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This is the third part of our 6-part series on the basics of homeschool transcripts. Read part 1 and part 2.

Want to know one of the most important elements of a great homeschool transcript—one that’s often overlooked? The answer: grades and Grade Point Average (GPA).

In the eyes of a college admissions department, GPA frequently carries the most weight on a high school transcript. Coursework matters a lot, but a record of consistent (and growing) achievement is what makes an attractive college candidate. It pays huge dividends to get this right!

The reality is that calculating GPA is one of the trickiest parts of creating a high school transcript, but don’t worry. We’ll walk you through the process.

There is a 2-step process for getting GPA right on your homeschool transcript:

1. Decide which grade scale to use

The choice is entirely up to you, since there are a variety of scales used by schools and academic institutions.

The most common scale is 4.00. This means letter grade “A” translates into a 4.00 numeric grade. The remaining letter grades descend from there:

A = > 4.00
B = > 3.00
C = > 2.00
D = > 1.00
F = > 0.00

Other common scales include 4.33, which is useful for mapping letter grades with pluses and minuses. Some schools don’t use pluses and minuses, but for those that do, this would be the correct scale to choose:

A+ = > 4.33
A = > 4.00
A – = > 3.67
B+ = > 3.33
B = > 3.00
B – = > 2.67

After mapping each course’s letter grade to a numeric grade based on your chosen scale, you can calculate the grade points for each course. To get this result, multiply the numeric grade by the course’s  credit hours:

Grade points = Numeric grade x Credit hours

2. Calculate the GPA

Once you know the number of grade points for each course on the transcript, you’re ready to calculate the GPA. Divide the grade points by the total number of credit hours on the transcript and round to the nearest hundredth for your GPA:

GPA = Total grade points / Total credit hours

Let’s try calculating a GPA using an example transcript with these courses:

English, B+, 1.00
Algebra, A, 1.00
PE, B, 0.50

Since one of our letter grades uses a plus (B+), we’ll need to use a 4.33 scale. Let’s convert our letter grades to numeric grades:

B+ = > 3.33
A = > 4.00
B = > 3.00

Now let’s calculate grade points for each course by multiplying numeric grade by credit hours:

English grade points = 3.33 * 1.00 = 3.33
Algebra grade points = 4.00 * 1.00 = 4.00
PE grade points = 3.00 * 0.50 = 1.50

Let’s total our grade points and our credit hours:

Total grade points = 3.33 + 4.00 + 1.50 = 8.83

Total credit hours = 1.00 + 1.00 + 0.50 = 2.50

Finally, let’s calculate our GPA:

GPA = 8.83 / 2.50 = 3.53

On a transcript, this translates to a 3.53 GPA on a 4.33 scale. Not bad!

A final word: Don’t forget about weighting

A weighted GPA is built on the premise that not all high school classes are created equal. Some are more difficult than others. For instance, it’s more challenging to earn an “A” in an AP math class than in a remedial math class. 

A fairly calculated GPA should reflect this reality. It sometimes means that a student’s GPA will be above 4.0. 

Public high schools differ in the amount of “weight” given to classes. In general, AP, honors, and dual enrollment courses are given one or two extra points, depending on the grade received.

For homeschoolers, it’s wise to keep your extra weighted amount within these parameters. An example would be giving “5 points” for an AP science class rather than “3 points” for a traditional science class. 

Whether your student has taken an AP course or a regular course, the good news is that the basic grade point is calculated the same way. 

Just convert the letter grade to a numerical grade and multiply by the credit hours to get the grade point for each class. Then add the weight (as extra points) to the grade point. Add one extra grade point for honors and dual enrollment classes and two extra grade points for AP courses.

What’s next: Handling tests and extracurricular activities