In the United States' educational system, most high schools and colleges use a standard grade point scale for most courses, awarding four points for an A, three for a B, two for a C, one for a D and 0 for an F grade. It is important to note that many minus and plus grades, if awarded, are a corresponding 0.33 points lower and higher than its parent grade, respectively.

For example, a B-plus grade would award 3.3 points, a B, three points, and a B-minus would award between 2.6 and 2.7 points, typically rounding up to the next highest point. A 2.5 cumulative GPA represents an average towards the upper end of the C and lower end of the B grading point system. In some high school advanced placement courses, A, B and C grades are each awarded one additional point, although this is known as a "weighted grade," and the weighted GPA is compared to the unweighted GPA on a transcript, if applicable.

For many college classes, where a number of credits are needed to satisfy academic and graduation requirements, the cumulative GPA is totaled by the number of classes taken, the credits offered and earned for the classes and the actual grades earned by the student. A student taking and passing four three-credit classes would earn 12 credits. With this, the GPA would then be calculated by multiplying the number of points per specific grade times three for each class and then dividing the cumulative points by 12.