How Does a Grade in an Honors Course Affect GPA?


Your grade point average is an important part of your high school experience. Your high school uses it to determine your class rank and eligibility for graduation, and colleges will factor your GPA into their admissions decision. Since honors courses are more difficult, it's natural to worry about what type of effect this might have on your GPA. Fortunately, most schools take the increased challenge into consideration when calculating scores.

The Higher Challenge

  • Honors and AP courses are intended to teach course material at or near the college level. In some cases, you may even be able to earn college credit for taking a class. Of course, this means the courses are more challenging. While you might have easily skated through a regular course earning an "A," the additional challenge of the honors course may mean that you only get a "B" despite your hard work. If the school doesn't adjust for this, the lower grade could pull your GPA down.

Weighted GPAs

  • Most schools will have a "weighted" grade for honors courses. If the school uses the 4-point system, weighted classes will be graded on a 5-point scale. For example, an "A" in the honors course will still get you the top score in either system, but a "B" will earn a 3.75 in the 5-point scale and only a 3 on the 4-point scale. This usually counters any of the negative effects that will come from the harder work, and can even work towards bringing the entire GPA up, should you do well in the class.

Total GPA

  • Even if you were to take all of the available honors courses at your school, you will likely take some classes that are not honors. In these cases, the school calculates your GPA by averaging out all of the courses you took. For example, if you had an "A" in an honors course (5.0), two "A"s in non-honors courses (4.0), three "B"s in honors courses (3.75) and a "B" in a non-honors course (3.0), the school would add those all up, then divide by seven, earning you a 3.89 GPA. If you do well, it's possible to have a GPA higher than a 4.0.

Beyond Your GPA

  • Though taking honors courses can have an effect on your GPA, it's still a smart choice to take them if you think you can do reasonably well. According to the College Board, college admissions officers tend to look at the challenge of your course load and weigh that more heavily than GPA. Someone who earned only a 3.5 GPA, but took several honors classes, for example, might look better than someone who only took easy classes, but earned a 4.0 GPA.


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