When you’re applying to colleges, you start to hear about how important your GPA is a lot. But what is a GPA? What about the 4.0 GPA Scale? Or the 5.0 GPA Scale? Which one does your school use? All of these questions and more pop up when you start looking at college applications. To learn more about what the 4.0 and 5.0 GPA scales are and how you can improve your GPA; be sure to keep reading.

What’s a GPA?

When you’re in high school, your teachers probably assess your homework and tests by giving you a letter grade or a percentage. But when college admissions officers needs to evaluate your academic performance, those letters and percentages can be misleading. That’s because how your teacher evaluates your homework or tests differs from how another teacher at another school evaluates another student’s work.

GPA stands for grade point average and is a more universal way for your academic performance to be shown. Each letter and percentile has a corresponding number of points assigned to it, which is how your GPA is figured out.

To calculate your GPA, you need to know how many classes you took each year and the grades you got on them. By dividing these two numbers, you arrive at your GPA. Let’s explore the two scales high schools use for your grades: the 4.0 GPA scale and the 5.0 GPA scale.

What’s the 4.0 GPA Scale?

This is more commonly known as the unweighted GPA system, because it treats all of your classes equally, regardless of difficulty. Unless your high school says otherwise, it’s safe to assume that this is the GPA scale used.

Letter Grade Percentile Standard GPA
A+ 97-100 4.0
A 93-96 4.0
A- 90-92 3.7
B+ 87-89 3.3
B 83-86 3.0
B- 80-82 2.7
C+ 77-79 2.3
C 73-76 2.0
C- 70-72 1.7
D+ 67-69 1.3
D 65-66 1.0
F Below 65 0.0

What is the 5.0 GPA Scale?

You’ll hear about this as the weighted GPA. It’s unique, because unlike the unweighted GPA, it gives a point boost to the honors, AP, and IB classes you take. The difference is easy to see when you compare the two and it translates to higher grades on your report card.

Letter Grade Percentile Honors GPA AP/IB GPA
A+ 97-100 4.5 5.0
A 93-96 4.5 5.0
A- 90-92 4.2 4.7
B+ 87-89 3.8 4.3
B 83-86 3.5 4.0
B- 80-82 3.2 3.7
C+ 77-79 2.8 3.3
C 73-76 2.5 3.0
C- 70-72 2.2 2.7
D+ 67-69 1.8 2.3
D 65-66 1.5 2.0
F Below 65 0.0 0.0

Need to Improve Your GPA for College Admissions?

Because your GPA is a quick and easy way for college admissions officers to determine your academic performance, knowing which GPA scale your school uses is important. It helps you assess the value of advanced courses and determine how well you’ll need to do in them to significantly boost your GPA. Your GPA can even be used to determine your eligibility for scholarships and grants. This number is critical to your college success!

That being said, it’s completely normal if you need to boost your GPA and I’m going to share with you some strategies about how you can do just that.

Be Strategic with Your Class Choices

Let’s say math isn’t your best subject, you’re taking AP Calculus, and your grade is awful. You have two options in this scenario.

Work with a Tutor Constantly

If you’re determined to kick your problematic class in the butt then this is a good option for you. It requires a lot of work on your part and finding the right tutor in person or online that will help you grasp concepts and personalize your sessions to help you improve. This is especially helpful if you’re nervous about asking your teacher for help or if you’re struggling even after doing so.

Drop the Class ASAP

This isn’t usually my first choice, but if it’s only class standing between you and that high GPA for college admissions, cut your losses for the sake of your mental health. And that’s okay! If it’s the only class you’re struggling with or you’ve seen no improvement with tutoring, switching to an easier class does two things. One, it takes the pressure of you and lessens your stress level. Two, it removes the burden on your GPA so that whatever class you take in its place is an opportunity for you to do better.

Do Better in Your Weighted Classes

Because your high school might offer a GPA boost when you take honors, AP, and IB classes, focusing your attention on them improves your GPA. That’s because these classes are worth more and doing better in them can help offset any blows your GPA might be taking while you straighten out your problematic class.

Focus on Your Standardized Tests

And while these strategies are great, if all else fails you can focus on your standardized tests. This is especially helpful, because the ACT and SAT are designed to show colleges if you’re ready to handle their material or not. And if you do well on them, it can help offset any dips in your GPA, because it shows you’ve got this under control.

Having the right GPA is critical to your success in college and being admitted to the schools you’re applying to. Knowing the difference between the two GPA scales and how you can use them to improve your GPA is good information to have in your back pocket while you’re in high school.

Have more questions about your GPA? Leave them in the comment section below. If you even want to be more prepared holistically in your college admissions, we highly recommend visiting Positive Health Wellness.