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Pass fail grading

Pass Fail Grading

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Many American colleges and universities are increasing the number of courses that carry a pass/fail grading option. You may argue in this Pass Fail Grading Research Paper that this option is a good idea, but in very limited circumstances.

Why Pass/Fail?

Are pass/fail grades an adequate measure of a college student's progress? A statement by the Law School Admission Council says no, because when a person applies for admission to law school and has a number of "pass" grades on his or her transcript, there is no way to determine how high or low the student was in the "pass" area. True, the students must pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), but that by itself is not a total predictor of how an applicant will do in law school.

Many graduate schools use the following system to demonstrate a student's progress:

  • "H" - Honors
  • "HP" - High Pass
  • "P" - Pass
  • "F" - Fail

That is fine, for the student is studying at a different and much higher level than he or she did in undergraduate school. So for grad schools, that grading system is more than fair to both the student and the college or university and its grading system. However, with rare exceptions, a pass/fail option undergraduate school, is not a very good idea.

As the Law School Admission Council noted, a student's progress in undergraduate school cannot be fully measured simply on a pass/fail grading system. The main argument I have against pass/fail is this: as a student, am I earning the equivalent of an "A+", or is my grade a "C"? Under pass/fail, I might never know, though certainly comments on my papers by professors give a clue - to an extent. I also can speak one-on-one with the professor to ascertain the level to which he or she feels I am working, but even that is of little comfort, especially if I want to go on to graduate school, and the school of my choice looks dimly upon pass/fail grading. Further, pass/fail tells neither me nor anyone else how a student stacks up against the rest of the class in a given course. Conversely, if I receive a "B+" in a course, the traditionally reported grade demonstrates that I have done quite well in that course.

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