How Do Honors Classes Impact Your GPA?

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What’s Covered:

 

A challenging curriculum is critical for getting into a selective college. What’s more, taking honors, AP, and/or IB courses not only demonstrates that you’re capable of handling a rigorous curriculum, but it can also boost your GPA.

 

While honors courses don’t positively impact your GPA quite as much as AP and IB courses do, they can still give it a lift, making you an even more appealing candidate to colleges.

 

What Are Honors Classes? What About AP/IB Classes?

 

Honors courses are more challenging versions of regular courses. In many cases, schools offer two versions of the same class, such as French II and French II Honors. You may need to be invited to take the honors version or receive a recommendation from your teacher in that subject.

 

AP and IB courses, similarly, follow advanced curricula. However, unlike honors classes, they are intended to focus on college-level material. In some cases, students may receive college credit for earning high scores on AP or IB exams. Another contrast to honors classes is that both AP and IB curricula are standardized, while honors courses vary from school to school.

 

Collegevine has outlined the differences between honors and AP courses to help you choose which courses are right for you.  

 

Unweighted vs. Weighted GPA

 

An unweighted GPA is the average of the grades you earned in all your courses, with each letter grade assigned a numerical value on a 4.0 scale, with a 4.0 representing an A, a 3.0 representing a B, and so on. Courses with more credits attached carry more weight in the calculation, but advanced courses have the same amount of value as regular courses if they have the same number of credits.

 

Meanwhile, your weighted GPA assigns greater value to advanced (AP, IB, and honors) courses. That means if, say, you get a B in an AP course, which would normally translate to a 3.0, it will be weighted one point, so it will appear as a 4.0 when you calculate your GPA.

 

Do Honors Classes Boost Your Weighted GPA?

 

It depends on your high school, but most schools weigh honors classes an additional 0.5 points. That means that if you get a B+ in Honors Geometry, normally a 3.3, it would translate to a 3.8 in your GPA calculations. AP and IB courses are typically weighted by a full point. However, your unweighted GPA will not be affected by honors courses. 

 

Letter Grade

Numerical Grade

GPA

Honors GPA

AP/IB GPA

A/A+

93-100

4.0

4.5

5.0

A-

90-92

3.7

4.2

4.7

B+

87-89

3.3

3.8

4.3

B

83-86

3.0

3.5

4.0

B-

80-82

2.7

3.2

3.7

C+

77-79

2.3

2.8

3.3

C

73-76

2.0

2.5

3.0

C-

70-72

1.7

2.2

2.7

D+

67-69

1.3

1.8

2.3

D

65-66

1.0

1.5

2.0

F

0-64

0.0

0.0

0.0

 

Check out our GPA calculator and step-by-step guide to calculate your own GPA.

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Getting a B in an Advanced Course vs. an A in a Regular Course

 

It’s a common question: is it better to get an A in a regular course or a B in an honors/AP/IB course?

 

There’s no easy answer. However, there are some factors that can help you reach a decision. For example, consider whether the course in question complements your overall profile and interests. If, say, you plan to major in English and are taking plenty of humanities-related honors and AP courses, it’s not essential to take Honors Precalculus, too. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it if you think you can do well without overloading your schedule — it just means that you don’t need to stress about it if you’re not sure you can handle it.

 

Ultimately, if you think you can get at least a B in an honors class without taxing yourself, you should probably go for it over the regular version. This will help colleges see that you’re willing to take on a challenge, even if it’s not in your area of expertise. Likewise, if you think you can get a B in an AP/IB class, it may be worth taking, especially since you can earn college credit or place out of the introductory course by taking the exams. 

 

But if you’re not sure you’ll be able to earn at least a B, then go for the regular level. Or, if the class isn’t in one of your core subjects, then consider replacing it with an elective — one in a stronger area.

 

How Many Honors Courses Should You Take?

 

Top-tier colleges and universities want to see students who don’t shy away from a challenge. Because they evaluate your profile in the context of the opportunities you have available to you, it’s important for you to take as many AP, IB, and honors courses your school offers as you can handle.

 

At the same time, make sure you maintain a balanced schedule and prioritize the subjects that interest you the most. Specifically, if you’re applying to the Ivy League or to schools with similar selectivity, you should aim to get on the honors track early in high school so that you are prepared to take many AP courses your junior and senior years in high school. If your school offers them, we recommend you take 7-12 AP courses in total. 

 

Is your course load challenging enough to get into elite colleges and universities? Use CollegeVine’s chancing engine to find out. This tool uses your real information, including how rigorous your classes are, to estimate your chances of admission to hundreds of schools in the U.S. And, it’s completely free. You just need to create a profile and then you can get started! 

 

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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.

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