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Curricula and Learning Links - High School

Figuring a High School Grade Point Average

What Is the Fuss About GPA?

By Martha Robinson

Why should homeschoolers care about grade point averages? We are teaching so our children LEARN the material and have a joy for life-long learning, right? High school GPA is very important for getting into college, getting scholarships, joining the military, and landing that first job. So, to help your teen be competitive, you need to know about GPA.


When I grew up, grade point average was pretty simple to figure. Each course you took in high school had the same weight, so you awarded four points for an "A," three for a "B," two for a "C," and one for a "D." Then you added up the points, divided by the number of courses you had taken, and you had your GPA. Here's an example:

Subject Grade Points
English 9 B 3
Algebra I C 2
PE A 4
Biology C 2
American History A 4
Band B 3
Total 18

Total points divided by # classes = GPA
18 divided by 6 = 3.0 or a "B" average

GPA in Today's World

I was shocked to find that some time between the Jurassic Age when I went to high school and the current time, students started earning greater than a 4.0 (STRAIGHT A's in my time!) grade point average. Better than perfect? How could this be? I know I had plenty of challenge getting A's! This is why it is so important for homeschooling parents to understand the system now!

Honors courses: Honors courses were created to challenge brighter students with more in-depth study of the topic. The class moves more quickly than a "standard" class to allow time to dig deeper. It does not appear that there are any real standards for honors classes, so if you feel that you have studied the topic in more depth than "standard," you should be able to list your class on the high school transcript as "honors." Here's an example listing:
Algebra 1 HONORS A

Any subject can be an honors class, but some schools will not count more than two honors classes before the junior year. Make sure to check the state universities or colleges your son/daughter is considering to get an idea of requirements.

Advanced Placement (AP) courses: AP courses were developed by College Board to be college level courses for high schoolers. In other words, an AP course that takes one year in high school would be equivalent to a one semester college class. In order to get college credit, the student must score a "3," "4," or "5" out of 5 (Qualifying score depends on the college chosen to attend.) on the AP test which is given exclusively by the College Board company in May of each year. So, regardless of the grade the student attains in the class, no college credit will be given unless the appropriate score is made on the test, which, incidentally, costs more than $80 per subject to take.

If you feel that your student has done a semester's work at a college level in whatever timeframe, you can count the class as "AP" on the transcript. Your student DOES NOT have to take the AP test to count the class as "AP" on the transcript! If your student would like to earn college credit for the course, he can use the various study guides that are readily available from Amazon, eBay, and other book sources to prepare for the AP test or the CLEP test, another "credit by examination" test. (Make sure to check the requirements of the colleges being considered to see if AP and CLEP credit is accepted.)

Both Honors and AP classes look great on a transcript! These tell college admissions offices, military recruiters, and anyone else looking at the transcript that the student was motivated and able to excel in advanced courses.

What Honors and AP courses do for your GPA

Honors and AP courses count as more than one point when figuring a GPA. (Remember that standard classes earn four points for an "A," three for a "B," two for a "C," and one for a "D.") Different schools and school districts figure GPA's as they choose, but here are two possible scenarios that you can use in your home school.

Ways to Give Credit for AP and Honors Courses

  1. AP courses and Honors courses earn one extra credit each.
  2. AP courses earn one extra credit each, and Honors courses earn one half extra credit each.

For example, Johnny takes Honors American History in his home school and earns an "A." Instead of the standard four points he would have gotten in my day, he earns FIVE points using the measurement in scenario number one above, or four and one half points using the measurement in number two.

Now let's look at a sample transcript and GPA for a homeschooled student's year of "standard," AP, and Honors courses. We'll use scenario one, in which Honors courses get a full extra point. Keep in mind that classes AT A COLLEGE LEVEL count as AP, so you might not have quite as many of those as you would Honors, which is just a class that is faster-paced and more in-depth.

Subject Grade Points
English 11 HONORS B 4
Algebra II B 3
PE A 4
Chemistry HONORS A 5
AP World History A 5
Band A 4
Total 25

Total points divided by # classes = GPA
25 divided by 6 = 4.16 grade point average

Let's look at the same grades, but using scenario two where Honors courses only provide an extra half point toward the GPA. AP courses still give a full extra point.

Subject Grade Points
English 11 HONORS B 3.5
Algebra II B 3
PE A 4
Chemistry HONORS A 4.5
AP World History A 5
Band A 4
Total 24

Total points divided by # classes = GPA
24 divided by 6 = 4.0 grade point average

Dual Enrollment or On-line College Courses

If your student is taking courses at the community college through dual enrollment or is taking on-line college courses, these count as one extra point, just like AP courses. Make sure that the college or university your student plans to attend will accept transferred credit from the community college. Here's an example transcript with dual enrollment classes.

Subject Grade Points
Communications I (at Community College) B 4
College Algebra (at Community College) B 4
PE A 4
Chemistry HONORS A 4.5
Wester Civilization (at Community College) A 5
Band A 4
Total 25.5

Total points divided by # classes = GPA
25.5 divided by 6 = 4.25 grade point average

Additional Articles of Interest

Assigning Credits article on creative courses that earn high school credit.

What Students Should Know Before They Graduate
Recommendations for practical skills you should make SURE your student knows before graduating high school