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How is Grade Point Average Calculated?

A common measure of the nation's high school students' academic achievement is the grade point average (GPA). Calculating GPA requires both grade information and course credit information.

Since credit and grade information reported on transcripts vary considerably among schools, districts and states, it is necessary to standardize this information so that valid student– and school–level comparisons can be made. In HSTS studies, standardized credit information is based on the Carnegie unit, which is defined as a course with 120 hours of instruction. The factor for converting credits reported on a transcript to the standard Carnegie unit is verified by the curriculum specialist and then entered for each school by data entry personnel.

Grade information on transcripts varies even more widely than credit information. Grades are reported as letters, numbers, or other symbols on a variety of scales. Trained HSTS coders provide standardized information for each school, which is then entered by data entry personnel. Numeric grades are converted to standardized grades as shown in the following table unless the school documents specify other letter grade equivalents for numeric grades.

Number Grade Conversion
Numeric Grade Standard Grade Grade Point Average
90–100 A 4.0
80–89 B 3.0
70–79 C 2.0
60–69 D 1.0
Less than 60 F 0.0
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, The 2009 High School Transcript Study.

The most common GPA scale is the four-point grade scale. In this scale, the letter grade ‘A’ equals four points, the letter grade ‘B’ equals three points, the letter grade ‘C’ equals two points, the letter grade ‘D’ equals one point, and the letter grade ‘F’ equals zero points. The High School Transcript Study (HSTS) uses this four-point grade scale to standardize each student's GPA.

The GPA represents the average number of grade points a student earns for each graded high school course. Grade points are points per course credit assigned to a passing grade, indicating the numerical value of the grade. Dividing a student's total grade points earned by the total course credits attempted determines a student's GPA. Courses in which a student does not receive a grade, such as pass/fail and audited courses, do not factor into the GPA calculation.


Last updated 07 April 2011 (YT)