How exactly do you take a document as complicated as your transcript and shrink it all down to one number? If you are wondering how to take all the final grades you've gotten in high school and figure out your GPA, then this article will show you exactly how to make that calculation. I'll take you through step by step.
What Is a GPA?
Most likely, in your high school classes, your final grades are given as letters (A, B+, etc.) or as percents (92, 85, etc. out of 100).
A GPA, or grade point average, first converts those letters or percents into numbers, then averages these numbers together. Because it's made up of all your grades, your GPA is one of the most important factors for college admission. It is a good indicator of your intelligence, work ethic, perseverance, and willingness to push yourself.
GPAs are useful for colleges to easily compare you to other students who graduated from your school, and to all the other applicants. Why? Well, imagine you're an admissions officer who is looking at thousands of college applications. Would you rather go through each transcript, add up all the A's and all the B's, and then compare that to the next person, and so on forever? Or would you rather just have an easy summary number that could be used for a quick comparison across the board? Your GPA is that quick summary number.
Turn the hard to eat ingredients of your transcript into the gooey smore deliciousness of a GPA. Probably not with an open flame, though.
The Difference Between Weighted and Unweighted GPA
There are two main types of GPAs: weighted and unweighted.
When schools use unweighted GPAs, they use a scale that goes from 0.0 to 4.0 and doesn't take the difficulty level of classes into account. However, some schools use a weighted GPA model, which takes class difficulty into account by using a scale that goes from 0.0 to 5.0. This gives higher numerical values to grades earned in honors/AP/IB classes.
Suppose Jeremy gets an A in standardlevel US History while Lakshmi gets an A in AP US History. With unweighted GPAs, both A’s are treated the same—each becomes a 4.0. On the other hand, with a weighted GPA, Jeremy's A would convert to a 4.0, while Lakshmi’s A would convert to a 5.0 to show that her class took a lot more effort to ace.
This article focuses primarily on explaining and calculating unweighted GPAs. For more information on weighted GPAs, check out our other article.
Sure, you can pick them up, but doesn't it help to know how much each weighs?
How Do You Calculate Your Unweighted GPA?
The first thing to do in order to calculate a grade point average is to convert each of the final class grades you’ve gotten so far in high school into the right decimal.
Here is the standard unweighted scale for doing this:
Letter Grade

Percentile

GPA

A+

97100

4.0

A

9396

4.0

A

9092

3.7

B+

8789

3.3

B

8386

3.0

B

8082

2.7

C+

7779

2.3

C

7376

2.0

C

7072

1.7

D+

6769

1.3

D

6566

1.0

F

Below 65

0.0

Then, perform the following calculation:
 Add all the converted decimal grades together – this is your sum.
 Count the number of classes you’ve taken.
 Divide the sum by the number of classes, and you have your unweighted GPA
In the next section, we'll go through an example calculation of an unweighted GPA.
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StepbyStep Example of an Unweighted GPA Calculation
Let me show you an example of how to calculate an unweighted GPA so you can see how this will look in practice. (To see how to calculate a weighted GPA, check out our other article.) We'll use a sample transcript for incognito CIA operative John Doe.
#1: Convert Grades Into Decimals
In order to learn how to calculate a GPA, let’s first convert John's letter grades into numbers:
9^{th} Grade  10^{th} Grade  11^{th} Grade  12^{th} Grade 
3.0  4.0  4.0  3.0 
4.0  3.0  2.7  3.0 
3.3  3.7  3.7  4.0 
3.7  4.0  3.0  3.0 
3.0  4.0  3.3  3.0 
3.3  3.3  4.0  3.7 
4.0  4.0  4.0  
3.7  4.0  3.0  
3.0  2.7  
4.0  3.0 
Let’s also count how many classes he took each of those years:
9^{th} Grade

10^{th} Grade

11^{th} Grade

12^{th} Grade

10 classes

10 classes

8 classes

6 classes

#2: Calculate Individual Year GPAs
To get each individual year’s GPA, all we need to do is divide the sum by the number of classes. If this division ends up with a long decimal, simply round to the nearest tenth:
9^{th} Grade

10^{th} Grade

11^{th} Grade

12^{th} Grade

35 / 10 = 3.5

35.7 / 10 = 3.57

27.7 / 8 = 3.46

19.7 / 6 = 3.28

#3: Calculate Cumulative High School GPA
To get a cumulative GPA for John’s entire high school career, we add up the sums for all the years and divide by the number of classes he took over all those years:
35 + 35.7 + 27.7 + 19.7 = 118.1 (sum of all final grades)
10 + 10 + 8 + 6 = 34 (total number of classes taken)
118.1 / 34 = 3.47 (GPA)
So, his GPA for all of high school is 3.47.
Pro tip: the cumulative GPA is NOT an average of each year because the number of classes taken each year is different.
#4: Calculate GPA Submitted to Colleges (Optional)
Finally, if we wanted to figure out the GPA that John would send out on his college applications, we would do the same process, but leave off senior year. Since applications go out in the beginning of 12th grade, those final grades don't make it into the application GPA:
35 + 35.7 + 27.7 = 98.4 (sum of final grades from 9th to 11th grade)
10 + 10 + 8 = 28 (number of classes taken from 9th to 11th grade)
98.4 / 28 = 3.5 (college application GPA)
John’s application GPA is 3.5.
Is nicely done, John!
What’s Next?
Interested in diving even deeper into the differences between weighted and unweighted GPA? Check out our guide to the benefits and drawbacks of both.
Want to see stepbystep weighted GPA calculation? Let us show you how it’s done.
Curious how your GPA compares? See what a good or bad GPA score is, and how you stack up against the average high school student.
Want to improve your GPA? Check out our indepth guide to raising your grades, from a writer who got a perfect 4.0 GPA. Read it for free now:
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.