Grades, Grading System, and Distribution

Undergraduate grading guidelines
Policies concerning the Incomplete
Reporting grades
Changing a previously reported grade
Undergraduate grading grievances
Grade points per semester hour
GPA needed for graduation
Additional marks used on the grade report
Second-Grade-Only Option

Undergraduate Grading Guidelines

Grading is a difficult task and departments are encouraged to set aside time each year to share best practices and to discuss grading strategies within the department or program. New instructors should especially be mentored about grading and grading issues while being introduced to best grading practices.

  • A through F grades are used, with plus and minuses used by almost all instructors. 
  • Instructors should choose a grading strategy appropriate to departmental guidelines, the related discipline, and its professional organization’s recommendations.
  • Grades and grading should be as transparent as possible. Students should have enough information to understand grades earned on various assignments, quizzes, and exams and their relation to the final grade so that the student can reasonably predict the end of the semester grade as the course proceeds.
  • The grading scheme should be described in the syllabus and reviewed with students frequently during the course. (The syllabus date must be current and please include any needed information related to the use of the plus or the minus grade.)
  • Once the semester begins, a grading system may be modified in order to benefit students; however, it may not be adjusted to lower students’ grades.
  • The number of students who drop the course should not affect the overall grades of those who remain in the course.
  • Instructors are obligated to evaluate each student's work fairly and without bias and to assign grades based on valid academic criteria. (See the University Operations Manual on professional ethics and academic responsibility, part 2(e), and the University policy on human rights.)
  • It is especially important that grading be consistent across sections of multi-section courses.
  • While the College discourages indicating superior accomplishment with the A+ grade, it supports grades that accurately reflect the level of the student’s mastery of the course content and related skills regardless of the performance by other students in the course.
  • The DEO or Program Coordinator reviews all semester grades when submitted.

Students from other colleges taking courses administered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are subject to CLAS policies. CLAS students taking courses offered by other UI colleges are subject to the grading policies of those colleges.

Criterion-Referenced Grading

With criterion-reference grading, students receive grades based on the quality of their work in relation to the criteria defined by the instructor and by the rubrics or models specifying the qualities of each grade. Students’ achievements are measured by this mastery of concepts and skills.

Below is one standard set of letter grades and percent equivalencies that is used by some instructors in criterion-referenced grading. Each instructor may choose their own percent equivalencies for letter grades.

A+     A       A-     B+     B      B-     C+   C     C -   D+   D     D-   F   
100-99     98-93     92-90     89-87     86-83     82-80     79-77     76-73     72-70    69-67     66-63     62-60     59 or below 

Norm-Referenced Grading

A “curve” is applied to generate the final percentage of each letter grade awarded. Final grades are assigned in part based on how others in the class perform. Norm-based grading is generally used in large courses in order to be statistically relevant, with the largest percentage of students performing at the average level.

Below is a distribution of grades used by some instructors for a norm-referenced grading system; some departments prefer to  use an internal norming process. Instructors and/or departments may set their own percentages.

Course Level  A B    C    D    F   
Elementary courses (1000-1999)   15% 34% 40% 8% 3%
Intermediate courses (2000-3999) 18% 36% 39% 5% 2%
Advanced courses  (4000-4999) 22% 38% 36% 3% 1%

Understanding Course Numbering 

  • Courses under 1000 are considered remedial; courses above 4999 are considered graduate level.
  • An elementary course is broad and introductory while being highly structured with multiple means of assessing student work. Most General Education CLAS Core courses are in this category. Some elementary courses are numbered below 10000-2999 but most are numbered 1000-1999.
  • An intermediate course generally is not open to first-year students but is considered best suited for second-year students. These courses often require prerequisite(s) or assume prior knowledge and are often numbered from 1999-2999. However, some areas use courses numbered 3000-3999 to indicate intermediate to advanced offerings.
  • An advanced course ordinarily is for students earning a major, minor, or certificate in the academic area; it requires prior knowledge or prerequisites; and focuses on a particular topic or specific area of knowledge within a discipline; it is often numbered as 4000-4999.

Policies Concerning the Incomplete

Instructors may report a mark of I (incomplete) only if all three of the following conditions are met:

  • The unfinished part of the student's work (in a course other than research, thesis, or independent study) is small.
  • The work is unfinished for reasons acceptable to the instructor.
  • The student's standing in the course is satisfactory.

A course may not be repeated to remove a grade of Incomplete; the grade must be removed by completing the unfinished portion of the work.

  • During the semester immediately following the one in which a mark of I (Incomplete) was recorded, the mark may be changed to a grade without the approval of CLAS Academic Programs & Student Development. The instructor should submit a grade change through MAUI which will then be routed to the DEO for review. When the DEO approves the change, it is routed to the Registrar's Office for final processing.
  • If the instructor does not submit a change of grade by the end of the next full semester, the I mark will convert to an F.
  • To change an Incomplete that has converted to an F to a another grade, the instructor should follow the same procedure outlined above, but include an explanation of why the student was allowed extra time to remove the Incomplete.

