Grading Policies

The following grading system is used in computing the grade point average:

Grade Grade Points
A 4.0
A– 3.7
B+ 3.3
B 3.0
B– 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C– 1.7
D 1.0
F 0
X Failed to earn credit: missed final examination 0
Y Failed to earn credit: work incomplete 0

The following notations are ignored in computing the grade point average:

Grade Notation
P Pass with credit
N No grade, no credit
K In progress
S Satisfactory: noncredit course
U Unsatisfactory: noncredit course
W Withdrawn by permission
NR No grade reported by instructor

Incomplete Coursework

Eligibility for Incomplete Grades

Northwestern University expects students to finish their coursework on time or remove themselves by dropping or withdrawing.  When situations outside a student's control arise that prevent timely course completion, Northwestern designates two different incomplete grades, X and Y to designate what work is outstanding.  X grades indicate that a student missed the final exam or did not submit the final assessment, but all other work in the term was complete. The assignment of Y grades is governed by the policy below.

Northwestern undergraduate students may request an incomplete grade of Y only in a course in which they have substantially completed the work, including any requirements of attendance or engagement. The university minimally requires that more than 50% of the course requirements must be complete in order for the course to be “substantially completed." Students must also be passing the course based on the materials submitted thus far to be eligible for an incomplete Y grade. 

This policy allows but does not compel incomplete Y grades in the above circumstances; Grading is the purview of the faculty, as governed by school policies, and they may choose to deny requests for incomplete grades in cases where this policy allows them.

Individual schools may also require approval by staff in the deans’ offices in order for an incomplete grade to be assigned (see the Weinberg College incomplete approval process). Schools may consider a number of other factors when considering approval or denial of incomplete grades, such as the number of incompletes a student has requested and whether any are outstanding. 

Students must consider the school offering the course, not their own school, to determine the process by which an incomplete grade is requested and assigned.

Impact of Incomplete Grades

As the tables above illustrate, both X and Y grades bear 0.00 grade points.  As such, schools factor incomplete grades into enrollment, probation and dismissal decisions, and students should be sure they understand how incomplete grades affect academic standing.

Resolving Incomplete Coursework

The student must complete the course and the grade must be changed no later than the end of the following like term, or the incomplete will be changed to a final grade of F (failure). This University deadline to change an incomplete grade is the maximum amount of time allowed: Instructors are free to establish an earlier deadline and students are bound by that agreement.

Students planning to graduate before the standard grade change deadline (the following like term) must complete courses and receive grades before graduating. Incomplete grades remaining at the time of degree conferral will be changed to final grades of F (failure). Grade changes are not permitted after a degree has been conferred.

Pass/No Credit (P/N)

Many undergraduate courses are open to the P (pass) or N (no credit) option, which allows students to explore fields beyond their areas of specialization without concern about grade point average. Students may exercise the P/N option in classes designated with “Student Option” grading in CAESAR. For information about a particular school’s P/N policy, see that school’s chapter in this catalog.

Grade Reports

Quarterly grades are not mailed but are delivered online through CAESAR. Students may print a copy of their grades from CAESAR for verification purposes.