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VI. The Grading System

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A. Grading Standards

The faculty reinforced its firm adherence to these standards during deliberations in 1977: 


indicates achievement of distinction. It involves conspicuous excellence in several aspects of the work.


indicates general achievement of a higher order. It also involves excellence in some aspect of the work, such as the following:

  • Completeness and accuracy of knowledge
  • Sustained and effective use of knowledge
  • Independence of work
  • Originality


indicates the acceptable standard for graduation from Vassar College.  It involves in each course such work as may fairly be expected of any Vassar student of normal ability who gives to the course a reasonable amount of time, effort and attention. Such acceptable attainment should include the following factors:

  • Familiarity with the content of the course
  • Familiarity with the methods of study of the course
  • Evidence of growth in actual use both of content and method
  • Evidence of an open, active and discriminating mind
  • Ability to express oneself in intelligible English

C-, D+ and D

indicates degrees of unsatisfactory work, but below standard grade. They signify work which in one or more important respects falls below the minimum acceptable standard for graduation, but which is of sufficient quality and quantity to be counted in the units for graduation.


indicates failure because the student has failed on the combined record of work through the semester and the final examination, or because the student has abandoned a course after the drop deadline without permission for withdrawal given by the dean of studies.

A student who receives an F in the first semester in a yearlong course may not continue in the course for the second semester, except with the permission of the department.

Work evaluated, as F may not be counted toward the degree.


B. Ungraded Work

The terms applied to performance in ungraded work are “Pass with Distinction” (DS), “Satisfactory” (SA), and “Unsatisfactory” (UN).  “Pass with Distinction” applies only to 298, 399, 499, 400, to 300 and 301 at the decision of the individual departments, and to certain advanced courses in Education.  “Satisfactory” is defined as work that is C or above.  “Unsatisfactory” means work of below C in quality.  No credit toward the degree is offered for work with this evaluation.


C. The Non-recorded Option (NRO)

The purpose of this option is to allow students to explore areas of the curriculum in which they may feel less well-prepared or which may be entirely new to them without the pressure of precise, graded evaluation.  Instructors, or sometimes departments, determine whether a course will or will not be offered with the non-recorded option.  Once established, a course’s designation may not be changed during the term in which it is being offered.

Departmental stipulations for the exercise of this option appear in the Schedule of Classes.  Courses in a student’s concentration may not be taken NRO after declaration of the major.  In courses designated in the Schedule of Classes as being offered under the non-recorded option, students may file a form with the Registrar, by the mid-point of the semester, indicating the lowest grade they wish recorded on their permanent record for the course.  If the grade submitted by the instructor at the end of term is at or above the designated level, it is recorded and if it is below that level but still passing (not F), a grade of PA is placed on the student’s record.  If the student fails the course, a grade of F is recorded.

A student may elect a maximum of 4 unites of work under the non-recorded option.  A course elected under the non-recorded option for which a grade is in fact received nonetheless counts as part of this “4 unit” limit.  For students this limit is reduced by 1 unit for each year of Advanced Standing awarded to the student.


D. Miscellaneous Grades


(Withdrawn Passing) is a grade assigned by the Registrar to those students who successfully completed the first semester and subsequently withdrew from a full year course. This grade yields no credit and bears no penalty.


(Withdrawn Without Penalty) is a grade assigned by the Registrar to those students who have withdrawn from course with the permission of the dean’s office after the drop period. This grade yields no credit and bears no penalty.


(No Grade) is a notation for all non-credit courses, such as music performance.


E. Incomplete Grades


(Not Available) is a notation for special cases where, with the permission of the dean’s office, and in consultation with the instructor, an “Extension” is granted and an individual grade is delayed. Extensions may be granted only by the dean’s office and allow students a short period of additional time beyond the schedule due date in which to complete their work.

An NA may also be given by a department at the end of the first semester in certain Senior Work (300, 301) when the work has not yet been completed. A grade of NA may not be recorded without the permission of the dean of studies office.


(Incomplete) indicates a deferred (excused) examination or work not completed for reasons of health or serious emergency. Grades of Incomplete are granted only by the dean of studies, the dean of first-year students, or the Advisors to Seniors, Juniors, and Sophomores. The instructor, department chair, or college Physician may be consulted as appropriate. Work must be completed by May 1 of the following year in the case of a first semester Incomplete, or October 1 of the same year in the case of a second semester Incomplete. If the work is not completed, the final grade for the course may become an F. No extensions may be granted other than by the appropriate person in the dean’s office. All grades for Incompletes must be submitted no later than two weeks after the due date for such work.


F. Provisional Grades

A department may offer provisional grades for a-b and a/b courses, provided that the Registrar and the students are notified of this intention at the beginning of the academic year. For the student electing both terms of such a course, the final grade received at the end of the year automatically becomes the grade that will be recorded on the student’s transcript for both the first and second semesters.  For the student who elects only the a-term of a provisionally graded a/b course, the first semester grade is final. 


G. Course Grades

The grade in a course must not be based on an examination alone, but must take into account the quality of the student’s work throughout the semester.


H. Grade Average

Standing in college and the requirements for graduation are determined by dual standards, one of quality and the other of quantity.

