Grades: Undergraduate Policies and Guidelines

Grading in Undergraduate Courses


  • Instructors are obligated to evaluate each student's work fairly and without bias and to assign grades based on valid academic criteria that have been well defined for students. (See the University Policy Manual on professional ethics and academic responsibility, part 2(e) and the University policy on human rights.)
  • Grades should accurately reflect the level of the student’s mastery of the course content and related skills regardless of the performance of other students in the course.
  • The grading scheme should be described in the syllabus and reviewed with students throughout the course. Once the semester begins, a grading scheme may be modified to benefit students; however, it may not be adjusted to lower students’ grades.
  • The college does not support grading schemes that use pre-determined quotas of students receiving each letter grade. Every student should have the opportunity to be successful.
  • Instructors must use ICON to record and share student grades unless the DEO of the course’s administrative home approves an exception.
  • 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.

Strongly Recommended Procedures

  • Grades should be entered in the ICON grade book as soon as possible so that students know their standing in the course. They should be provided with enough information to understand grades earned on various assignments, quizzes, and exams and how those points are related to their final semester grade.
  • By the mid-point of the course, students should have a clear understanding of their current course grade.
  • CLAS recommends the use of +/- grading since it helps to distinguish students' performance. Include on the syllabus information related to the use of plus/minus grades, including whether an A+ will be used and explicit criteria for earning an A+.

Grading Schemes and Strategies

  • CLAS does not require instructors to use any particular scheme for grading students. Some instructors, in fact, may use elements that are drawn from different schemes.

  • The college supports instructors’ use of grading schemes and strategies that promote intrinsic student motivation toward learning and equitable assessment outcomes.
  • Instructors should choose a grading strategy appropriate to the course level and role in the departmental/program/GE CLAS Core curriculum.
  • Faculty in departments and programs are encouraged to discuss grading schemes and expectations with all instructors (including visiting, adjunct, and graduate student instructors) on a regular basis. Some departments may have grading guidelines, which should also be reviewed and discussed regularly.
  • Additionally, instructors are encouraged to consult with the Center for Teaching for resources related to best practices in assessment:

Examples of Grading Schemes and Strategies

Listed below are some examples and descriptions of grading approaches that instructors are using in the college. (This list is by no means exhaustive.) These can be applied at the level of the course or individual assignments. Instructors implementing assessment strategies that do not directly use grades are still required to submit a letter grade for students at the completion of the course. Resources on various grading strategies can be found here.

Collaborative Grading: Grades are a collaboration between students and the instructor - guided by instructor feedback and student reflection and self-assessment. Also referred to as ungrading.

Contract Grading: Students select which assignments to complete, and sometimes the level at which to complete them, to work toward the grade they want to earn. This “contract” between student and instructor is usually agreed upon at the beginning of the course, and final grades are determined by its completion.

Criterion-Referenced Grading: With criterion-referenced grading, students receive letter grades based on the quality of their work in relation to the criteria defined by the instructor against an absolute scale that is provided for each assignment or the course.

Mastery-based Grading: Students are assessed on the degree to which they have mastered or gained proficiency across designated learning outcomes, often completed within a flexible time frame. Also referred to as competency-based grading.

Norm-Referenced Grading: This grading scheme uses set quotas to determine how many students in the class will receive each available letter grade. It is not recommended by CLAS. Final grades are assigned, in part, based on how others in the class perform; this can create a learning environment that is based on strong competition and decreased collaboration among students in the course.

Specifications Grading: Students are required to meet specifications set by the instructor as satisfactory/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory for each assignment or exam. Course grades are based on scaled “bundles” or “clusters” of passing assessments. Students satisfactorily completing all assessments in bundles that require more challenging work earn higher grades.

Grading Procedures

Assignment of Grading Roles

Grading roles align with instructor roles, one of which must be chosen for each instructor assigned to a course section, see The default grading roles for each instructor type are listed below; however, a departmental administrator may change the default grading roles.

  • Course Supervisor: can save grades, can submit grades
  • Primary Instructor (required): can save grades, can submit grades
  • Team Teacher: can save grades, can submit grades
  • Teaching Assistant (TA): can save grades

The role of Instructor Delegate also exists and can be assigned to administrative faculty or staff members in academic units who may assist in submitting grades when needed, for example, when there is a medical or other emergency, and the instructor is not able to enter the grade by the deadline.

Submitting Grades

Midterm Grades: Instructors are expected to submit a midterm grade for each student earning a course grade of D+, D, D-, or F.

Final Course Grades: After instructor submission of grades, grades must be approved by the Departmental Executive Officer (DEO) using MAUI before the grade submission deadline. DEOs are assigned to the DEO Grades Approver role by default. Departments should designate an additional administrative faculty or staff member to the DEO Grades Approver Delegate role for use in emergency situations, but DEOs should have primary responsibility for review and submission of all departmental course grades. Note that if the DEO submits a grade for their own course, it will need to be approved by the DEO Grades Approver Delegate or the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education.

