Pass/Fail Grading

Due to the ongoing disruption caused by the situation surrounding COVID-19, the University is making changes to the grading system for this semester. Following approval by the Senate on Thursday, we are offering a Pass/Fail grading option to Bachelor of Arts students. If you are considering the Pass/Fail option, please read this message carefully so that you make an informed decision.

IMPORTANT: If you choose the Pass/Fail grading option, you will be graded on the full course requirements (which the professor may have modified after March 13). Pass/Fail grading does not mean that your term ended on March 13. To earn a Pass grade, you must achieve a minimum grade of 50% on the full course requirements.

If I choose the pass/fail option, will I be graded only on the work completed up to March 13th?

No. To pass a course, you must achieve a minimum grade of 50% on the full course requirements (which the professor may have modified after March 13th).


When do I have to decide and whom do I tell?

  • You have until the last day of classes, Thursday, April 9 at 5:00 pm to inform each of your professors that you are opting for a Pass/Fail grade in their classes.

  • You will make the decision separately for each course; you can choose letter grades in some courses and Pass/Fail grades in other courses.

  • If you do not communicate this to your professor, you will be assigned a letter grade.
    As always, professors will determine the requirements to pass their courses and submit final grades in accordance with regular procedures.

How does Pass/Fail grading work?

  • You will have the option of receiving a letter grade or a Pass/Fail grade for each of your classes for the Winter 2020 term. This is for all 3 credit-hour courses taken this term and the 6 credit-hour courses being completed this term.

  • You will have until Thursday, April 9 at 5:00 pm to inform your professor if you are opting for a Pass/Fail grade.

  • If you opt for a Pass/Fail grade, you will still be graded on the entire course requirements as determined by the professor. You are also required to meet the minimum requirement of 50% to receive a Pass.

  • If you do not achieve this, you will receive a Failing grade.

What are the implications of a Pass/Fail grade?

Pass Grades – If you choose a Pass/Fail grade, and receive a Pass grade, you will have earned the credit hours toward your degree; however, there will be no effect on your GPA. For example, if you choose all Pass/Fail grades for this semester and earns a “P” in every course, your GPA for the academic year would remain exactly the same as it was last semester. As always, letter grades count in calculating the GPA, and will either raise or lower the GPA depending on the grade you receive.

Fail Grades – If you choose a Pass/Fail grade, and get a Fail grade in a course, you will not have earned the credit hours from that class toward your degree. Note that in this case, your GPA would be negatively affected whether you chose P/F grading or a letter grade because an “F” counts as 0 (zero) in calculating the GPA in either case.

Dropping a Course – If you do not believe you will be able to complete a course successfully, you have the option to drop the course before the last day of classes, Thursday, April 9 with no academic penalty. If you choose to drop a course, you will receive no credit hours toward your degree for that course. However, the course will be erased from your transcript as if you have not taken it and your GPA will not be affected.

How could this affect my scholarship?

Pass grades will be counted in the 24 credit hours that you must successfully complete to renew your scholarships. However, it is important to note here that Pass grade will not affect the required GPA to renew a scholarship. Only letter grades will be counted in the GPA.

For example, if you have completed at least 24 credit hours in the 2019-20 academic year, your scholarship will be renewed as long as the GPA meets whatever the requirement is for your scholarship. If you have a scholarship with a required GPA of 3.7 for renewal, and you have a GPA of 3.7 based on your letter grades from the entire 2019-20 year and you passed at least 24 credit hours of courses (including Pass/Fail courses), your scholarship will be renewed.

How will this affect my being named to the Deans’ List?

To be named to the Deans’ List for the 2019-20 academic year, you will have had to earn a GPA of 3.7 and have completed a minimum of 30 credit hours. It will not matter whether you received letter grades in all courses as long as your GPA for the year is at least 3.7.

What will Pass/Fail look like to future employers or graduate/professional programs?

When a student requests an official transcript, the Registrar will include a letter explaining the context for grades assigned in Semester 2 of 2019-20. Specifically, the letter will indicate that the University was coping with challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and that Pass/Fail was an option for all courses that semester, meaning that more “P” (Pass) grades were assigned than normal. The letter will be on official St. Thomas University letterhead and signed by the Registrar.

If you are applying to a graduate or professional program, it is advised that you explore the possible impact a Pass/Fail grade will have on the requirements for applying to that program.

More than 40% of Canadian universities are using Pass/Fail as a grading option this semester. Universities will recognize that 2020 was the year we were all reacting to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Can I see my letter grade before I make a decision on opting for Pass/Fail?

Professors are not required to provide students with letter grades before students make a decision on Pass/Fail grades. We did not want to set-up two marking systems to manage, which would add additional work to everyone’s heavy burdens. This approach to grading provides you with a choice so that you can manage your workload to the end of the term. You have the best sense of how you are doing in your courses and the effort required to complete the term.

Choosing the Pass/Fail option provides you with a way to earn the course credit while lessening any stress you may be experiencing. If you believe that you will be unable to achieve a high enough letter grade in a specific course to increase your GPA, choosing to be graded on a Pass/Fail basis may relieve the stress you are feeling about achieving high grades.

How will Honours thesis courses or pre-requisite courses for Honours be affected?

Students completing an honours thesis this year should not choose a Pass/Fail grade for their honours thesis without first checking with their Department.

Pre-requisite courses for honours in Political Science and Psychology have specific letter grade requirements; students planning to do Honours in one of those disciplines should check with the Department for additional information after the Departments have made a decision regarding the impact of Pass/Fail grading for pre-requisite courses for honours.

How will requirements for completing the Certificate in French Language Proficiency be affected?

Students planning to complete this certificate should check with the Department for updated information after the Department of Romance Languages has made a decision on how Pass/Fail grades will affect the requirements.