Pass/fail academic regulation FAQ

We are excited to announce a new, permanent pass/fail grade option policy for undergraduate students effective fall 2020. Please note that the temporary pass/fail grading option made available for spring 2020 only is no longer valid.

The full policy is available in the VCU Bulletin. It is important that you read the policy thoroughly now, at the beginning of the semester, and recognize that it is an option that is available to you. Keep in mind that:

  • Depending on a students’ individual degree program, not every course is eligible for the pass/fail option: the pass/fail grade option may not be used to satisfy a prerequisite that requires a minimum grade of B nor for courses that may count toward the requirements of the student’s major.
  • Students may select the pass/fail grade option for eligible courses no later than the last day to withdraw from a course, which in fall 2020 is the last day of classes, Nov. 24. A form for requesting the pass/fail option will be available in September.
  • No more than 12 credit hours can be taken under the pass/fail grade option over the entirety of a students’ degree program.
  • Students should consult with an adviser to understand the implications of their decision.

Frequently asked questions

The spring 2020 pass/fail policy put in place was temporary due to the need to move to remote teaching mid-semester. In order to best serve our students in the extraordinary circumstances, that particular pass/fail policy was very liberal. While it served the university's needs at the time, that policy as written would be unsustainable going forward.

Therefore, we have taken the summer to craft a more robust, sustainable academic regulation to replace that temporary policy.

Records and Registration will develop a process for students to request the pass/fail grade option in eServices. Please consult with an advisor before taking any action in order to understand the implications of your decision.

Per the academic regulation, students may select the pass/fail grade option for eligible courses no later than the last day to withdraw from a course. For the fall 2020 semester, that date is November 24. All decisions by students are final and irrevocable.

Among other benefits, this pass/fail policy:

  • Encourages students to enrich their academic programs and explore more challenging courses outside of their majors, without the pressures and demands of the regular grading system
  • Assists students by providing additional options instead of withdrawal from courses, which often places students off track for timely graduation, and face greater challenges with returning the next semester

At this time, the policy applies only to undergraduate students. We plan to revisit a potential pass/fail policy for graduate students in the near future.

Under the Pass/Fail grade option, grades will be reported as:

  • PP: Grade of Pass (equivalent to letter grade of A, B or C) is awarded for certain courses to denote satisfactory completion of requirements equivalent to the letter grades of A-C. The grade of PP is not included in the calculation of GPA. The grade of PP will satisfy course requirements of a minimum grade of C or higher to advance to another course.
  • PS: Grade of Pass (equivalent to letter grade of D) is awarded for certain courses to denote satisfactory completion of requirements equivalent to the letter grade of D. The grade of PS is not included in the calculation of GPA. The grade of PS will not satisfy course requirements of a minimum grade of C or higher to advance to another course and students may have to retake the course if the student changes their major and a letter grade of C or better was required.
  • F: Grade of Fail (equivalent to letter grade of F) is considered not passing and is included in the calculation of the GPA.

Students can apply no more than 12 credit hours of PP/PS grades taken under the Pass/Fail grade option over the entirety of their degree program. These restrictions do not include courses that are only offered as pass/fail.

 

Any courses taken as pass/fail in the spring 2020 semester will not count toward the 12-credit-hour maximum, given the extenuating circumstances of that semester.

Students may not use the pass/fail grade option:

  • To satisfy a prerequisite that requires a minimum grade of B
  • For courses that may count toward the requirements of the student’s major

These are courses that fall in the major requirements section of the bulletin and degree audit (courses that are counted in the minimum 2.0 major GPA graduation requirement), or may be other required courses as specified by particular degree programs in the bulletin.

Grades of PP and PS are not included in calculations of a student’s GPA; however, the grade of F is included in the calculation of a student’s GPA.

Degree Works has a GPA calculator built in that will allow you calculate your GPA. For a tutorial on how to use the GPA calculator in Degree Works, check out this tutorial video from VCU Student Success.

Absolutely. All students should connect with their academic advisor before making any decision regarding pass/fail grades.

If you plan to sit for a professional license, you should check with the state in which you plan to be licensed. Some states do not accept pass/fail courses.

Grades of PP will satisfy course requirements of a minimum grade of C or higher to advance to another course, but will not satisfy course requirements of a minimum grade of B or higher to advance to another course.

The grade of PS, however, will not satisfy course requirements of a minimum grade of C or higher to advance to another course. Students may have to retake the course if the student changes their major and a letter grade of C or better was required.

It depends. Consult with the major department and your advisor to review your situation. Departments may require that some or all of the courses satisfying major requirements be completed with a traditional letter grade, and in these instances, you may need to repeat a course for which you have previously earned a grade of PP or PS. Thus, it is very important to consult with an advisor for a potential major prior to selecting the pass/fail option for any course that may be used to satisfy a requirement within that major.

No. Once pass/fail is chosen, the decision is irrevocable. Therefore, you should discuss with your academic advisor before making any decision. 

You may appeal the course grade assigned by the instructor by following the guidelines provided under the Grade Review Procedures in the VCU Bulletin. However, you may not appeal the decision to choose the pass/fail grade option.

Electing to take a course pass/fail will not in and of itself negatively affect a student's financial aid package, assuming successful completion of the course (i.e., receiving a grade of PP or PS).

To maintain eligibility for financial aid (whether or not a student elects to take a course as pass/fail), students must earn at least 67% of the credits they attempt in an academic year and maintain at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA.

Please be aware, however, that grades of F do get included in the calculation of the GPA, and could thus impact your financial aid eligibility.

Nothing - instructors of record will not be aware of the student choice. Each faculty member will evaluate student performance in the course consistent with expectations outlined in the course syllabus.

If a student has opted for the pass/fail grade option, the assigned grade will be converted to the appropriate pass/fail designation pursuant to the letter grade earned. For example, the instructor would enter a letter grade (A, B, C, D, F) as usual. If the student has chosen the Pass/Fail grade option, then grades A, B, or C become a PP, a grade of D becomes a PS, and a grade of F becomes a F.

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