GPA Glossary

This glossary defines the terms and acronyms that are most frequently used in connection with high school and college grade point averages (GPA) and grade reports.

The ACT is a standardized test used in college admissions. The other major admissions test is the SAT.
Admissions Test
An admissions test is a standardized test, like the SAT or the ACT, which are used to evaluate a student’s academic performance as part of an application for admission to a college or university.
Advanced Placement (AP) are subject-specific classes and tests for high school students that are accepted for college credit at many colleges and universities. AP tests are administered by ETS on behalf of the College Board.
Cumulative GPA
The cumulative GPA is the student’s overall GPA, combining the grades and grade points earned in all classes attempted by the student.
ETS is the Educational Testing Service. ETS administers the SAT, Advanced Placement tests and other educational assessment tests on behalf of the College Board.
GPA is an acronym for Grade Point Average, a measure of a student’s academic performance. Students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale to retain eligibility for U.S. federal student aid.
GPA Scale
A GPA scale specifies a unit of measurement for a set of class grades. One can convert from one GPA scale, such as letter grades, to another GPA scale, such as numeric grades. The most common GPA scale uses a 4.0 as the maximum grade for excellent performance in a typical class. Most high schools and colleges report the student’s GPA on a 4.0 scale. Typically, an A (or A+) corresponds to a 4.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, a B to a 3.0 GPA, and a C to a 2.0 GPA.
Grade Inflation
Grade inflation occurs when educators give increasingly higher grades for the same level of academic performance. For example, the average high school GPA has increased, even as average admissions test scores have remained relatively unchanged. Grade inflation contributes to a lack of uniform grading standards, making it difficult to compare grades from different educational institutions or even different courses within the same institution. Grade inflation occurs at both secondary schools and colleges and universities.
Grade Point Average
A student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) combines the student’s grades in multiple classes into a single numeric measure of academic performance. It is calculated by dividing the total grade points for all of a student’s classes by the total credit hours attempted by the student.
Honors Classes
Honors classes are higher-level classes taught at the secondary school level. They are intermediate in difficulty between regular classes and AP or IB classes.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) provides rigorous educational programs. The Diploma programs for secondary school students are accepted for college credit by many colleges and universities.
The SAT, previously known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the Scholastic Assessment Test, is a standardized test used in college admissions. The SAT is administered by ETS on behalf of the College Board. The other major admissions test is the ACT.
Unweighted GPA
An unweighted GPA is a simple average of the grades earned on the classes, without adjusting for differences in the difficulty of the classes.
Weighted GPA
A weighted GPA adjusts the grades according to the difficulty of the classes before calculating the average GPA. Calculating a weighted GPA may involve multiplying each grade by the percentage of total credits assigned to the class. Another approach adds an adjustment to the grade for more difficult classes, such as 0.5 points for an Honors class and 1.0 points for an Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) class.
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