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What Does "GPA" Stand For?

by Jennifer Allman, Demand Media
    A student's Grade Point Average is often used by high schools and colleges for class rankings, scholarship and financial aid offers and determining course schedules.

    A student's Grade Point Average is often used by high schools and colleges for class rankings, scholarship and financial aid offers and determining course schedules.

    An important part of the U.S. education system is ranking students using a GPA, or Grade Point Average. While it lacks a completely standard calculation formula, the GPA is nevertheless the most accurate way to measure a student's abilities because it accounts for their entire academic career, including the level of difficulty in both the courses and school she attended.

    Calculating a Grade Point Average

    Generally speaking, a GPA is measured on a zero to four point scale based on the letter grades the student receives: A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0. These numbers are added together, then divided by the total number of classes. For example, if you receive an A, two B's and a C, add the numbers together (4+3+3+2=12), divide the total number by the number of classes (12/4=3). So the GPA is 3.0. Note that advance Placement (AP) courses may rank as high as a 5.0. Some schools will include decimal points for pluses and minuses, and other schools will provide a higher number for honors and AP courses. Schools also might ignore certain courses that will not prove useful in academic programs. For example, a law school may not count grades earned in art or music classes, but will rank pre-law courses on a higher scale. This system helps institutions of higher education decide who to accept into their schools, and who has sufficiently completed their work in order to earn a degree.

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    About the Author

    Jen has been a professional writer since 2002 in the education nonprofit industry. Her work has been featured in the New Jersey SEEDS Annual Report, as well as several Centenary College publications, including "Centenary in the News" and the "Trustee Times." In 2009, Jen earned a Master of Arts degree in leadership and public administration from Centenary College.

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