Current GPA (Optional)

    Cumulative GPA

    What is Cumulative GPA?

    Most of us have been told by parents, teachers and maybe even friends that it’s important to keep our grades up, and to get and maintain a good GPA, or Grade Point Average. You may already be familiar with the term GPA, but let's recap.

    If you were to take all the grades you received in a semester and average them over the number of courses you took, you would get your semester grade point average, or semester GPA. This is just an average of your grades for that semester, and can be easily calculated using our high school GPA calculator or college GPA calculator.

    Now, if you take each semester GPA and average them out over your entire high school or college career, that would be your cumulative GPA, or overall GPA. Sound complicated? Fear not, we'll take you through every step.

    How to Calculate Cumulative GPA

    The first step in calculating your cumulative GPA is to gather together all your semester GPAs and credit hours. How do you calculate your semester GPA? Check out our example below.

    Calculating Semester GPA

    Here is a pretty typical college semester with 4 classes. To begin calculating semester GPA we multiply each class's credit hours by its corresponding grade points to get the class's total points:

    Course Letter Grade Credit Hours Grade Points Total Points
    English 101 A 3 4.0 12
    Algebra 101 B 3 3.0 9
    US History A 3 4.0 12
    Biology 101 A 4 4.0 16
    Total 13 49

    Then, we take the total grade points, in this case 49, and divide that by the total number of credit hours, which is 13:

    49 ÷ 13 = 3.77 (rounded to two decimals)

    In our example, the final semester GPA is a 3.77 (which converts to an A- on the GPA scale). Not bad! Now that you've got the basic idea, let's move on to figuring out cumulative GPA.

    Calculating cumulative GPA

    In the previous example we calculated the GPA for a single semester. If we take the average of all your semester GPAs over your total credit hours the resulting GPA would be considered your cumulative GPA. Let's try it now.

    Here are 4 example semesters, each with a corresponding semester GPA and credit hours:

    Semester GPA Credit Hours Total Points
    Semester 1 (fall) 3.6 12 43.2
    Semester 2 (spring) 3.5 13 45.5
    Semester 3 (spring) 3.8 12 45.6
    Semester 4 (fall) 3.7 16 59.2
    Total 53 193.5

    Just like your semester GPA, to get an average we take the total points and divide them by the total number of credit hours so far:

    193.5 ÷ 53 = 3.65

    This yields a cumulative GPA of 3.65. Not too hard, right? Fortunately, you don't have to do the math every time. Just use our cumulative GPA calculator at the top of this page. It handles all the calculations and even saves your current GPA so you can update it next semester!

    How is Your Cumulative GPA Used?

    Students use their Cumulative GPA to figure out how they’re doing in school, but it’s even more important to other people. But, who?

    If you’re planning on continuing your college career into graduate school, your Cumulative GPA will be used to consider whether or not you can maintain the grades needed to succeed in advanced studies.

    Scholarship committees, the people who decide who gets free money for college, also look at your Cumulative GPA.

    Even future employers look at your Cumulative GPA. It can tell them whether or not you’re likely to be a good employee and take your job seriously. They figure, rightly so, that if your GPA is high, it means you took your studies seriously.

    Each of the above people will not be as interested in your individual class grades, your semester GPA, or even your yearly GPA—they will want to see a high Cumulative GPA which averages all of your grades together into one number.

    Every Class Counts

    Your Cumulative GPA is an average of all your classes. One class, over the course of your educational career in high school or college, can have a surprisingly strong affect on your cumulative GPA.

    To see how this works, let’s take a look at another example. Let's say you’re finishing your 4th semester in college and your Cumulative GPA for your first 3 semesters is a solid 3.8.

    So far, your grades for your 4th semester look like this:

    Course Letter Grade Credit Hours Grade Points Total Points
    English 201 B 3 3.0 9
    Algebra 201 A 3 4.0 12
    Art History A 3 4.0 12
    Chemistry 101 C 4 2.0 8
    Total 13 41

    To calculate your semester GPA, we take the 41 grade points and divide that by the 13 credit hours:

    41 ÷ 13 = 3.15

    You struggled a bit in chemistry, so your semester GPA is lower than your previous cumulative GPA—let’s see how much of an impact that has on your overall GPA.

    Let’s assume these are the GPAs for your previous 3 semesters, plus your 4th semester GPA as calculated above:

    Semester GPA Credit Hours Total Points
    Semester 1 (fall) 3.8 12 45.6
    Semester 2 (spring) 3.7 12 44.4
    Semester 3 (spring) 3.9 12 46.8
    Semester 4 (fall) 3.15 13 41
    Total 49 177.8

    To figure out your new Cumulative GPA, we simply divide total points (177.8) by total credit hours (49):

    177.8 ÷ 49 = 3.63 (rounded to two decimal places)

    With just one low grade, and not even a terrible one at that, your cumulative GPA has dropped from 3.8 to 3.63! As you can see, it's really important to work as hard as you can to keep your grades up since every class matters.

    One way to help avoid a low grade is to track your progress in each class. Use our grade calculator to keep tabs on your assignments and calculate your class grade. And if you're getting close to the end of the semester use our final grade calculator to figure out what you'll need to get the class grade you desire.

    How to Raise your Cumulative GPA

    If your cumulative GPA isn't where you'd like, don't fret. Here are some tips to get your grades up that will help increase your cumulative GPA. Remember, however, there are no shortcuts. It will take hard work, some extra time, extra studies, and meeting with your teachers or professors.

    But, it’s worth it when you can interview for that job, or qualify for that advanced degree or scholarship. You can even talk about how you raised your Cumulative GPA through hard work and perseverance.

    • Talk with your teacher or professor to find out what you should do to increase your grade.

    • Extra credit, if available, should always be pursued.

    • Make sure you attend class and participate, every day.

    • Study with friends, or start a study group.

    • If there’s tutoring or extra assistance available, it’s almost always worth the time. Check with your teacher, the librarian, student services, etc.

    • Do your homework, study for all quizzes and tests, and study for the final.

    • Develop effective note-taking skills.

    • Learn and practice effective time-management skills.

    • Ask for help when you need it. People want to see you succeed!

    The secret to keeping your grades and cumulative GPA high is to not give up. Work hard the whole year, and make sure you communicate with your teachers or professors. If a particular class is dragging you down, work extra hard on that class, but don't slack in your other classes, make sure to keep all your grades the highest they can be.

    Good luck!

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