Teaching with a Pass/Fail Grading System - Educators 4 Social Change (2023)


(Video) Students share why they're opposed to pass/fail grading

In recent years, a number of schools have converted to the pass/fail grading system. Some highschools and colleges will require first year students to follow the system in order to give them room to transition. Many elementary and middle-schools follow it completely. Many colleges and universities offer the option to record any elective as a pass or a fail. In any case, students and teachers have mixed feelings about whether or not the method benefits student learning and provides means for a smooth transition into the real world. Some say it disregards the more hard-working students, while others say that it calms many students, making for a more even playing field. Nevertheless, educators should consider both sides of the argument when deciding whether or not to switch to a pass/fail grading system.


With so many schools considering the switch to a pass/fail grading scheme, free informational resources exist all across the internet. Teachers can utilize these resources to better understand the different assessment systems.

Lesson Plan

  1. Standard Based Grading: Common Goal Systems inc. defines and illustrates examples Standard Based Grading (SGB). The method involves breaking lessons down into specific targets for students, rather than into percentages that lead to overall grades. The assessment system encourages students to focus more on their lessons than on percentages and fosters a more positive learning environment. The article was written for the intended use on primary education settings. However, teachers could potentially modify the practice to work for older students.
  2. Rubric Example: This resource from Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberlin Center introduces the use of performance rubrics. The page lists the benefits of using rubrics and provides a means for teachers to implement them into their own classes. It provides sample rubrics for evaluating essays, projects, oral presentations, and class participation. Teachers can use these samples to introduce rubrics into their classes. However a teacher chooses to present a student’s performance, a rubric would certainly help in quantitatively assessing it.
  3. Alternatives to the Letter-Based: In this article, TeachThought provides a list of 12 substitutes for the letter-grade format. The alternatives include live feedback, non-points based rubrics, and of course pass/fail. Each option is intended to motivate students to focus more on improving, with the removal of letter-based labels. Should teachers choose to abandon letter-grades, but desire options in their assessment alternatives, this list would certainly help in their decision.


  1. Principal Pros and Cons: This page from ConnectUs lists 19 pros and cons of utilizing the pass/fail format. It arranges a great foundational understanding of the benefits of both formats. The article presents that the pass fail evaluation system eases the stress of the students, but at the same time leaves no room for differentiation among those who succeed. Someone who “far exceeds the threshold or failure” receives the same amount of credit as someone who just barely surpasses that threshold.
  2. Pass/Fail Positives : Here, David A. Tomar of The Quad Magazine argues for the pass/fail system. Each point that the author makes leads to the conclusion that all schools would benefit from the practice. He asserts that starting a pass/fail system in college, the time when most schools offer the option, is too late in life, as students are already trained to rely on grades for validation and motivation. As a result, he claims that a pass/fail system should be implemented in early education. This resource provides educators with a very passionate argument for the renouncement of the letter-grade system.
  3. Grad Student Opinions: This study from College Quarterly reflects student attitudes towards both the pass/fail and traditional letter-based format. Based on student responses to a poll, researchers Michalis Michaelides and Ben Kirshner concluded that a letter-based system resulted in higher levels of effort, stress, and comparison between students. The study does not lean towards any one side of the debate, but instead presents all gathered information. It does an excellent job of presenting the authentic student perspective on each approach.

Informational Sites

  1. Clinical Case & Commentary: This page from Research Gate provides a downloadable pdf of an article that covers perspectives on the pass/fail and letter-based grading systems. The article starts with an example of medical student perspectives, and goes on to present commentary on the issue from Bonnie M. Miller, MD, Adina Kalet, MD, MPH, Ryan C. VanWoerkom, Nicholas Zorko, and Julia Halsey. These commentaries touch upon alternative teaching strategies, criteria-based assessment, and faculty’s role in student learning. The article provides information on both approaches, including the ins and outs, as well as student and faculty perspectives.
  2. Intro and Advantages: Campus Explorer introduces the ins and outs of the pass/fail method. It outlines the method and how a number of colleges and universities, including the College of William and Mary, Brandeis, and UPenn, have implemented it. Along with the introduction, the article includes a paragraph addressing the advantages of the system. This page provides a great foundation for learning about the pass/fail method. Any teachers who may be confused about the practice, or who may be on the fence about adopting it can lean on this page for advice.
  3. Criteria For Evaluating Student Work: This resource from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching discusses the practice of grading student work. It touches upon the advantages of providing students with more specific grades. The resource encourages teachers to use a variety of formats, including the occasional pass/fail style, in order to optimize the learning and grading processes.


