Pass/Fail (Meaning, Advantages, Disadvantages, When to, When not to)


Are you aware that you can take college classes without being graded in the traditional letter grading system? This system of Pass/Fail means that as opposed to the traditional grading in which you acquire a letter grade of A to F, your grade turns into a binary or, let’s say, digital — you have only two options, you can either Pass/Fail.

For a few people, a Pass/Fail method is beneficial. Others may go through their complete college life without ever choosing to be graded by this method.

Pass/Fail: Introduction 

In recent years, a few educational institutions have transformed to the Pass/Fail grading method of accessing their students.

Some high schools and tertiary institutions would require freshmen students to comply with the Pass/Fail grading format to get more familiar with the new system.

At the same time, many basic and middle-schools make use of this 2-way grading system altogether. But, some colleges provide the choice to document any optional course as a Pass/Fail.

Nevertheless, students and teachers have mixed emotions concerning if the new method of grading would favour the students or not.

While some are of the opinion that these new system level the playing field for all students, others feel it disregards those students who are more hard-working.

Notwithstanding, it is only ideal that educators need to consider each opinion of the argument when determining whether or not to replace the current traditional way of grading with a Pass/Fail grading method.

Pass/Fail grading system: Understanding its Concept

The definition of Pass/Fail refers to a grading technique whereby a student can only be graded with a pass or fail rather than receiving a traditional letter grade.

In exams that take this format of grading, the student either passes or fails a course receiving a particular mark or grade like it is with the traditional grading system.

For example, the traditional grading system uses alphabets A, B, C, D, E, and F for grading students. While getting a D and E might be a very low score, it doesn’t necessarily require that one rewrite a particular course, but an F is the only certain fail that indicates that a student must rewrite a course.

However, in the case of the Pass/Fail grading system, you are only safe when you get a Pass; there is no hiding behind a C, D, or E.

It’s just like saying, if you get any grade other than an A, then it’s an F. That’s why it is a two-way only grading, you either Pass or Fail.

Read this: What is a Hybrid Class? (Major tips and benefits)

What are Pass/Fail Classes?

Traditional grading systems are primarily based on assigning letters to a range of scores. Each score range is assigned to a letter. For instance, 90% or more is an A, 80%-89% is given a B, and so on.

However, when you take a Pass/Fail class, you acquire a pass for all grades better than a D. It doesn’t apply in all colleges as some colleges are stricter and would only assign a student a pass only in the equivalent of grades equal to or higher than C.

Advantages of Pass/Fail Classes

There are a few outstanding benefits of switching from the traditional letter grading system to the Pass/Fail grading system.

A major benefit of using the Pass/Fail grading system is for taking coursework outside your major. For example, your major is Computer Science; however, you wish to take an elective Art History course.

Since you’re much less likely to be as adequately versed in the information as Art History majors, you could consider using the course Pass/Fail system.

That way, you may attend class and obtain credit for the course; however, you could prioritize your time to study more for the classes directly associated with your degree.

The pass/fail method is helpful because you don’t know how you’ll fare in an unknown subject yet want to learn about it.

Disadvantages of Pass/Fail Classes

As with everything that has an advantage, there is always a disadvantage. But knowing a course is Pass/Fail may encourage students to care less than their major classes, and they may slack off.

This is especially risky when participation and attendance count towards their grade and will cause them to fail.

Also, failing a Pass/Fail class will raise a red flag, so it is best to weigh your options and ensure you are in the correct frame of mind.

It’s less stressful than a letter grading system because passing is an A-C or A-D; yet you want to pass!

When to choose Pass/Fail over letter grade

There are some reasons you might need to take a university class as Pass/Fail. Here are some amazing reasons to consider it:

  • When the course is NOT a major
  • When it is the only option.
  • Self-enrichment.
  • When taking the course can negatively affect your GPA.

When NOT to choose a Pass/Fail Option

Most times, it is considered the better preference. But, in a different circumstance, it has proved not to be so. Do not take a Pass/Fail class if:

  • The course is a major.
  • You’ve already taken a number of courses under the Pass/Fail grading system.


Ultimately, the decision to take a Pass/Fail class solely rests on your shoulder. However, considering the conditions above, it would help you know when a Pass/Fail system should best suit you.

It is possible to avoid taking Pass/Fail classes throughout your academic career.

Awesome one; I hope this article answered your question.

Share this Information.

Related articles:

You May Also Like