Getting good grades in high school is important for college applications and scholarships. Many students consider taking honors or advanced placement (AP) classes to boost their GPA. But do these more difficult classes actually help or hurt your GPA?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Taking honors and AP classes can boost your weighted GPA because you earn extra grade points for them. However, they may lower your unweighted GPA since they are harder.

Strategically choosing certain honors classes in subjects you excel at can maximize GPA boosts.

How Honors and AP Classes Boost Weighted GPA

Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes can have a significant impact on a student’s weighted GPA in high school. These classes are designed to provide more challenging coursework and offer opportunities for students to delve deeper into specific subjects.

Here are a few ways in which honors and AP classes can boost a student’s GPA:

Extra grade points earned

One of the main reasons why honors and AP classes can boost a student’s GPA is because they often carry extra grade points. In many high schools, honors classes are assigned an additional 0.5 grade points, while AP classes receive 1.0 extra grade points.

This means that even if a student earns a B in an honors class, it will be calculated as an A in their weighted GPA. This can make a significant difference in their overall GPA.

For example, let’s say a student takes three honors classes and earns a B, a B+, and an A-. In a regular GPA calculation, these grades would be worth 3.0, 3.3, and 2.7, respectively. However, in a weighted GPA calculation, these grades would be worth 3.5, 3.8, and 3.3, giving the student a higher overall GPA.

Example scenario

To illustrate the impact of honors and AP classes on a student’s GPA, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Sarah is a high school student who takes four honors classes and four regular classes. In her regular classes, she earns all A’s, resulting in a GPA of 4.0.

In her honors classes, she earns three A’s and one B+, which, when weighted, would be calculated as four A’s. This would give her a weighted GPA of 4.0 in her honors classes.

Now, let’s assume that Sarah’s school uses a 4.0 scale for weighted GPA calculations. If Sarah only took regular classes, her overall GPA would be 4.0. However, because she took honors classes, her weighted GPA would be higher than 4.0, reflecting the additional grade points she earned.

It’s important to note that the exact way in which honors and AP classes are weighted may vary from school to school. Some schools may assign different values to honors and AP classes, while others may have different grading scales altogether.

It’s always a good idea to check with your school’s guidance counselor or review your school’s handbook to understand how these classes are factored into your GPA.

Honors Classes May Lower Unweighted GPA

While honors classes are often seen as a way to challenge oneself academically and gain an edge in college admissions, it’s important to consider the potential impact on your unweighted GPA. Honors classes may actually lower your unweighted GPA due to the increased difficulty of the course material and the grading curve.

Harder course material

One of the main reasons why honors classes can lower your unweighted GPA is because the course material is typically more challenging. These classes often require a higher level of critical thinking, analytical skills, and independent research.

While this can be intellectually stimulating, it can also result in lower grades if you struggle to keep up with the rigorous workload.

For example, in an honors English class, you may be assigned more complex literature to read and analyze, requiring a deeper understanding of literary devices and themes. If you find it difficult to grasp these concepts, it may be reflected in your grades and ultimately lower your unweighted GPA.

Grading on a tougher curve

In honors classes, grading is often done on a tougher curve compared to regular classes. This means that even if you perform well relative to your classmates, your grades may still be lower than what you would have achieved in a regular class.

For instance, if you receive a 90% on a test in a regular class, that may be considered an A. However, in an honors class where the average score is 95%, a 90% may only be a B. This can result in a lower GPA, despite your efforts and performance being on par with your peers.

It’s important to note that while honors classes may lower your unweighted GPA, they can still have other benefits such as preparing you for the rigors of college, developing strong study skills, and demonstrating to colleges that you are willing to challenge yourself academically.

Therefore, it’s crucial to weigh the potential impact on your GPA against the long-term advantages.

Strategies to Maximize GPA Boost

Take honors classes in your strengths

When it comes to maximizing your GPA boost in high school, one strategy is to choose honors classes in subjects that align with your strengths. By selecting courses that you are already passionate about and excel in, you are more likely to perform well and earn higher grades.

This not only boosts your GPA but also allows you to delve deeper into topics that genuinely interest you. Remember, honors classes are designed to challenge you academically, so it’s important to choose subjects that you are confident in.

Start with a lighter course load

Another effective strategy to maximize your GPA boost is to start with a lighter course load when taking honors classes. It’s important to find a balance between challenging yourself and not overwhelming yourself with too many difficult courses.

