What is a Pass/Fail Class?

College Pass/FailSome colleges offer an alternatively graded course option known as a pass/fail class. Perhaps you’ve been advised to take a course in this manner, but you’re not sure exactly of the pros and cons of going the route of pass/fail, according to USA Today. Maybe you’re not even sure what the term means. Let’s take a look at the definition and some of the reasons you may wish to pursue such an alternative.

About Pass/Fail Classes

Ordinarily, colleges offer students the opportunity to elect to take a certain number of courses throughout their academic career using this grading option, rather than the traditional letter grade method of assessment. Each school’s policy is different, but a common rule allows only juniors or seniors to make a class pass/fail. In addition, there is normally a limit regarding how many times you can use this option. Finally, classes in your major or minor generally must be graded on the traditional scale, and many schools also require that general education curriculum receive a letter grade, as well.

You don’t have to decide to take this path regarding a course immediately upon registration. Colleges have their own policies. Some allow you the entire semester to decide, while other have a cutoff deadline such as by the end of the drop/add period. In terms of whether you pass or fail, this also is determined by your school’s policy. Most will allow you to receive a passing grade if you score above a D in the class, while a few require a C or better to be considered passing.

Why Take a Class Pass/Fail?

You still may be wondering why you want to take a pass/fail class. One of the biggest reasons students do so is to protect their grade point average (GPA) from a potentially bad mark. You may be interested in taking a class simply for the sake of learning something new, knowing that it’s quite likely the subject matter is not one of your strengths. For example, you may decide that a photography class would be good for you since you tend to leave the lens cap on or end up with a blurry mess every time you take a photo. It’s great that you want to learn something new, and you can use this class as an elective toward graduation. However, it would be a shame to receive a low grade that lowers your GPA. It would be even more tragic to avoid learning something new that interests you for fear of getting a bad grade.

Considerations Before Opting for Pass/Fail

What is most important when it comes to making a class pass/fail is that you follow your college’s guidelines. Ask an academic adviser if you’re unsure. You don’t want to slide by thinking you have the option to pass when, in actuality, you weren’t eligible at this time. Speaking of sliding by, even if you’re sure you can receive a passing or failing grade, don’t get too lax. Many students have allowed themselves to ignore assignments, only to learn they are failing the course. Receiving a failing grade will affect your GPA negatively.

Related Resource: College Summer Courses

This may be a good option for you if you want to take the pressure off yourself. Just be sure to follow all policies regarding a pass/fail class.