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What is GPA? 

Considering studying abroad in the US? You will read a lot about GPA, so here is how to calculate your GPA and when you might need to use it for applications.

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Grace McCabe

Content Writer, THE Student
July 4 2022
Grade results


What is GPA? 

GPA is a system used in high schools and universities, mainly in the US, to measure a student’s performance and academic achievement. GPA is calculated by converting any grades you receive for an assignment (A, B, C etc) to a percentage. 

GPA stands for “grade point average” and is calculated using a scale of 0 to 4. Four corresponds to an A grade and 0 corresponds to an F grade.

How is GPA calculated? 

Students receive a grade for each assignment, project and exam. Those grades are added together and divided by the number of units of work to calculate the average score for the semester. This provides them with their GPA.

Some institutions award GPAs higher than 4 using a weighted scale, taking difficulty of coursework into account rather than just considering the final grade.  

What high school GPA do universities look for? 

Degree courses will advertise entry requirements that students must meet to be accepted.

GPA is one of the entry requirements for US universities. A high GPA that is above average along with a strong GRE or SAT score can help students’ chances of being considered for the top universities in the country. It is also important because it’s a measure of a candidate’s academic skill, unlike the SAT, ACT and GRE exams, which test aptitude.

Most universities have a minimum GPA requirement of 3 for undergraduate programmes. This may be higher for postgraduate studies. 

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How can your GPA help you get into university? 

Throughout their time at high school, students are placed in classes based on their achievement level. If a student has consistently high grades, they will be placed in a high-tier class. Students with lower grades are put into a lower-tier class. This allows teachers to provide them with more assistance and ensure they understand the topics being taught. Students who tend to achieve grades in the middle range may be put in either tier depending on whether they need support or need to be challenged. Some schools will also create a middle-tier group where the teacher can alternate depending on the needs of the class.

A high GPA in a high-tier class will tell college application officers that you are intelligent and driven. However, if you achieve a high GPA in a lower-tier class, it is less impressive because less challenging material as been assigned to that class.

If you find your standardised test score is lower than you hoped, a higher GPA can help raise your overall impression and make you stand out more during university applications. 

If you have a GPA higher than 2, you still have a good chance of being accepted to a college in the US. If it is below 2, you will find it more difficult to find a university that will accept you. 

While it’s a good idea to work towards a particular GPA, do remember that universities will also look at your extracurricular activities, work experience and overall academic performance when considering your application.

You may also need to include your college GPA in any jobs you apply for after you graduate.

Are there ways to improve your GPA? 

A student’s GPA is calculated using all the grades they receive throughout their time at high school or university. If you are concerned about your GPA, you can do a few things to improve: 

  • Ask for help – your teachers may be able to assist you by explaining a topic in another way to help you gain better marks in a course.

  • Changing your study habits – altering your focus may help you retain more information and do better in assessments 

  • Taking on more of a challenge – a lower score in a top-tier class has a stronger weighting than a high score in a lower-tier class 

  • Extra credit – some teachers will assign additional tests or assignments to give students a chance to improve. But remember that overall grades are still divided by the number of units of work you complete.

    How can you convert your GPA to a UK degree classification?


UK grade percentages 

UK degree classification 


First-class honours 



Upper second-class honours 



Upper second-class honours 


Lower second-class honours 



Lower second-class honours 



Third class honours 


Third-class honours 


Ordinary degree (no honours) 

< 35% 

Ordinary degree (no honours) 

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