(Video) grades are stopping us from learning

Many medical schools follow a pass fail grade format because of the sheer intensity of the curriculum. In similar cases, ones in which exceeding the threshold of failure is just barely plausible, a pass/fail format could certainly relieve plenty of stress and leave most students fairly represented grade-wise. However, many employers, including residency programs enjoy differentiation among students. Whether the method will help or hurt the students is not necessarily clear, as students may respond differently to such routines. In the end, it is up to the teacher and the school’s administration to decide whether or not to implement this practice.

Additional Resources

  1. Example of the University of Wisconsin’s Pass/Fail Option: This page from the University of Wisconsin’s Knowledgebase outlines their guidelines for offering students the option to take a course as pass/fail. The page gives reasoning for why a student may utilize this option and acknowledges that the majority of the students’ courses will be graded in the traditional A-F format. Students can opt to grade an elective as pass/fail so as to lower stress levels and to leave room for exploring interests. This page can give educators an idea of a working pass/fail structure at a university.
  2. Pass/Fail and Discretionary Grading: Scientific Research Publishing’s study explores the advantages and disadvantages of both a pass/fail and traditional system. It analyzes how they have evolved over the years and considers the subjectivity of each method. It also differentiates “criterion-referenced” and “norm-referenced” rating practices, discussing the way that assessment is often based on a comparison of the students’ peers. Overall, this study gives a good overview and history of American schooling structures.
  3. TEDx De-Grading Education: In this 11-minute TEDxBeaconStreet talk, Elizabeth Wissner-Gross criticizes the traditional American education structure. She blames ranking for America’s alleged lagging behind other school systems, claiming that a fear of grade inflation forces teachers to “anti-teach.” She makes some good points regarding changes to be made in the American education and lifestyle in order to benefit today’s youth.
(Video) Converting courses to Pass/Fail grading


What kind of grading system is currently used by the DepEd? ›

What is the DepEd K to 12 grading system? The K to 12 Basic Education Program uses a standard and competency-based grading system. These are found in the curriculum guides. All grades will be based on the weighted raw score of the learners' summative assessments.

Why pass or fail mark is better than numeric grading system? ›

Pass or fail systems reduce stress and anxiety

Taking away the pressure of a number bracket helps students focus on what's important (which might not be school, and that's okay). Allowing students to try their best is probably the best a school system can do right now.

What is a pass/fail scale? ›

The system of pass fail classes means that instead of the traditional grading where you receive a letter grade of A to F, your grade becomes a binary — either you pass or you fail. For some people, a pass/fail system is beneficial.

How do you develop a grading system? ›

9.12 Guidelines for Creating an Effective Grading System
  1. Keep your eyes on the prize. ...
  2. An effective grading system fosters communication. ...
  3. Grades should reflect a nonjudgmental posture. ...
  4. Intentional imprecision. ...
  5. Use points only when necessary. ...
  6. No surprises. ...
  7. Find a balance that works for you. ...
  8. Valuing the learning process.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of grading system? ›

Advantages and Disadvantages of Grading System in Education:
1Takes the pressure off from the students at certain levels
2Grading Pattern description
3Gives the students an obvious idea about their weaknesses and strengths
4Make class work easier
2 more rows

What are the teachers challenges to do by this new grading system? ›

Teachers face new grading challenges
  • Classwork, assessments, homework, and projects are all being submitted to teachers online. ...
  • “Grading is taking me much longer online than with hard copies. ...
  • Responding to a student's work is no longer as simple as jotting down feedback in the margins, making grading a slower process.

What is the advantage of a pass/fail grading system? ›

The advantages of a pass/fail grading system include the fact that students perceive less pressure because they are not actively competing with their peers or worrying about letters and numbers. Instead, they can focus on comprehending and using the information they learn.