Reporting Grades

Midterm Grades

All instructors are expected to submit a mid-term grade for students earning a course grade below a C-. In some departments, faculty are required to submit a mid-term grade even if the earned grade is above a D+; in other departments, this are optional.

Final Semester Grades

Final grades are reported to the DEO for review using MAUI. After the DEO approves each class list, the grades are recorded on the student's permanent record and become available through the student's MyUI account.

  • Final grades must be submitted by instructors (via MAUI) at least 24 hours before the final deadline, providing time for the DEO to review the grades.
  • Specific deadlines may be found on the Registrar's academic calendar.
  • All grade reports (including those for independent studies and off-cycle courses) must be turned in by the deadline.
  • Grades are essential to the evaluation of students for graduation, academic probation, or dismissal.
  • If grade reports are late, instructors may be penalized by a delay in paycheck issuance following the delinquency.

Specific deadlines may be found on the Registrar's academic calendar.

For more information on grading and student records and confidentiality, see Student Records.

Changing a Previously Reported Grade

To correct an error in computing or in transcribing a grade or to change a grade for similar, justifiable reasons, the instructor must complete a grade change on MAUI.

CLAS policy does not allow instructors to accept work from a student after grades have been submitted unless an I mark has been assigned. A student needing to complete work during a subsequent semester instead should be given an I mark if all other conditions for its assignment have been met. Instructors should tell students asking for an extension who do not qualify for the I mark that CLAS policy does not allow the extension of the semester for the sake of any one student. A student receiving a poor grade in a course should instead consider a second-grade-only option or should speak to the staff in Academic Programs and Student Development (120 Schaeffer Hall) about any other viable actions.

To change a grade, log in to MAUI and use the "Grade Change: Instructor" link, submitting the grade change to the DEO. The DEO evaluates the circumstances and decides whether to approve the change.

If the DEO approves the change, it is then routed to the CLAS Academic Programs & Student Development office if the student is an undergraduate or to the Graduate College if the student is a graduate student.

Instructors should notify students in writing if the result of changing a grade is a lower grade.

Undergraduate Grading Grievances

Students who have a grading grievance are encouraged to follow the procedures described in the Student Rights section of the CLAS Academic Policies Handbook. Generally, students first should consult with their course instructor about the issue, then with the course supervisor if one exists, and finally with the DEO of the department acting as the administrative home of the course. The student may also discuss the complaint with the Office of Academic Programs and Student Services (120 Schaeffer Hall, 335-2633) or may schedule a meeting with that office to review the complaint process. Students who have not yet spoken with their instructor or DEO about the problem will be encouraged by the office to do so. All grading grievances must be filed within six months of the incident.

Grade Points Per Semester Hour

Grade Description Grade Point per Semester Hour
A+/ A / A- Superior 4.33 / 4.00 / 3.67
B+/ B / B- Above Average 3.33 / 3.00 / 2.67
C+/ C / C- Average 2.33 / 2.00 / 1.67
D+/ D/ D- Below Average 1.33 / 1.00 / 0.67

F

Failing 0.0

GPA Required for Graduation

To graduate, a student must achieve a 2.0 grade point average in all four of the following GPA calculations: all college work attempted (both at The University of Iowa and at any transfer institutions); all work undertaken at The University of Iowa; all work in the major field; and all work for the major undertaken at The University of Iowa. The degree audit (available to students through MyUI) provides students with their current GPAs.

Computing the GPA

The cumulative grade point average (GPA) is computed by (a) multiplying the number of semester hours in each course by the appropriate grade points; (b) adding up the results in (a); and (c) dividing the total in (b) by the total number of hours taken. The Registrar's website offers an interactive GPA calculator.

Courses in which marks of AUS, AUU, I, IP, N, O, P, R, S, U, or W have been given are not included in the GPA calculation. Grades of F are included in computing the GPA.

Waiver of the Minimum GPA in the Major

If a student falls slightly below the 2.0 standard in major course work, the DEO or the department's director of undergraduate studies may petition the College for an exception to the minimum GPA requirement in the major. The student must still achieve a 2.0 GPA in all course work at the University, and the petition must come from the department, not the student. The College's Academic Programs & Student Development Office, 120 Schaeffer Hall (319-335-2633), can provide more information on the conditions for requesting such an exception. Ordinarily, the department must demonstrate that there is no pedagogical advantage in holding the student for more course work in the major.

Grading Marks Not Included in GPA

The following marks are never included in the grade point average.

Marks Not Included in GPA

Mark Description
AUS Audit Successful
AUU Audit Unsuccessful
I Incomplete
IP In Progress
N Nonpass
O No grade reported
P Pass
R Registered, no grade required
S Satisfactory
U Unsatisfactory
W Withdrawn

The following marks are at times used on the grade report but are not computed in the grade point average.

