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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs


Grading System

A grade is given solely on the basis of the instructor’s judgment as to the student’s scholarly attainment. The following grading system applies to graduate students: A (EXCELLENT) indicates exceptional achievement; B (GOOD) indicates substantial achievement; C (SATISFACTORY) indicates acceptable but substandard achievement; D (POOR) indicates inadequate achievement and is a failing grade for a graduate student—a course in which a D has been obtained cannot be used to meet graduate degree requirements and will not count toward total credits earned; and F (FAILURE) indicates work unworthy of any credit, and suggests that the student may not be capable of succeeding in graduate study. The grade-point equivalents for the above marks are: A, 4.00; B, 3.00; C, 2.00; D, 1.00; F, 0. A minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work done at the University is required for all graduate degrees. In Fall 1995 a +/– grading system went into effect that includes A–, B+, B–, and C+. The grade-point equivalents are A–, 3.67; B+, 3.33; B–, 2.67; and C+, 2.33.

In addition to the quality grades listed above, three additional grade designations, DF (deferred), NG (no grade), and R, may appear on a student’s transcript. If work is incomplete at the end of a semester because of extenuating circumstances, the instructor may report DF in place of a grade, which will appear temporarily on the student’s record. It is not appropriate to use the DF either casually or routinely to extend a course beyond the end of the semester or to extend a course for a student who has failed so that the individual can do extra work to improve the grade. Required work should be completed and the DF resolved as soon as possible once assigned, but must be resolved (i.e., the course must be completed) no later than 12 weeks after the course end date as noted on the Registrar's Schedule of Courses, unless an extension of a specific duration to a specified date is agreed upon by the instructor and student and approved by the Graduate School that allows for a completion deadline longer than 12 weeks. A memo with a justifying statement and the agreed-upon date must be submitted by the instructor to the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services in order to request an extension. A deferred grade that is not resolved before the end of this period automatically converts to an F and cannot be changed without approval by the Graduate School. A memo with a justifying statement for changing the F grade must be submitted by the instructor to the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services in order to request a DF that has defaulted to an F grade be changed.

If an instructor does not submit a grade (including a quality grade, DF, or R) for a graduate student by the grade-reporting deadline, the designation NG (no grade) appears on the transcript. An NG that is not reconciled within 12 weeks following the posting of the NG automatically becomes an F.

A DF or NG that has converted to an F may not be changed without approval from the Graduate School. Requests for approval must be submitted by the instructor to the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services and include a justification for the change.

It is to be emphasized that no deferred (DF), missing(*), or no (NG) grades may remain on the record at those times when a student reaches an academic benchmark. Benchmarks include completion of a degree program (e.g., master's completed for a student continuing through for a doctoral degree) and the doctoral candidacy and comprehensive examinations, and final oral examination/final performances. Graduate programs may add additional benchmarks.

It is further noted that there are only three circumstances under which a course grade, once assigned, can be changed: (1) if there was a calculational or recording error on the instructor’s part in the original grade assignment (see "Graduate Council policy regarding Corrected Grades for Graduate Students" below); (2) if it is a course for which an R grade has been approved and in which an initial R can be assigned and changed later to a quality grade; (3) if, as discussed above, a DF was assigned and the deadline for course completion has not yet passed.

In the case of thesis/dissertation work, either in progress or completed, and in certain courses (e.g., 590, 594, 595, 596, 597, 598, 599, 894, 895, 896, 897, 899, and a few others) approved by the Graduate Council, the instructor may report the symbol R in place of a grade. An R does not influence the grade-point average. It indicates that the student has devoted adequate effort to the work scheduled but gives no indication of its quality. The symbol may be used, for instance, in courses that are officially designed to extend over more than one semester or in courses for which a quality grade is not appropriate. An R in an approved graduate course need not be changed later to a quality grade. Graduate courses approved for R grading may be credited toward fulfilling graduation requirements. However, if the instructor deems it appropriate, the R grade may be changed to a quality grade when the course work has been completed. Normally, if a quality grade is to be assigned, the grade must be reported no later than the end of the following semester. 

When reported for thesis/dissertation work, an R will not influence the grade-point average and remains on the student’s transcript if not converted to a quality grade within one semester of its recording. Graduate Council has established upper limits of 6 credits of quality grades for master’s thesis research and 12 credits for doctoral dissertation research. The remaining credits must be assigned Rs except in the case of academic or disciplinary sanctions, in which case an F or XF grade may be assigned, as appropriate, up to the total number of thesis research credits (600 or 610) on record. (See Senate Policy 49-20, Academic Integrity, and Procedures G-9, Academic Integrity, as well as Appendix II of this Bulletin).

Pass-Fail (P/F) grading is used exclusively in certain graduate courses where it has been requested by the program and approved in advance by the graduate dean following guidelines established by Graduate Council. A grade of P does not influence the GPA, but an F does.


Corrected Grades for Graduate Students

A corrected grade may be submitted by the instructor for a course taken in the previous semester to correct a mistake made in calculating or recording a grade for a particular graduate student. Each graduate student is responsible for checking his/her semester grade report for accuracy immediately upon receipt, and for informing the instructor for any course in which the graduate student suspects that an error has been made in grading. Each instructor is responsible for checking the semester grade list in the student information system (using eLion) after grades have been recorded for a given semester.

If an error in calculating or recording a grade is brought to an instructor's attention, and the instructor agrees that an error has been made, the instructor may use the student information system to change the grade up to 12 weeks after the end of the semester in which the course was taken. No grade change can be made directly via the student information system more than 12 weeks after the end of the semester in which the course was taken; after this time, an exception, including academic justification for the requested change and for the timing of the change (i.e., after the allowable grade change period has expired), must be requested and approved through Graduate Enrollment Services.

When a course instructor is no longer available to resolve an error in calculating or recording a grade, the instructor's department head is authorized to take the necessary action.


Revised by Graduate Council, April 2011

Revised by Graduate Council, March 2014; changes effective Fall 2014*


*Note that because of the ongoing transition from ISIS to LionPATH as the University’s student information system, it is possible that neither system will be configured accurately to automate the policy as it is described above until LionPATH implementation is complete; however, it is the expectation of Graduate Council that all members of the graduate community at Penn State will comply in full with the policy as described, regardless of programming/configuration quirks in the technology.”




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