Grading Policies

In May 1965, the University Faculty adopted the Cornell University Grading System , a letter system of grading with shadings of pluses, minuses, and variations in gradepoint values, as well as a system of symbols to be used in lieu of grades.

Letter Grades

The official University grading system is composed of letter grades with pluses and minuses. Passing grades range from A+ to D–; F is failing. INC denotes a grade of incomplete, NG denotes a non-graded course, NGR signifies no grade reported, and R is the grade given a for an in-progress multi-semester course. The grades of INC, NG, NGR and R do not have quality-point equivalents attached. The quality-point equivalents are below:

A+ =4.3 B+ =3.3 C+ =2.3 D+ =1.3
A   =4.0 B   =3.0 C   =2.0 D   =1.0
A– =3.7 B– =2.7 C– =1.7 D– =0.7
F   =0.0

Letter grade values are combined with course credit hours to produce an average based on a 4.3 scale. Grade point average is calculated by multiplying the credit hour and quality point equivalent for each course and then dividing by the total number of credits taken. The cumulative average is the sum of the products of all the grades at Cornell divided by the total number of credits taken.

S/U Grades

Alongside the letter grade system stands an SU System, in which S means satisfactory, as defined by performance that would be graded C- or higher, and U means unsatisfactory, as defined by performance that would be graded below C-. Grades of S and U are not given gradepoint values or taken into account in computing gradepoint averages.

The purpose of the S‐U System is to encourage students to venture into courses outside their main areas of familiarity without great risk to their academic record. The border between S and U is not the same, however, as that between pass and fail in the letter grade system.

Credits toward the fulfillment of graduation requirements are earned for courses evaluated S but not for those graded U. The various schools and colleges differ in the restrictions they place on the election of S/U grading over letter grading.

But in those courses where college rules and course procedures allow it, the election is a student option that must be exercised within the first seven weeks of the beginning of the term. Students may not defer the decision in the hope of first seeing the letter grade they are likely to earn.


The symbol of Incomplete is only appropriate when two basic conditions are met: (1) The student has substantial equity at a passing level in the course with respect  to work completed; and (2) the student has been prevented by circumstances beyond his/her control, such as illness or family emergency, from completing all of the course requirements on time.

An Incomplete may not be given merely because a student fails to complete all course requirements on time. Such a practice would be open to abuse; by deferring completion of some major course requirement, a student could gain advantage over his or her classmates by obtaining additional time to do a superior job. This is not an option that may be elected at the students own discretion.

While it is the students responsibility to initiate a request for an Incomplete, reasons for requesting an Incomplete must be acceptable to the instructor, who establishes specific makeup requirements. An Incomplete allows a specified amount of time determined by the students college of registry, for completing course work. The instructor has the option of setting a shorter ti  limit than that allowed by the students college.

Several colleges require that a statement signed by the instructor be on file indicating the reason for the Incomplete and the restriction, if any. The consequences of failure to complete all course work within the time permitted will depend upon the policy of the students college of registry. Some colleges convert the Incomplete symbol to a grade of F; others let the Incomplete stand on the students transcript. In either case, the option to make up the work is lost.

It is the responsibility of the student to see that all Incompletes are made up within the deadline and that the grade change has been properly recorded with the students college registrar.

Faculty under no circumstances should give an Incomplete due to pressure to meet the deadline for reporting grades. The symbol Incomplete becomes a permanent part of the students transcript, even when a grade is later submitted.

Late Grades

Late grades should be avoided. They often result in unwarranted academic actions or even in students not being able to graduate on time. Furthermore, late grades must be posted by hand at considerable expense and do not appear on grade slips and may prevent students from receiving recognition for academic achievement.

Posting  of  Grades

Posting of student grades by name or a personally identifiable number is prohibited under the terms of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). However, a student waiver authorizing disclosure of educational records by means of a personally identifiable number (e.g. a student ID number) is acceptable provided that such consent is in writing, dated and signed by the student.

[NOTE: A name or social security number must never be used for this purpose.] If instructors use this method, the waiver must be for a specific course; must be for a specified period of time (semester, academic year, etc.); must specify the records to be disclosed; and must be retained by the instructor of the course for a period of one year after its expiration. Students should not be coerced into signing a waiver, as the law requires that it be voluntarily given. Instructors may post grades for students who do not want their student ID number used by establishing a unique identifier known only to that student and the instructor.

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