What is Cumulative GPA? How Do You Calculate it?

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Your GPA is an important part of your college application, so naturally, you want to know where you stand. But there’s also a lot of confusion about what it actually means and how to figure yours out.

 

What is a cumulative GPA? And how do you calculate yours? We’ve got your answers!

 

What is a Cumulative GPA?

 

GPAs (Grade Point Averages) are used to express a student’s academic strength in a single numerical value. There are many kinds of GPAs: cumulative, semester, weighted, unweighted.

 

Your semester GPA is an average of the grades you received in a given semester. Meanwhile, your cumulative GPA is an average of all the grades you’ve received in all your courses throughout high school. 

 

Each course is assigned a certain number of credits, with those with a higher number of credits carrying more value than those with a lower number of credits. Using the formula outlined below, a GPA is the calculated average of the corresponding numerical value of your grades (that’s why it stands for “Grade Point Average”). The standardized scale is 0-4.0, with a 4.0 equaling an A and a 0 equaling an F. For weighted GPAs, you add an extra half- or full-point to more difficult courses.

 

How to Calculate Your Cumulative GPA

 

Not sure how to calculate your cumulative GPA? Check out CollegeVine’s GPA calculator and step-by-step guide.

 

Briefly, to calculate your unweighted GPA, follow these steps:

 

1. Multiply the credits for each course by the corresponding numerical grade point of the grade you earned. (See chart below for grades and their numerical values.)

 

Letter Grade

Percentage Grade

Grade Point

A/A+

93-100%

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

 

2. Add the total grade points together.

 

3. Add together the number of credits you earned.

 

4. Divide the grade point total by the total number of credits, rounding to the nearest hundredth. 

 

To calculate your weighted GPA, the only change is that in the first step, you’ll add the following to each grade point:

 

  • 0.0 for regular courses.
  • 0.5 for Honors, IB SL, and dual enrollment courses.
  • 1.0 for AP, post-AP, IB HL, and college courses.

 

Here’s an example schedule of a student that has completed their freshman year. Let’s calculate the unweighted GPA first.

 

Calculating Unweighted Cumulative GPA: Example

 

Semester 1

 

Course

Letter Grade

Grade Point

# of Credits

Raw Value (Grade Point x # Credits)

Honors English I

A

4.0

3

12

World History

A-

3.7

3

11.1

French I

A-

3.7

3

11.1

Biology

B+

3.3

3

9.9

Art 

A

4.0

2

8

Honors Algebra II

A-

3.7

3

11.1

TOTAL

   

17

63.2

 

So, we take the raw value and divide it by the number of credits: 63.2/17 = 3.72. This is the student’s semester 1 unweighted GPA.

 

Semester 2

 

Course

Letter Grade

Grade Point

# of Credits

Raw Value (Grade Point x # Credits)

Honors English I

A

4.0

3

12

World History

A-

3.7

3

11.1

French I

A

4.0

3

12

Biology

A-

3.7

3

11.1

Financial Literacy

A

4.0

2

8

Honors Algebra II

A

4.0

3

12

TOTAL

   

17

66.2

 

This student’s semester 2 GPA is 66.2/17=3.89

 

Their cumulative GPA would be the sum of the raw values divided by the sum of the credits.

 

So, this would be (63.2+66.2)/(17+17)=3.81

 

Since both semesters have the same credit value, you can also just average together the semester GPAs and get the same number: (3.89+3.72)/2=3.81 (rounded).

 

If the credit values are different, however, you’ll want to sum raw values and divide them by the total number of credits. 

 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to do this semester by semester. If you’re calculating cumulative GPA, you can just sum together the raw values for ALL of your courses, and divide them by the total number of credits. We’ve broken this up by semester to keep it simpler for this example.

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Calculating Weighted Cumulative GPA: Example

 

So how do you calculate weighted cumulative GPA, then? We have to add the extra points for course type. Since the student has 2 honors courses, we’d add .5 to their Grade Point before multiplying it by the number of credits.

 

Semester 1

 

Course

Letter Grade

Grade Point

# of Credits

Value Added for Course Type

Raw Value [(Grade Point + Value Added) x # Credits]

Honors English I

A

4.0

3

.5

13.5

World History

A-

3.7

3

0

11.1

French I

A-

3.7

3

0

11.1

Biology

B+

3.3

3

0

9.9

Art 

A

4.0

2

0

8

Honors Algebra II

A-

3.7

3

.5

12.6

TOTAL

   

17

 

66.2

 

So, we take the raw value and divide it by the number of credits: 66.2/17 = 3.89. This is the student’s semester 1 weighted GPA.

 

Semester 2

 

Course

Letter Grade

Grade Point

# of Credits

Value Added for Course Type

Raw Value [(Grade Point + Value Added) x # Credits]

Honors English I

A

4.0

3

.5

13.5

World History

A-

3.7

3

0

11.1

French I

A

4.0

3

0

12

Biology

A-

3.7

3

0

11.1

Financial Literacy

A

4.0

2

 

8

Honors Algebra II

A

4.0

3

.5

13.5

TOTAL

   

17

 

69.2

 

The student’s semester 2 weighted GPA is 69.2/17= 4.07

 

Their cumulative GPA is (69.2+66.2)/(17+17)=3.98

 

What is a Good Cumulative GPA for College Admissions?

 

While GPAs on a 4-point scale are standardized, their relative strength varies by school to school. An A- at school 1 might be more comparable to a B at school 2. Similarly, a B+ in one class may be an A in another course. That means that evaluating a “good” GPA is subjective. 

 

To better understand your GPA and how it compares to those of other applicants at your target colleges, consider factors like:

 

  • Your school
  • The average GPA in your class year
  • The rigor of your schedule (measured against the courses available at your school)
  • Whether your grades are weighted or unweighted
  • Your target colleges
  • Your demographics (the average GPA varies by ethic group)

 

For example, if you’re hoping to attend Harvard, your GPA should be at or higher than the average of their incoming freshman class, which is roughly a 3.95 unweighted. Meanwhile, Temple University’s average GPA is around a 3.5, so you wouldn’t need as high a GPA if this were your target school.

 

Don’t worry if your school is particularly rigorous and it’s very difficult to attain a 4.0; colleges will look at you in the context of your specific class and note if you rank highly compared to your classmates. 

 

Similarly, if you come from an underrepresented or low-income background, colleges may be more forgiving of a lower GPA.

 

To learn more, see our post discussing what makes a competitive GPA.

 

How Your GPA Impacts Your College Chances

 

GPA does play a big role in the admissions process, as it factors into the Academic Index (AI). AI is a single number that reflects the strength of your GP and test scores. Many selective colleges use AI to weed out applicants before even considering qualitative factors like extracurriculars and essays. 

 

If you’re not sure whether your GPA is good enough, you can use our free chancing engine. This tool will let you know your chances of acceptance at over 500 colleges, and give you tips for improving your profile. We highly recommend testing it out to get a jumpstart on your college strategy!

 


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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