Audit Successful (AUS) and Audit Unsuccessful (AUU)

  • A student auditing a course (see Auditing courses in the Academic Policies Handbook) receives an "AUS" if the course is completed and "AUU" if it is not.
  • Note: Students may not attend a class without being registered; those who do not wish to earn credit in a course should request permission to register as auditors.

Registered (R)

  • A small number of courses are offered for 0 semester hours. An "R" is recorded if the course is completed and a "W" if it is not.

Withdrawn (W)

  • Students who drop a class after the last day to drop without a W have a "W" entered on the permanent record (see Registered/Withdrawn in the Academic Policies Handbook).

In Progress (IP)

  • The mark of IP is used to denote a course in progress.

Pass/Nonpass Grading Option (P/N)

  • With the instructor's permission, students in good standing in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences may take elective courses pass/nonpass (P/N).
  • Students who request this option must obtain the signatures of both the advisor and the instructor on a P/N form, available online at the Registrar's homepage at Forms for Students (Grading Option Form); at the Registration Service Center, 17 Calvin Hall; and in the CLAS Academic Programs & Student Development Office, 120 Schaeffer Hall.
  • The form may be submitted to the Registration Center before the deadline listed on the Registrar's Academic Deadlines page.
  • At the end of the semester, the instructor calculates a standard letter grade for any student who has registered under the P/N option and then assigns either a P or N as follows:
  1. Grades of A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, and C- are assigned a grade of P.

  2.  Grades of D+, D, D-, and F are assigned a grade of N.

Students may not use the pass/nonpass (P/N) grading option in courses taken for General Education credit or for courses offered in their major department. The DEO may, however, authorize P/N grading for a student in a departmental course that will not be applied toward the major requirements. The DEO should send authorization directly to Graduation Analysis, 2 Jessup Hall.

Satisfactory/Fail Grading (S/F) for Undergraduate Students

  • Students do not need special forms to register for S/F courses since all undergraduates enrolled in such courses automatically receive either an S (Satisfactory) or an F (Fail).

  • S/F grading is an option available for undergraduate courses in which letter grading is not the most useful measure of the learning and for experiences that are not specifically academic in nature but for which credit toward graduation may be appropriate.

  • The department may designate independent study courses, readings courses, academic internships, and other appropriate courses as "offered on S/F basis only. " Instructors must submit S or F grades for all undergraduate students enrolled in these courses.

  • S/F grading may be adopted at the time a course is developed, or it may be requested later by submission of a course approval.

  • Restrictions on the use of S/F grading are described in the Academic Policies Handbook.​

Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory Grading (S/U) for Undergraduate Students

  • Students do not need special forms to register for S/U courses since all undergraduates enrolled in such courses automatically receive either an S or an U.
  • A "U" grade in an undergraduate course will not affect the GPA.
  • Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading is an option available for undergraduate courses in which neither letter grading nor S/F grading is the most useful measure of the learning and for experiences that are not specifically academic in nature but for which credit toward graduation may be appropriate.
  • A department may designate a course as "offered on S/U basis only" and instructors for such courses must submit S or U grades for all undergraduate students enrolled in these courses.
  • S/U grading may be adopted at the time a course is developed, or it may be requested later by submission of a course approval form.
  • Further information on the use of S/U grading is available in the Academic Policies Handbook.

Second-Grade-Only Option

Students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences may repeat up to three courses taken at The University of Iowa for a second grade. Under the second-grade-only option, both grades are visible on the permanent record but only the second grade is used in all GPA calculations and as hours earned. Students who plan to apply to graduate or professional colleges should keep in mind that admission processes to such programs may require a review of all grades and that the original grades might be recalculated into the total grade point averages since both grades remain visible on the permanent record.

  • The second-grade-only option may not be used if course regression would occur and may be used only for courses taken at The University of Iowa. Courses must be retaken at The University of Iowa in order to qualify for the option.
  • Students who wish to use this option register in the usual manner for the course that is to be repeated or add it during the regular period for adding courses.
  • In order to complete the second-grade-only option process, students must come to the CLAS Academic Programs & Student Development, 120 Schaeffer Hall. Students should consider completing the second-grade-only option process before the last day of class in order for the second grade to appear on the next grade report. However, students may also make this request earlier in the semester or after the second grade appears on the record.
  • Unless and until the second-grade-only option is requested, both grades continue to be counted in the grade point averages.
  • The Office of the Registrar marks the permanent record with a pound symbol (#) to show that the first grade has been replaced by the second grade in the GPA calculations and to show that only the hours from the second registration have been counted as hours earned.
  • Academic Programs and Student Development is located in 120 Schaeffer Hall and is open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Students with questions should visit the office and talk with the staff.
  • Restrictions and policies on the use of this option are described in the College's Academic Policies Handbook: Grading System.
  • Please note that other colleges may have other second-grade-only option policies which govern their courses.​