Columbia College

Grading

The Columbia College grading system is as follows: A, excellent; B, good; C, fair; D, poor but passing; F, failure (a final grade, not subject to reexamination). Plus and minus grades may also be used, except with D or F. Pass (P) is used for students who elect this option.

The Committee on Instruction of Columbia College has instructed the Registrar to calculate a cumulative grade point average for external purposes such as official transcripts. The Registrar also calculates term and cumulative grade point averages for internal purposes such as determining eligibility for the Dean’s List.

Percentage of A Grades Calculation

College transcripts note the percentage of grades in the A range in all lecture classes with at least twelve students and in all Colloquia and seminar classes with at least twenty-three students, in accordance with the grading policies of the Faculty of Columbia College. (R grades are excluded from this calculation.)

When the Registrar computes a student’s Columbia College grade point average, only grades earned while enrolled in the College in the fall, spring, and summer terms are counted. Courses are weighted according to the number of credits.
The following scale is used:

A+ = 4.33

 

B+ = 3.33

 

C+ = 2.33

 D = 1.0

A = 4.0

 

B = 3.0

 

C = 2.0

 F = 0

A- = 3.67

 

B- = 2.67

 

C- = 1.67

  

 

The Pass/D/Fail Option

All students registered in Columbia College during the regular academic year may elect one course each semester during the regular academic year on a Pass/D/Fail basis. This is in addition to any courses that are given only on a Pass/Fail basis. Students who do not utilize both Pass/D/Fail options during the academic year may elect, in the summer immediately following, to take one Summer Term course on a Pass/D/Fail basis.

Courses used to meet the stated degree requirements (except those only given on a Pass/Fail basis) may not be taken Pass/D/Fail. All Core Curriculum courses (i.e., Literature HumanitiesFrontiers of ScienceContemporary CivilizationArt HumanitiesMusic HumanitiesUniversity Writing, Global Core, Science Requirement, and Foreign Language instruction courses) must be taken for a letter grade. All courses used to meet the requirements of a major or concentration, including related courses, are also excluded from this option, except the first such one-term course taken by the student in his or her eventual major, unless otherwise specified by the department.

The purposes of this option are to encourage students to take courses of interest to them outside of the field of specialization and to permit those who have not decided upon a major to test their talents in a particular field that may be of interest. Students who wish to exercise the Pass/D/Fail option must designate a course for the grade of Pass/D/Fail when registering for each term in the College. A Pass/D/Fail course may be changed to a regular course or a regular course to a Pass/D/Fail course until mid-November in the fall term and until mid-March in the spring term regardless of whether a student has received a midterm grade for the class before the relevant date date.

In order to encourage students to engage more fully in the courses they elect to take for a grade of Pass/D/Fail students are allowed to uncover a grade of Pass within two weeks of the start of the semester immediately following that in which the grade of Pass was received. Students have until the end of the add period in the spring semester to uncover the grade of a fall course and until the end of the add period in the fall semester to uncover the grade of a spring or summer term course. Seniors who graduate in May have until June 1 to uncover the grade of a final spring course.

The grade of Pass is not used in calculating grade point average; the grades of D and Fail are used.

The Grade of D

No more than 6 points of D may be credited to the degree in any academic year and no more than a cumulative total of 12 points of D may be credited toward the degree. Degree credit for D work is awarded only for courses listed in this bulletin and for other courses taken while the student is enrolled in Columbia College. The decision as to whether or not a D may be used to satisfy the requirements for the major is made in each department.

The Grade of UW (unofficial withdrawal)

As of Spring 2014, this grading option is no longer available for Columbia College students.

The Mark of W (withdrawal)

Columbia College students are not permitted to have a course deleted from their academic record after the drop deadline (the fifth week of the semester). If a student withdraws from a course after the drop deadline and no later than the Pass/D/Fail deadline (the eleventh week of the semester), the transcript will show a mark of W for that course. This is a permanent mark, and will remain on the transcript even if the student repeats the course.

Note: Students may not drop or withdraw from a Core Curriculum course (i.e., Literature Humanities, Frontiers of Science, Contemporary Civilization, Art Humanities, Music Humanities, and University Writing) after the Core drop deadline. This does not apply to courses take to fulfil the global core, science, or foreign language requirements.

Students may not drop or withdraw from any course after the Pass/D/Fail deadline. After that point, a student will receive the letter grade earned in the course.

Students should be aware that, in order to remain in good academic standing, they must successfully complete no fewer than 12 points in a given semester. Students who do not earn at least 12 points in a semester will face academic probation, suspension, or dismissal.

The Mark of AR (administrative referral)

Given to students as a temporary grade in circumstances when a student’s irregular academic behavior in class merits something other than grades A through F. A grade of AR will alert the Dean of Academic Affairs, whose staff will follow up with the instructor to help determine what final grade is appropriate.

Ultimately, the decision as to what the final grade should be will rest with the individual instructor. AR is not a permanent grade but, rather, is designed to allow faculty a reasonable default grade for use until an appropriate permanent grade can be submitted.