Is pass/fail grading system good? ›

They also suggest pass/fail grading would help students focus on learning to improve their understanding rather than performing primarily to achieve high grades. Opponents argue, however, that the change would diminish academic rigor and lessen students' motivation to strive for excellence.

Is Pass fail a good idea? ›

Taking a class pass/fail can help you keep a high GPA while still earning credit. Think carefully before choosing pass/fail — a failing grade can still impact your GPA. The type and number of classes you can take pass/fail depend on university policies.

What are the disadvantages of pass/fail grading system? ›

List of the Cons of the Pass Fail Grading System
  • Removing performance-based grades eliminates competitiveness. ...
  • It can cause students to start forming unhealthy learning habits. ...
  • The pass-fail grading system does not accurately reflect student understanding. ...
  • You won't receive a boost to your GPA with a pass-fail class.
28 May 2019

Is 4 a pass or fail? ›

What do pupils need to pass their exams? Pupils will have needed a 4 for a "standard pass" and 5 for a "strong pass".

What is passing on a 4 point scale? ›

Unweighted 4.0 GPA Scale

Essentially, the highest GPA you can earn is a 4.0, which indicates an A average in all of your classes. A 3.0 would indicate a B average, a 2.0 a C average, a 1.0 a D, and a 0.0 an F.

What are the four steps of the grading process? ›

There are four major roles of the grading process – evaluation, communication, motivation and organization.

What is the importance of grading system? ›

The purpose of a grading system is to give feedback to students so they can take charge of their learning and to provide information to all who support these students—teachers, special educators, parents, and others.

How would you make grading efficient and effective? ›

Clearly worded assignments and clear learning objectives will greatly improve grading efficiency. Make sure that exam questions are vetted thoroughly prior to the exam! Don't waste time on careless student work.

How does a grading system affect the education of a student? ›

Grades are an important aspect of the education system. They're used by college admissions committees to determine acceptance, looked at by parents to understand how their child is performing, and used as a marker of success or failure for a student to judge themself.

How does grading affect learning? ›

Some education researchers have even concluded that grades “depressed creativity, fostered fear of failure, and weakened students' interest. ”These effects are amplified in low achievers who experience “dramatic declines” in academic interest upon receiving low scores.

What are the four purposes of grading? ›

Align rubric scores to proficiency scales. Clearly define and communicate expectations in relation to standards. Establish common grade or course grading practices. Collaborate to calibrate scoring tools to ensure reliable interpretation of student work as related to the standards.

Why did DepEd rejects pass or fail grading system? ›

He noted that imposing a pass-or-fail system will also mean additional work for teachers who would have to again study a new system for passing students. He said DepEd does not want to impose additional workload for teachers during this time of coronavirus pandemic.

What to do if a teacher is grading unfairly? ›

You still have to be polite, ask questions and thoroughly explain why you think the grade is unfair. Make sure you are being an active listener instead of just waiting to argue with everything the professor says.

How can grading practices be improved? ›

How to Steer Toward Reform? Eight Ways
  1. Clarify purpose. ...
  2. Establish goals. ...
  3. Base grades on a collection of evidence. ...
  4. Reflect current achievement. ...
  5. Use established criteria aligned to targeted learning goals. ...
  6. Set conditions for opportunity to learn—including feedback. ...
  7. Report achievement separately.
1 Sept 2020

Why do teachers pass failing students? ›

Here are some possible reasons: The student has a behavior or discipline problem, and putting them in a class with younger students would only cause bigger problems. The school has a “no fail” policy. It looks good to outsiders if you don't fail students, even if they really deserved to fail.

Is Grade 4 a good pass? ›

However, a 4 is being classified as a standard pass, which can be broadly compared to a grade C, while a 5 is a strong pass. Grades 9-7 are roughly equivalent to the old top grades of A* and A.

Can you pass with all F's? ›

As long as you satisfactorily complete the course (at the “C” or better level), you will receive a “Pass (P)” on your DVC transcript. If you finish the course at the “D” or “F” level, you will receive a “No Pass (NP)” on your transcript. Neither P nor NP will affect your DVC grade point average.

