3.0 * 3 + 5.0 * 3 = 54.0 

Total credits = 4 + 4 + 3 + 3 = 14 

Weighted GPA = Total weighted grade points / Total credits = 54.0 / 14 = 3.86 

What is the Difference Between Weighted GPA vs Unweighted GPA? 

This detailed table provides a comprehensive comparison of weighted and unweighted GPAs, covering various aspects such as how they are calculated, their impact on grades and college applications, and their implications for course selection and academic recognition. 

Here's a table outlining the differences between weighted GPA and unweighted GPA: 


Weighted GPA 

Unweighted GPA 


Includes extra points for advanced or honors courses 

Considers all courses equally regardless of difficulty 


Incorporates course difficulty into the calculation 

Treats all courses equally in the calculation 

Course Grading Scale 

Often uses a scale above 4.0 (e.g., 5.0) 

Uses a standard 4.0 scale for all courses 

Impact on Grades 

Can result in GPAs above 4.0, reflecting higher achievement 

Typically results in GPAs within the 0-4.0 range 

Course Selection 

Encourages students to take challenging courses 

Does not differentiate between course difficulty 

College Applications 

May be considered for more competitive programs 

Provides a standard measure for college admissions 

Recognition of Effort 

Rewards students for taking academically challenging courses 

Treats all courses equally in terms of GPA impact 

Weighting Factors 

Factors like AP, IB, or honors courses may be weighted more heavily 

All courses are given equal weight in the GPA calculation 

Flexibility in Curriculum 

Offers flexibility in choosing courses based on personal academic goals 

Allows for a more standard evaluation of academic performance  

Academic Rigor 

Recognizes and rewards students for taking challenging coursework 

Provides a standard measure of academic achievement across all courses 

Do Colleges Consider Weighted and Unweighted GPAs? 

When it comes to your GPA, colleges generally pay more attention to weighted GPAs because they reflect the difficulty of your coursework. However, colleges consider your entire academic record, including the classes you took, their difficulty, and your class rank. This comprehensive view gives them a better understanding of your academic abilities. 

So, while your GPA matters, colleges look at the bigger picture to evaluate your academic performance. Showing a progression of challenging coursework is impressive to colleges, even if your GPA isn't perfect. Continuing to take challenging classes and performing well in them can enhance your college applications.  

In summary, your high school GPA can be measured on either an unweighted or weighted scale. The primary distinction between the two is that weighted GPAs factor in the difficulty of your courses, whereas unweighted GPAs do not. Most unweighted GPAs are reported on a scale of 0 to 4.0, while most weighted GPAs are reported on a scale of 0 to 5.0. 

Which is more important, weighted GPA or unweighted GPA?

Both two types of GPA are important depending on the specific requirements and expectations of the institution or program to which a student is applying. It's essential for students to understand the weighting policies of their school and the preferences of the colleges or programs to which they are applying. 

Weighted GPA is often considered more important in the context of college admissions, especially for competitive institutions or programs. 

Colleges and universities may take into account the rigor of a student's course load when evaluating their application, and a higher weighted GPA can demonstrate a student's ability to handle challenging coursework. 

Unweighted GPA is still important, especially for institutions or programs that do not heavily weigh the difficulty of courses. 

Some schools may focus more on the overall GPA without considering the weighting of courses, so an unweighted GPA can still be a significant factor in academic evaluations. 

How high is the average GPA in high school to get into a top school? 

The average GPA required to get into a top school can vary widely depending on the specific institution, its competitiveness, and the applicant pool. However, in general, top schools often seek students with exceptionally high GPAs. 

For Ivy League and other highly selective colleges and universities, the average GPA of admitted students tends to be in the range of 3.8 to 4.0 on an unweighted 4.0 scale. These schools also consider other factors such as standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation in their admissions decisions. 

It's also worth mentioning that while a high GPA is important for admission to top schools, it is just one part of a holistic review process. Admissions officers consider the entirety of an applicant's profile, including their academic achievements, extracurricular activities, personal qualities, and more, when making admissions decisions. 

In general, whether your high school uses an unweighted or weighted GPA scale should not significantly impact your college application process. While colleges will review your GPA, they will also consider broader aspects of your academic profile. Their primary concern is that you have challenged yourself intellectually with your coursework. While GPA is important, demonstrating your determination and resilience in the face of academic challenges is often more impactful than achieving a perfect 4.0.