Taking a UW-Madison Course Pass/Fail
This document explains the purpose of pass/fail and what grade will be recorded for L&S undergraduate students if they opt to take a course for pass/fail and how it impacts a student's GPA. The following campus-wide pass/fail policy went into effect for all UW-Madison undergraduate students as of fall 2015.
Spring 2020 Only Special Grading Option During Disruption
During the spring 2020 term only, the University has introduced a special grading option for students in response to the COVID-19 events. At the end of spring 2020 term, students may choose to convert their letter grade in any course to one or two new grades that have been created: SD (Satisfactory-Disruption) and UD (Unsatisfactory-Disruption). For more detailed information, please refer to spring 2020 disruptive grading option. For examples of SD/UD in DARS audits, please see FAQ Info for SD/UD Grades for Advising.
- The SD/UD grade will not count toward your term or cumulative GPA.
- If you have a term GPA of at least 2.000 on your non-COVID grades, and meet the other criteria (2.000 cumulative GPA and no Incompletes), you can clear probation.
- NO academic actions will be taken this semester that have a negative effect on undergraduate students.That is, no matter what your grades are for spring 2020, you will not be dropped and your probation status will not change for the worse.
- If you choose the COVID grade, grades of "A" through "C" will convert to a grade of "SD" and carry credit for the class; grades of "D"or "F" will convert to "UD" and will NOT carry credit for the class. A "UD" graded course will not count toward any degree requirements.
- This special SD/UD grade is only available for spring 2020. Students cannot elect to use this grade option for terms/semesters prior to spring 2020 or after spring 2020.
- Find complete information about SD/UD grading here.
- Detailed information regarding the policy in creating the special SD/UD grading option can be found at Covid-19 Disruption Grading Option of Spring 2020.
**For instructions on how to select the special COVID-19 SD/UD grade for the spring 2020 term, please refer to student center-disruption SD/UD grading.
Pass/Fail Grading Option
- to encourage students to take courses of interest outside of their major/field of specialization
- to provide students who have not decided upon a major the opportunity to explore their talents in a particular field of study that may be of interest
Students who declared the pass/fail option for spring 2020 should have received an email from the Registrar's Office on April 7, 2020 letting them know that the Office of the Registrar will be changing the class(es) that they were previously approved to take using the traditional pass/fail option back to the A-F grading scale.
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 making the request in their Student Center (MyUW). Detailed information can be found at student center - course change request. 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.
- 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.
- Note, however, that since the implementation of the Student Information System (SIS), it is possible that instructors may have access to ISIS information showing the grading basis of the course. Therefore, some instructors may discover that a student is taking the course on a pass fail basis. Students may, of course, share this information with their instructors if they choose.
Pass/Fail Grading Option
This proposed common pass/fail policy only applies to degree-seeking students who are in the undergraduate (UGRD) career. It only applies to courses that use the default A-F grading scale (GRD) and that also allow students to choose to take a course on a pass/fail (PF) basis.
- The instructor enters the letter grade earned by the students on their grade roster, and those letter grades are subsequently recorded as a pass (S) or fail (U) on the student record. A pass (S) will be recorded when a letter grade of A through C is earned. A fail (U) will be recorded when a letter grade of D or F is earned. In addition to the S or U notation, the student transcript includes the symbol # for courses that were taken on a pass/fail basis.
- Neither the S nor the U is used in computing the grade point average.
- Instructors are not informed that a student has elected to take the course pass/fail.
What is the deadline for pass/fail registration (or cancellation)?
- spring and fall terms: the Friday of the fourth week of class (see Registrar's official semester calendar for exact dates under dates and deadlines & session dates.
- modular courses & summer sessions: the Friday of the week where 1/4th of the course is completed. (In a four-week class, it would be the Friday of the first week of class, for example).
