Procedures: Use of Pass/Fail Grading Option for Undergraduate Students

Procedures on the use of the pass/fail grading option for undergraduates, including details on the grading option, student eligibility, and the process to request the pass/fail grading option.


Use of the Pass/Fail Grading Option for Undergraduates

Policy Number


Responsible Office

Data, Academic Planning & Institutional Research


University Policy


This policy defines the parameters for use of the pass/fail grading option for degree-seeking undergraduate students.


  1. Pass/Fail Grading Option

    This policy only applies to degree-seeking students during their undergraduate careers. It only applies to courses that use the default A-F grading scale and that allow students to choose to take a course on a pass/fail basis.

    Instructors are not formally notified when a student elects to take a course on the pass/fail grade basis. At the end of the course, the instructor will enter the final letter grade earned by the student on their grade roster, and the Office of the Registrar will convert the letter grade for a pass/fail student accordingly. A passing grade of S (Satisfactory) will be recorded when a letter grade of A through C is earned and a failing grade of U (Unsatisfactory) will be recorded when a letter grade of D or F is earned. In addition to the S or U grade, the student transcript includes the symbol # for courses taken on a pass/fail basis.

    S (Satisfactory) and U (Unsatisfactory) grades are not used in computing the student’s grade-point average, but the grade of U may impact Satisfactory Academic Progress.

  2. Student Eligibility

    Students must be in good academic standing with their school/college to be eligible for the pass/fail grading option.

    Undergraduates may elect to take one non-required course on a pass/fail basis each fall and spring semester and/or each summer term for a maximum of 16 credits total during their undergraduate careers.

    The schools/colleges and/or departments may exclude certain courses from the pass/fail grading option and may impose additional restrictions on eligibility. Students are encouraged to consult with an advisor before requesting the pass/fail grading option to fully understand the implications.

  3. Course Eligibility

    Required courses cannot be taken on a pass/fail basis. Ultimately students are responsible for ensuring courses taken with the pass/fail grading basis are considered free electives in their degree programs. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with an academic advisor before taking a course on a pass/fail grading basis. Required courses that are mistakenly taken on the pass/fail grading basis will not count for non-elective requirements even if they would normally count toward such requirements.

  4. School or College Responsibilities

    Each school or college is responsible for clearly communicating the definitions of “good academic standing” and “free elective” to their students.

    The office responsible for academic policy exceptions in each school or college is authorized to make exceptions to the pass/fail grading policy.

    For study abroad programs operated by the College of Engineering, courses taken abroad toward an engineering major will be posted as pass/fail. This occurs automatically and is not a student option; this practice is not covered or impacted by this policy.

Related UW–Madison Documents, Web Pages, or Other Resources

Approval Authority

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Policy Manager

Vice Provost for Data, Academic Planning & Institutional Research


Associate Director, Data, Academic Planning & Institutional Research -- Michelle Young, MEYOUNG@WISC.EDU, (608) 262-2143

Effective Date

Source: View policy UW-1012 in the UW-Madison Policy Library


Overview and Context

This policy concerns the use of the pass/fail grading option for degree-seeking undergraduate students. According to the UW-Madison grading scale, grades of S (satisfactory) and U (unsatisfactory) are the transcripted grades that are used for what is commonly known as pass/fail. [UW-Madison Faculty Senate Minutes, 15 January 1973, and 5 May 1980]

School or College Responsibilities

Students are affiliated with a school or college based on their intended degree program. Students are subject to that school/college’s specific implementation of the policy with regard to the definition of good academic standing and what is considered an elective course.

Process for Requesting the Pass/Fail Grading Option

Students indicate that they would like to have a course they are enrolled in graded on a pass/fail basis by completing a course change request via their Student Center. Students may submit pass/fail requests via their Student Center from the time that they enroll until midnight on the Friday at the end of the fourth week of fall and spring semesters. (For modular and summer session courses, pass/fail requests must be submitted by midnight Friday of the week in which the session is one-fourth completed).

The deadline for requesting the pass/fail grading option is posted on the Office of the Registrar website. These deadlines are based on the idea that the pass/fail option is intended to encourage students to explore educational opportunities that they might otherwise not be willing to attempt. Pass/fail is not intended as a way for students to avoid academic consequences.

Once the student has submitted their request to take a course on a pass/fail basis the request is routed via SIS workflow to an academic dean in their school or college for approval or further communication with the student. The school/college official must approve the request before the grading option is changed to pass/fail by the Office of the Registrar.

Students can see whether a course is being graded on a pass/fail basis in their Student Center.

Keywordspass/fail, grading option, undergraduate grading   Doc ID116399
OwnerMelissa S.GroupAcademic Planning
Created2022-02-01 10:32:57Updated2024-06-26 08:53:32
SitesAcademic Planning
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