  • 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.
  • All grade reports (including those for independent studies and off-cycle courses) must be submitted by the deadline.
  • If the course has a Course Supervisor, they must approve grades after the instructor and before the DEO.

Guidelines for DEO Review of Grades

  • Check to see that grades have been submitted for each student.
  • If every student has the same grade in an individual course or section, a conversation with the instructor about the circumstances is warranted.
  • Grades assigned should reflect the course level and the role of the course in the departmental/program/GE CLAS Core curriculum.

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. Grades are essential to the evaluation of students for graduation, dean’s list, president’s list, scholarship eligibility, academic probation, or dismissal.

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 Submitted Grade

Grade changes may be entered after grades have been finalized to correct an error in computing or in transcribing a grade or to change a grade or for similar, justifiable reasons. The DEO evaluates the circumstances and decides whether to approve the change. If the DEO approves the change, it is then routed to the student's primary college of enrollment for approval by a Collegiate Grades Approver.

In some situations where a student has an extenuating circumstance and they have earned a passing grade in the course with only a small amount of work remaining to complete, CLAS encourages an instructor to enter the grade the student earned at the end of the course, then to allow the student a short extension to complete the remaining work. After the remaining work is completed, the instructor may submit a grade change. The remaining required course work should be completed, and the grade changed, within one additional semester (excluding summer or winter sessions). Another option is for an instructor to assign a mark of Incomplete, see Incomplete Policy.

A course instructor or course supervisor should enter the grade change whenever possible. If an Instructor Delegate enters a grade change and is approved by a DEO Grades Approver, the Collegiate Grades Approver may request justification or evidence that the course instructor or course supervisor requested the grade change. Grades or grade changes should not be entered by Instructor Delegates without the instructor’s knowledge.

Grade changes after final grades have been entered on a student’s record (other than a change from an I or O mark) require approval from a Collegiate Grades Approver within the college that manages the student's primary program of study. Note that if a DEO submits a grade change for a student in their course, it will need to be approved by the DEO Grades Approver Delegate or the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education.

If an instructor or course supervisor and the DEO disagree on resolution of a grading complaint, please contact CLAS Undergraduate Programs or the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education for an undergraduate course to discuss the situation and an appropriate resolution.

Grading Marks Not Included in GPA

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

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

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.

Incomplete (I)

  • A student unable to finish a course may ask an instructor for a mark of I (Incomplete), which gives the student until the end of the next full semester to complete the work of the course. Course instructors may approve a student's request only if all three of the following conditions are met: 
  1. The unfinished part of the student's work is small. 
  1. The work is unfinished for reasons acceptable to the instructor. 
  1. The student's standing in the course is satisfactory. 
  • If approved, the student and instructor should agree on a deadline for the work missed and include any other expectations in writing using the Incomplete Agreement Form to remind each party of the agreements. 
  • 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 a Collegiate Grades Approver in the student’s primary college of enrollment. 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, the final grade will be entered in the student record. 
  • If the instructor does not submit a change of grade by the end of the next full semester (i.e., excluding summer or winter sessions), the I mark automatically will be converted to an F. 
  • To change an Incomplete that has been converted to an F to another grade, the instructor should follow the regular grade change procedure but should include an explanation of why the student was allowed extra time to remove the Incomplete. The instructor should not submit a grade change until the course work has been finalized (i.e., the instructor should not submit a grade change to revert an automatic F to an Incomplete). Note, if completion of the course work will extend beyond one year after the original course end date, the instructor should consult with CLAS Undergraduate Programs to determine if allowing the extension is appropriate, or if the student instead should repeat the course, in which case they may be able to use the second-grade-only option.  
  • A course may not be repeated by the student to remove a grade of Incomplete; the grade must be removed by the student completing the unfinished portion of the work. If the work is not completed, the grade will automatically turn into an F, with the student then able to repeat the course for a new grade. 

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 page (Grading Option Change Form); at the UI Service Center, and in CLAS Undergraduate Programs, 120 Schaeffer Hall. CLAS encourages instructors to also discuss with students the grade scheme for assigning P or N (see below).
  • Hours of P/N coursework are not used in computing GPAs. Hours of coursework graded P count toward graduation, but hours of coursework graded N do not.
  • The form may be submitted to the UI Service Center before the last day to add a course without collegiate approval. This deadline for individual courses may be found on the Registrar's Course Deadlines page.
  • At the end of the semester the instructor determines if the student has completed work necessary to receive a grade of P (pass) or N (nonpass) and enters the appropriate grade directly. 
  • Below are the CLAS grading schemes for assigning P/N grading:

Grades of A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, and C- should be assigned a grade of P.

Grades of D+, D, D-, and F should be 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 course in the student’s major department that will not be applied toward the major requirements. The DEO may send authorization directly to Graduation Services, 2700 UCC, before the last day to add a course without collegiate approval. After this deadline, collegiate authorization is additionally needed.

Registered/Withdrawn (R/W)

  • 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.

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.

Mark of  "W"

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