Modular Courses and Summer Pass/Fail Deadlines
The pass/fail deadline for the College of Letters & Science undergraduate students enrolled in a modular course or during the summer term/session is the end of the one-quarter of the session, extended to the following Friday. Specific information about these deadlines can be found at session dates. The following rules apply to L&S undergraduate students enrolled in a summer session on the UW-Madison campus:
- For a student enrolled in a modular course or a summer session/term less than two weeks, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 1st week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a two-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 1st week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a three-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 1st week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a four-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 1st week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a five-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 1st week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a six-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 2nd week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a seven-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 2nd week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in an eight-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 2nd week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a nine-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 3rd week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a ten-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 3rd week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in an eleven-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 3rd week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a twelve-week modular course or a summer session/term, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 3rd week on Friday.
- For a student enrolled in a modular course or a summer session/term of more than twelve weeks, the pass/fail deadline is the end of the 4th week on Friday.
Prior to the pass/fail deadline, a student may cancel pass/fail registration and take the course on a regular graded basis.
**Students cannot cancel a pass/fail request after the deadline if they need the course (or courses) to fulfill a major or degree requirement at a later date. It is a student's responsibility to work with his/her undergraduate advisor to determine whether or not s/he can take a course on a pass/fail basis.
- For L&S undergraduate students, good academic standing means a student is not on probation or in dropped status. L&S undergraduate students are not eligible to declare pass/fail if they are on:
- strict probation
- continued probation
- continued strict probation
- in dropped status
- First-semester freshmen and transfer students without an established UW-Madison GPA are eligible to take a course on a pass/fail basis.
- The summer sessions collectively count as a single term. Thus, a student can only take one course for pass/fail during the entire summer term.
The pass/fail option is the student's choice and the instructor reports the grade without knowing whether or not the student is taking the course on a pass/fail basis.
- Students must submit pass/fail requests via their Student Center by the end of the fourth (4th) week of the fall and spring terms. (For modular and summer terms/sessions, pass/fail request must be submitted by the Friday of the week in which the session is one-fourth completed.) For information about deadlines, please refer to dates and deadlines.
- Students may not cancel or add the pass/fail option after the deadline for submitting Pass/Fail Option Forms. Detailed information can be found at student center - course change request.
- Students can take coursework in their major or major department on a pass/fail basis. However, any coursework taken in the major or major department on a pass/fail basis will not count toward fulfilling any major requirements. Student should only take coursework in their major or major department on a pass/fail basis after they have fulfilled their major requirements.
- Students should consult with the major advisor before declaring pass/fail in the major or major department.
- Students should be very careful about taking courses in their major or major department on a pass/fail basis since a student cannot cancel this option after the official pass/fail declaration deadline if a student needs the course to fulfill a major requirement.
- Students cannot take any coursework to fulfill L&S breadth or University General Education Requirements on a pass/fail basis.
- Only elective work may be carried on a pass/fail basis. Thus, pass/fail cannot be declared or used to fulfill the following requirements:
- Breadth (humanities, literature, social science natural science)
- Foreign language (prior to fulfilling the BA or BS foreign language requirement)
- Mathematics (coursework required to satisfy the BS mathematics requirement or needed to enroll in required math courses)
- Ethnic Studies
- General Education Requirements (Comm A, Comm B, QR A, QR B)
- Coursework required for a student's major
- Coursework required for a student's certificate
- Directed Study courses (e.g., 299, 699) may not be taken on a pass/fail basis.
- Senior Thesis courses (i.e., 691, 692, 681, 682) may not be taken on a pass/fail basis.
- Students pursuing certificate programs should check with the certificate advisor(s) about policies concerning pass/fail for certificate program courses since many certificate programs do not allow coursework to be taken on a pass/fail basis.
- Students cannot take any prerequisite coursework required for a major or a degree program on a pass/fail basis.
- For more information about the pass/fail process, refer to Pass/Fail in the Undergraduate Catalog.
Final grades for courses taken on a pass/fail basis will be indicated as satisfactory (S) or unsatisfactory (U) without any computation of grade points for the courses into the semester or cumulative grade point average (GPA). In other words, earning a grade of "S" or "U" will not have any impact on a student's GPA for the semester or on the cumulative GPA earned at UW-Madison. Before declaring the pass/fail option, it is extremely important that students carefully read will pass/fail courses count toward any of my degree requirements.