Is D enough to pass a class? ›

In fact, a “D” is considered passing in both high school and college, as it's above 60%. While a passing grade may be as low as 60%, you will want to aim higher for many reasons. As a college student, you don't want to aim to barely pass a class.

What is another way to say pass fail? ›

Pass-fail Synonyms - WordHippo Thesaurus.
What is another word for pass-fail?
high-stakehigh stakes
4 more rows

What is the purpose of a fail? ›

The purpose of failure is to provide feedback and hopefully inspire lasting change in an induvidual. The power of failure is a catalyst, as to whether you pick yourself up and move forward towards eventual success or stay defeated never to start again.

Why should schools use pass fail? ›

Pass/fail classes encourage collaboration with everyone on an equal playing field, so nobody gets caught up in the difference between a B and a B-. All students tend to engage more deeply in the course content with one another, forgetting about the pressure to receive an A on every assignment.

What are the effects of failed grades? ›

To summarize, failure on students has two main negative effects on their life: recruitment difficulties so hard making a family, and the psychological effect which causes them to feel of inferiority and fear of failure.

Is it better to pass fail or drop? ›

Croskey notes that dropping a class is better than withdrawing, but withdrawing is better than failing. “A failing grade will lower the student's GPA, which may prevent a student from participating in a particular major that has a GPA requirement,” Croskey says.

Is C4 a pass? ›

If you got 39% or less on your exams, your mark would have been F9, which meant that you failed. 40-44% gave you E8, and 45-49% gave you D7, which were both passing grades. 50-54% gave you C6, 55-59% gave you C5, and 60-64% gave you C4. Each of these grades meant that you earned Credit.

Is a level 2 pass a 4? ›

Level 2 BTec Firsts are comparable to grades A* to C under the old system of GCSEs, or between a grade 4 and 9 now.

Is a grade 4 3 a pass? ›

The DfE have confirmed that a grade 4 is a standard pass and grade 5 is a strong pass.

How do you read a 4 point scale? ›

To interpret a 4 point scale, assign each response a point value, from 1 to 4, based on the number of responses. Common values for the options start with “strongly disagree” at 1 point and “strongly agree” at 4.

What is first class on a 4 point scale? ›

CGPA ranges under the new four (4)- point grading scale for classification of degrees: 3.5- 4.00 – first class honours; 3.0-3.49 – second class honours (upper division); 2.0-2.99 – second class honours (lower division); 1.0-1.99 – third class honours.

What is a good GPA on a 4 scale? ›

A 3.5 and above GPA are considered a good GPA for the 4.0 scale unweighted GPA. That means the student who has this GPA has a grade “A-“ or “A” average on academic performance.

What is a 4 in the new grading system? ›

Equivalent GCSE grades

The Government has said that grade 4 is a 'standard pass'. Grade 5 is a 'strong pass' and equivalent to a high C and low B on the old grading system. Grade 4 remains the level that students must achieve without needing to resit English and Maths post-16.

What is a 4 in standards based grading? ›

Instead of giving letter grades, many teachers in standards-based classrooms grade on a scale of 1 to 4, where 1 indicates that the student has started to grasp the material and a score of 4 is reserved for students who have an excellent understanding of it.

How do you explain grading system? ›

Generally, the grading system is the process by which educators evaluate the performance of the pupils in exams on the standard particular scales which is based on the points entirely and consist of the grades like A-F or range like 1-10; generally, letters and numbers are used to describe the grades of the scholars.

What are the advantages of grading system in education? ›

Advantages of Grading System

It will minimize misclassification of students on the basis of marks. It will eliminate unhealthy competition among high achievers. It will reduce societal pressure and will provide the learner with more flexibility. It will lead to a focus on a better learning environment Operational.

What is the purpose of grading in education? ›

Grading is used to evaluate and provide feedback on student work. In this way, instructors communicate to students how they are performing in the course and where they need more help to achieve the course's goals.

What is the role of teachers in grading? ›

In essence, grading is an exercise in professional judgment on the part of teachers. It involves the collection and evaluation of evidence on students' achievement or performance over a specified period of time, such as nine weeks, an academic semester, or entire school year.