By starting with a few honors classes and gradually increasing the workload, you can ensure that you have enough time and energy to excel in each course. This approach allows you to maintain a high GPA while still benefiting from the rigor and enrichment that honors classes provide.

Don’t overload on honors courses

While it’s tempting to load up on honors courses in an attempt to boost your GPA, it’s important to strike a balance. Taking too many honors classes can lead to burnout, stress, and potentially lower grades.

It’s crucial to consider your overall workload, extracurricular commitments, and personal well-being when deciding how many honors classes to take. Remember, quality over quantity is key. It’s better to excel in a few honors classes than to struggle in many.

Consider Class Ranking Too

When it comes to determining the impact of honors classes on your GPA in high school, it’s important to also consider class ranking. While honors classes can certainly help boost your GPA, your rank in relation to your peers is another important factor to consider.

Honors classes may help class rank

Participating in honors classes can often give you an advantage when it comes to class rank. These classes typically have a higher level of difficulty and may be weighted more heavily in the calculation of class rank.

This means that earning a high grade in an honors class can have a greater impact on your rank compared to earning the same grade in a regular class.

For example, let’s say two students, John and Sarah, both have a 4.0 GPA. However, John has taken several honors classes and Sarah has not. In this scenario, John is likely to have a higher class rank than Sarah because his honors classes have given him an extra boost in terms of weighted points.

But rank depends on school policies

It’s important to note that class ranking policies can vary from school to school. Some schools may have a strict policy of only considering grades in regular classes for calculating class rank, while others may include honors classes in their calculations.

It’s essential to understand your school’s specific policies regarding class rank and how honors classes are factored in.

If your school does include honors classes in the calculation of class rank, then taking these classes can certainly have a positive impact on your overall rank. However, if your school does not consider honors classes, then the impact on your rank may be minimal.

To find out more about your school’s policies and how honors classes are weighted in class rank calculations, it’s best to consult your school counselor or refer to your school’s official handbook.

Talk to Your School Counselor

When it comes to determining whether honors classes can boost your GPA in high school, one of the best resources available to you is your school counselor. They are knowledgeable about the specific requirements and benefits of honors classes offered at your school, and can provide valuable insight into how taking these classes can impact your GPA.

Your school counselor can help you understand the rigorous coursework and higher academic expectations associated with honors classes. They can also help you assess whether you have the necessary skills and dedication to succeed in these classes.

By discussing your academic goals and aspirations with your counselor, they can guide you in making an informed decision about whether honors classes align with your academic goals and can potentially boost your GPA.

Benefits of Honors Classes

While there is no guarantee that honors classes will automatically boost your GPA, there are several potential benefits associated with taking these challenging courses. Honors classes often provide a more in-depth exploration of the subject matter, fostering critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of the material.

These classes may also offer opportunities for advanced research, projects, and class discussions that can enhance your learning experience.

Furthermore, colleges and universities often look favorably upon students who have taken honors classes in high school. These courses can demonstrate your willingness to challenge yourself academically and can set you apart from other applicants during the college admissions process.

Admissions officers understand the rigor of honors classes and may weigh them more heavily when evaluating your academic achievements.

Considerations and Preparations

Before enrolling in honors classes, it is important to consider your own strengths, interests, and workload capacity. While honors classes can offer great opportunities for academic growth, they also require a higher level of commitment and time management skills.

Assess your strengths and weaknesses in each subject area and determine if you are ready to take on the added workload.

Additionally, it may be beneficial to speak with current or former students who have taken honors classes to gain insight into their experiences. They can provide valuable tips and advice on how to succeed in these types of courses.

Additionally, they may offer perspectives on the workload and expectations associated with honors classes that can help you make an informed decision.

Remember, it is important to approach your school counselor for guidance and advice when considering honors classes. They can provide you with accurate and personalized information based on your specific academic goals and abilities.

By having an open and honest conversation with your counselor, you can make an informed decision about whether honors classes are the right fit for you and have the potential to boost your GPA.


In summary, taking some honors and AP classes can help boost your weighted GPA due to earning extra grade points. But these more challenging classes could also lower your unweighted GPA if you struggle with the harder material and grading.

Being strategic about which honors classes you take, starting slow, and talking to your counselor can help maximize GPA benefits while protecting your class ranking and chances of admission to your chosen colleges.

Similar Posts