The quality of the work is measured by the quality points and the grade average; the quantity, by the units completed.  The semester and yearly grade average is the ratio of the total number of quality points received to the total number of graded units elected.

The cumulative grade point average is computed to the first decimal and appears on each copy of a student’s transcript. The final cumulative grade point average is noted on each student’s record at graduation.

Each unit with a mark of A counts 4 quality points; A-, 3.7; B+, 3.3; B, 3.0; B-, 2.7; C+, 2.3; C, 2.0; C-1.7; D+, 1.3; D, 1.0; F, 0.


I. Reporting Grades

Course grades are due the third day after the final examination is held.  More time will be allowed where needed, but the Registrar’s office must be notified if the due date cannot be met.

Grades for courses with no examinations are due on the first day of the examination period.

When an Extension has been granted by the dean of studies office, after consultation with the instructor, the grade may be reported at a later date.  In the meantime, an NA is entered for that course.

In the case of senior grades at the end of the second semester, it is imperative that instructors meet deadlines without fail.

Grades for summer work, Extensions, and Incompletes are due two weeks after the final work is due.

Academic report cards for all students receiving grades of C- and below must be submitted at the time of the submission of grades for the appropriate dean to use in review with the Committee on Students’ Records.

At grade-reporting time all materials should be brought in person directly to the Registrar’s office.  When the office is closed, they may be left at Message Center in Main, but should not be sent via unstamped mail.  Grades should never be given to a student to deliver to the Registrar.

Instructors may not disclose course grades to students in advance of the official report from the Registrar.  Students receive their grades as soon as possible after the end of first semester and after Commencement.  This does not, of course, prevent instructors from returning and discussing examinations at the beginning of the second semester.


J. Change of Grades

No grade may be changed after it has been reported to the Registrar’s office unless authorized by the Dean of Studies.  The dean will authorize changes only in cases of procedural, clerical or computational error and only upon receipt of written explanation of such an error.  The faculty has reaffirmed the policy that instructors should be responsible for accurate marks at the time of submission.  It is demoralizing to students and the faculty as a whole for individual faculty members to seek grade changes under student pressure for reconsideration.  Therefore, the dean of studies will authorize a change only under extraordinary circumstances.

In cases where a grade submitted indicates an incomplete or an extension without the authorization of the dean’s office, the Registrar will record an NA and will notify the instructor of the date at which the course grade will automatically become a failing grade.


K. Academic Reports

At mid-term, instructors are expected to confer with students whose work is below C and to file an academic report card with the dean of studies office.  These reports help identify and counsel students who are having academic difficulty.  Academic report cards for students receiving final grades of C- or below are also required.


L. Warnings to Deficient Freshmen

Each instructor is responsible in early November for warning freshmen whose work promises to be below a grade of C and for reporting to the dean of first-year students any student who is failing or negligent in their course work.  This warning should be given by a specific grade, not by comments alone.  Faculty are urged to take this responsibility seriously in order to help first year students avoid academic difficulty. 


M. Review by the Committee on Students’ Records

The status of all students whose academic records are unsatisfactory is reviewed periodically during the year by the Committee on Student Records on the basis of reports from each instructor, the Department of Health, the House Fellow or Resident in each house, and others who may give pertinent information.  Students may be placed on probation, advised or required to take a leave of absence or withdraw, or required to change majors.  Academic advisers are notified of all actions by the Committee on Student Records.


N. Academic Probation

Students who fail to maintain the required academic standards are placed on academic probation by the Committee on Student Records in order to give them another chance to prove that they are capable of remaining in college.  Students are placed on probation at the end of any semester if their overall grade point average, their average in their major, or their average for that semester falls below 2.0.  They remain on probation until a 2.0 average is achieved.  Students who receive a grade of F or two D grades are also placed on probation.


O. Advised Withdrawal

Students who are advised at the end of a term to withdraw, but who choose to return, are warned that they will be under review at the end of the next term and therefore may be required to withdraw at the end of that semester.


P. Required Leave or Withdrawal

Before deciding to require the leave of absence or withdrawal of any student, the Committee on Student Records considers carefully full reports in each individual case.  Therefore the decision of the committee is final except in cases where important new evidence is offered after the decision has been reached.  In such cases, a student may appeal the decision. 

Any student whose withdrawal is required has, under the Governance, recourse to the faculty members of the Academic Panel for review, upon application to the dean of studies.


Q. Continuance in College

It is the general policy of the faculty to allow a student to continue through the year, but special circumstances may make withdrawal after a semester or during the term necessary.

In June, all students on probation are reviewed by the Committee on Student Records with regard to their continuance in college.  Freshmen who at the end of the year have a grade point average of 1.5 or below usually may not return the following year.  Exceptions to this rule of minimum eligibility may be made by the Committee on Student Records if failure has been due to causes beyond the control of the student or if the student shows decided promise.  Continuance in college for other freshmen and for sophomores and juniors whose work is below grade is determined by the Committee on Student Records.  The committee may require students, if they wish to continue, to change their fields of concentration.

Students who at the end of their junior year are below graduation standard will not be allowed to return to college for their senior year unless there are circumstances involved that warrant favorable action by the committee.