The Mark of INC (incomplete)

Granted by the Committee on Academic Standing, for students who cannot complete their course work or are unable to take a final examination. The only reasons for which an INC will be granted are incapacitating illness, as certified by Health Services at Columbia, serious family emergency, or circumstances of comparable gravity. Students who wish to receive the mark of INC must petition the Committee in writing (petition forms are available in the class center offices) before the last day of classes, in the case of course work, or no later than the day before the final examination when requesting permission to miss the examination. To be granted an INC, it is expected that students will have completed all work in the class with the exception of the final project or exam. Students who are granted an INC are assigned a deadline for completion of the overdue work or a date by which a deferred examination must be taken. Those who fail to meet the assigned deadline or miss the deferred examination will then have the missing work graded as a “zero” and the grade for the course calculated accordingly.

The Mark of R (registration credit)

No point credit is given for R credit.  Students who take a course for R credit may be required to complete certain work as specified by the instructor. The exact nature of the work should be determined by the instructor when the student registers for the course. An instructor may fail a student who has not completed assigned work. The deadline for registering for R credit is November 17 in the fall term and until March 22 in the spring term during the academic year 2011-2012. Registering for R credit is allowed only when:

  1. the courses are in excess of the 124 points required for the B.A. degree;
  2. the courses are taken in the last two terms of the student’s attendance in Columbia College;
  3. the courses are not used to fulfill a requirement for the B.A. degree;
  4. the student has the permission of the academic adviser and the instructor involved.

The Mark of YC (year course)

A mark given at the end of the first term of a course in which the full year’s work must be completed before a qualitative grade is assigned. The grade given at the end of the second term is the grade for the entire course.

The Mark of CP (credit pending)

With specific permission of the Columbia College Committee on Instruction, certain seminars may allow students to complete their research over the winter break and submit their final papers on a pre-arranged date after the start of the spring term. In such instances a grade of CP will appear on the students’ transcripts until the final grade is submitted. Please note that the grade of CP cannot be used for individual students but, rather, can only be granted on a course-wide basis.

Report of Grades

Grades are available via the Web (http://ssol.columbia.edu) on the first business day after they are received by the Registrar. Transcripts (no fee) may be ordered by currently enrolled students in 205 Kent or via SSOL. Students who find discrepancies in or have questions about their records should see or write the Academic Records and Grades Division, Student Service Center, 205 Kent, as soon as possible.

Final Grade Submission

It is very important that final grades be submitted in a timely fashion.

  • Students often need to know a grade in a particular class as soon as possible in order to plan for taking more advanced courses.
  • Students who are applying for internships, fellowships, scholarships, study abroad, summer programs, graduate and professional schools, or employment opportunities may be compromised in their efforts to pursue such opportunities if their transcripts are not up-to-date with all grades reported.
  • Class advisers routinely review student records at the end of each term to determine the academic status of students with regard to whether they should be put on academic probation or carefully monitored on their academic performance. Incomplete student records significantly impede this review process.

Please be sure to submit grades no later than two weeks after the final exam is given or two weeks after the last day of class for courses that do not include a final exam.

Change of Grade Process

The joint Columbia College-General Studies Committee on Instruction remains concerned with the overall number of grade changes made each semester and affirms its request that instructors provide a full rationale for the change.

If you need to request a change of grade for a Columbia College student, please submit the request through SSOL.

Grading Data

Over the past several years and in different gatherings, the faculty have spoken about the challenge of identifying the truly outstanding students.  The driving issue continues to be that with grades so compressed, how do we distinguish between the excellent student and the very good student, especially given that the number of A grades (A-, A, A+) has increased so that now over 50% of all grades given to Columbia College students are in the A range. 

In these various discussions over the years about our grading policies, a number of questions have been raised. Do the faculty think grade distribution and the weight of the A+ at 4.33 are issues of concern and if so what would be the appropriate steps to take? Should we consider a grading model similar to that of Princeton’s (whereby departments monitor their grades so that no more than 35% of students in lecture classes and 55% in seminars receive A-range grades)?  Should we consider eliminating the A+ (as have Harvard, Yale,Dartmouth, and Brown)?  Should we keep the A+ but weigh it at 4.0 given that we have a 4.0 grading scale (as havePrincetonand Penn)?  Are there other ways this issue might be addressed? 

To assist faculty in thinking about grading, each year instructors are sent a report of the distribution of their grades in the courses they taught the previous year.  These data include any course with a C, F, V, W, R  or X designator with 12 or more valid grades, in which Columbia College and General Studies students make up at least 25% of the class.  Included in the report is information that allows you to compare your grading patterns with those of the department, the division, and overall grades. Click here for an example of this report.

At the same time department chairs receive an analysis of their departments’ overall grading patterns as compared to divisional and overall grades.  While this analysis does not look at individual courses, it does indicate patterns across the department as a whole. Click here for an example of this report.

We hope that this information will help inform on-going deliberations about how best to evaluate students' work.