How can you maintain fair and effective grading and reporting? ›

To maintain fairness and consistency, consider using the following best practices:
  1. Establish clear grading criteria for assignments and exams. ...
  2. Discuss grading criteria with all graders to align perspectives. ...
  3. Grade one question at a time rather than one student at a time. ...
  4. Beware of conflicts of interest.
14 Jul 2016

How can teachers improve efficiency? ›

How to Improve Teaching Quality and Effectivness
  1. Make your expectations clear.
  2. Make eye contact and address students by name.
  3. Supplement lectures with hands-on activities.
  4. Recognize students' accomplishments and respond appropriately to their concerns.
24 Mar 2021

What makes a teacher efficient and effective? ›

They are prepared, set clear and fair expectations, have a positive attitude, are patient with students, and assess their teaching on a regular basis. They are able to adjust their teaching strategies to fit both the students and the material, recognizing that different students learn in different ways.

What grading system does Philippines use? ›

In the Philippines, some universities follow a 4-Point Scale, which resembles or is equivalent to the U.S. grading system. This system uses a grade between 0.00 to 4.00 wherein 4.00 is the highest and 0.00 being a failing mark. , or curriculum weighted average.

What is the new grading system in the Philippines? ›

Unlike the KPUP, the new k to 12 grading system has 60 as minimum grade but will have a converted rating of 75 in the report card. The lowest grade a student can get is rather 60 for the quarterly and final grades.

What grading system is used for school? ›

GPA stands for the Grade Point Average. It is a standard method of calculating a student's average score obtained over a stipulated period i.e a semester or a term.

What is education grading system? ›

May 2021) Grading in education is the process of applying standardized measurements for varying levels of achievements in a course. Grades can be assigned as letters (usually A through F), as a range (for example, 1 to 6), as a percentage, or as a number out of a possible total (often out of 100).

What are the advantages of grading method? ›

Advantages of Grading System

It will minimize misclassification of students on the basis of marks. It will eliminate unhealthy competition among high achievers. It will reduce societal pressure and will provide the learner with more flexibility. It will lead to a focus on a better learning environment Operational.

Which grade system is best? ›

2. The US letter grading system
  • A - is the highest grade you can receive on an assignment, and it's between 90% and 100%
  • B - is still a pretty good grade! ...
  • C - this is a grade that rests right in the middle. ...
  • D - this is still a passing grade, and it's between 59% and 69%
  • F - this is a failing grade.
10 Jan 2022

What are the two types of grading systems use? ›

The two most common types of grading systems used at the university level are norm-referenced and criterion-referenced.

How many types of grading systems are there? ›

Types of Grading Systems

They are classified into seven types: Grading Percentage– from 0 to 100 percent. Letter Grading and Variations – from A grade to F grade. Standard-referenced Grading– typically comparing students to each other with letter grades.

What are the components of grading system? ›

Common components for overall grades include classwork and quizzes, homework, tests, projects, and papers which cover more information than homework or classwork, and participation.

What is the passing score of 60? ›

In fact, a “D” is considered passing in both high school and college, as it's above 60%. While a passing grade may be as low as 60%, you will want to aim higher for many reasons.

Is grading system in school effective? ›

Grades actually provide a proper learning methodology that a student must follow to understand the concept well. Guide to the future: With grades, students get a better understanding of their bent of mind and which subject they must choose for their future.

How does grading system affect students? ›

Some education researchers have even concluded that grades “depressed creativity, fostered fear of failure, and weakened students' interest. ”These effects are amplified in low achievers who experience “dramatic declines” in academic interest upon receiving low scores.

Why is grading important in assessment? ›

Generally, the goal of grading is to evaluate individual students' learning and performance. Although grades are sometimes treated as a proxy for student learning, they are not always a reliable measure.

Why is grading system used? ›

The grading system assures impartiality in the evaluation and the awarding of marks. Moreover, it also ensures competence levels based on the same education curriculum across students.

What do you mean by grading explain with example? ›

Sharding is a method for distributing a single dataset across multiple databases, which can then be stored on multiple machines. This allows for larger datasets to be split into smaller chunks and stored in multiple data nodes, increasing the total storage capacity of the system.


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