The Edvocate’s Guide to Weighted Grades

Weighted grades are numerical scores that are given an advantage when calculating a GPA. These scores were usually attained at higher level, honors, AP, or IB classes. The advantage is given because of the challenging nature of those classes. Think of it as a reward for taking classes with increased rigor.

Weighted grades are number or letter grades assigned a numerical advantage when calculating a grade point average. In some schools, weighted-grade systems give learners a numerical advantage for grades earned in higher-level classes or challenging learning experiences, such as honors classes, Advanced Placement classes, or International Baccalaureate classes. In some cases, the terms quality points or honor points may be used about the additional weight given to weighted grades.

In the case of learners who have finished classes considered to be more challenging than regular classes, a weighted grade’s general purpose is to give these learners a numerical advantage when determining relative educational performance and related honors such as honor roll or class rank.

For example, in some weighted-grade systems, a grade in a higher-level class may have a “weight” of 1.05, while the exact same grade in a lower-level class weights 1.0. A grade of 90 in an honors class would be recorded as a 94.5 or 95, while a 90 in a comparable “college-prep” class would be recorded as a 90. Another system might add five “quality points” to grades earned in honors classes (90 + 5 = 95) and eight quality points to all grades obtained in Advanced Placement classes (90 + 8 = 98).

In another scenario, an A in a higher-level class may be awarded a 5.0, for example, while an A in a lower-level class is awarded a 4.0. Lower grades in weighted classes would also get the same one-point advantage—a grade of C, for instance, would be assigned a score of 3.0, while a C in a regular class would be assigned a 2.0.

In yet another scenario, .33 may be added to all grades earned in Advanced Placement classes so that an A (4.0) would be assigned a score of 4.33. Although the examples above represent a few typical formulations, grading systems and GPA scales may vary from one school or school district to another.

While the term weighted grades usually refers to the practices described above, it is essential to note that weighting may also refer to distinct levels of “weight” given to particular assignments within a class. For instance, a final test may be given more “weight” in determining a class grade—say 20 percent of the final grade—than a personal homework assignment, which may reflect only a small percentage of the final grade.

Some colleges and universities may also ask high schools to provide both weighted and unweighted GPAs on learner transcripts so that admissions offices can assess the differential effect of weighted grades—i.e., how certain class selections and weighted grades affected the GPA calculation.

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