For more information, see Course Change Request. Additional information on pass/fail can be found in the Guide under Courses and Enrollment.
Currently each undergraduate school or college has a pass/fail policy. These policies are very similar, but they have slight differences in areas such as limiting the amount of time students can elect pass/fail based on credits versus courses or stating that a student must be in good academic standing versus citing a GPA. These differences often cause confusion among students who may be aware of a policy that actually pertains to students in a school/college other than their own; students may experience problems when they make decisions that are based on the wrong policy. Although there are minor differences among the schools/colleges the various policies all have very similar requirements and similar intended outcomes. Creating a policy that applies to all undergraduates regardless of school or college is in the best interest of students.
Students must be in good academic standing in order to declare the pass/fail option. In the College of Letters & Science, good academic standing means a student is not on:
- strict probation
- continued probation
- continued strict probation
- (in) dropped status
Detailed information regarding the UW-Madison pass/fail policy can be found at policy on the use of pass/fail grading option for undergraduates.
More detailed information can be found at what does it mean to take a course pass/fail.
Pass/Fail courses count towards three (3) L&S degree requirements:
- 120 total degree credits needed for graduation,
- 60 credits of intermediate or advanced work (if the course is designated as I, A, or D level),
- Residence requirement (if the course is taken within the last 30 credits before graduation).
- L&S undergraduate students may carry only one (1) pass/fail course per term including the summer session. Students can take a maximum of sixteen (16) credits for pass/fail during their undergraduate career at UW-Madison.
Pass/Fail cannot be declared or used to fulfill the following requirements:
- Major or major department coursework (if the course is being used to fulfill a requirement in the major)
- Breadth (humanities, literature, social science, natural science)
- Foreign language (if a student has not fulfilled the BA or BS foreign language requirement)
- Mathematics (if being used to fulfill any degree requirements or prerequisites for any major/degree requirements)
- General Education Requirements (Communication Part A, Communication Part B, Quantitative Reasoning Part A, Quantitative Reasoning Part B, Ethnic Studies)
- Coursework required to fulfill certificate programs
- Directed Study courses (e.g., 199, 299, 699)
- Senior Thesis (i.e., 691, 692, 681, 682)
- A student may take a maximum of sixteen (16) credits during his/her undergraduate career at UW-Madison
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.
Each school or college is responsible for clearly communicating to its students what the definition of "good academic standing" is and what a free elective is for their students.
In each school or college, the office responsible for academic policy exceptions is authorized to make exceptions to the pass/fail policy.
Resources for Questions:
L&S Academic Advising Services: (608) 262-5858, firstname.lastname@example.org
L&S Student Academic Affairs: (608) 262-0617, email@example.com
Spring Semester, 2020
A. General Policy of Converting to SD/UD
Students have, from Saturday, May 9th to Friday, May 22nd, selection of the COVID-19 grading option in their Student Center. Once final grades are posted in the Student Center, all eligible students can follow the step-by-step guide if they wish to convert their grades to SD/UD. See https://kb.wisc.edu/registrar/101311 .
Students' decisions are intended to be final once they select this option. We recommend that students see all their grades before making their decision.
Students who discovered that they selected the SD/UD option by mistake during the May 9-22 period should do the following:
a. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org stating that you have changed your mind.
b. The Registrar's Office will send you a Qualtrics form to fill out. The form should be returned immediately.
c. Once the form is submitted, the change will be made without question.
B. General Policy for Study abroad students
Students studying abroad through a program sponsored by UW International Academic Programs will be able to select the SD/UD grading option even if their grades come in after May 22nd. The student should refer to the following URL for more information: https://studyabroad.wisc.edu/covid-19-faq/.
The UW-Madison policy regarding the spring 2020 SD/UD disruption grade option can be found at Covid-19 Disruption Grading Option of Spring 2020 which went into effect on 26 March 2020. This document was approved by Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs John Karl Scholz.