Academic Performance and Grades

Undergraduate Academic Standards

The Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) ensures that the minimum academic standards proposed by the individual departments for undergraduate students are consistent throughout the Institute and conform to the rules and regulations approved by the Faculty. In view of the individual nature of student academic performance, the CAP does not establish rigid standards of academic performance to be used throughout the Institute. The Institute generally expects undergraduate students to complete the requirements for an SB degree in four years; passing an average of 48 units per term for eight terms will accomplish this goal. Normally, however, the CAP accepts a minimum academic record of at least 36 units of credit with a term rating above 3.0 (on a 5.0 scale) at the end of any regular term, unless the Committee has specifically notified an individual student that a higher level of performance is required. (The latter would only occur as a result of previously poor performance.)

When these criteria are not met, the CAP considers each student's academic performance on an individual basis. Consideration is given not only to the grades received in the subjects for which the student is registered, but also to the total number of subject units, the nature of the subjects themselves, progress toward the degree, and personal or medical factors that may have affected academic performance in a given term. The CAP website gives more detailed information concerning end-of-term review procedures. For further information, contact the CAP administrator, Room 7-104, 617-253-4164.

Undergraduate Academic Standards for Federal Student Financial Assistance

Per federal regulations, a regular undergraduate student is eligible to receive federal student financial assistance if the student is enrolled at least half time per term and maintains satisfactory academic progress in his or her course of study.

Federal student financial assistance for undergraduates includes: Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, Federal Direct PLUS Loans for Parents, and Federal Work-Study.

To achieve satisfactory academic progress for purposes of federal student financial assistance, an MIT undergraduate must achieve the following qualitative and quantitative standards:

  • Have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least a C (3.0 on MIT’s 5.0 scale); and
  • Pass 67% of cumulative units attempted (defined as “pace”); and
  • Not exceed 150% of the published length of the program.

Dropped subjects are not included in the GPA or pace calculations. Transfer credit, which carries no grade, is not included in the GPA calculation, but the number of units credited is included in the pace calculation. Incomplete grades are not included in the GPA calculation, but incomplete subjects are included in the pace calculation. Grades for repeated subjects are included in the GPA calculation, but repeated subjects count as only one subject in the pace calculation.

At the end of each term, the Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) considers the academic performance of undergraduate students eligible for federal student financial assistance whose performance falls below any one of the federal standards. After taking special circumstances into account, CAP decides on the appropriate action.

Students on, or eligible for, federal student financial assistance who are placed on academic warning by CAP are concurrently placed by Student Financial Services (SFS) on federal financial aid warning or federal financial aid probation.

  • The status of federal financial aid warning is assigned to students who were not on academic warning in the prior term, but are now placed on academic warning by CAP. Students on federal financial aid warning may continue to receive federal student financial assistance for the academic warning term. Federal financial aid warning status has no effect on the amount of financial aid a student is eligible to receive from MIT, the federal government, or any other source during the federal financial aid warning term.
  • The status of federal financial aid probation is assigned to students who were on academic warning in the prior term and continue to be placed on academic warning by CAP. Federal regulations mandate that students may only be placed on federal financial aid probation, which allows them to retain eligibility for federal financial aid, after a successful appeal. At MIT, the CAP review of a student’s academic progress and plans constitutes the required appeal process. Any decision by the CAP other than requiring the student to take a required academic leave from MIT constitutes approval of the appeal. Federal financial aid probation status has no effect on the amount of financial aid the student is eligible to receive from MIT, the federal government, or any other source during the federal financial aid probation term.

A student under CAP review will be considered to be making satisfactory academic progress for federal student financial assistance purposes unless the CAP requires the student to take a required academic leave from MIT.

Further information on federal satisfactory academic progress rules can be found on the SFS website.

Graduate Academic Standards

It is the responsibility of the Graduate Academic Performance Group (GAPG) to monitor minimum academic standards for graduate students and special students in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Faculty. Chaired by the dean for graduate education, the GAPG reviews the academic records of all graduate students at the end of each term (including the summer session), giving particular attention to students with cumulative ratings below 3.5 to 4.0. Consideration is given to low grades and factors affecting a student's ability to meet the requirements for the degree program in which he or she is enrolled.

Recommendations for action by the GAPG are made by departmental graduate committees. Unless extenuating circumstances are found, students who are not making satisfactory progress towards a degree may be denied permission to continue or may be warned that without substantial improvement the following term, they may be refused further registration. In addition, departmental graduate committees may recommend to the GAPG that a student be allowed to register only for a less advanced degree.

The GAPG operates with the authority of the Committee on Graduate Programs (CGP). More detailed information concerning procedures followed by this standing faculty committee may be found in the online publication, Graduate Policies and Procedures. It is also important for students to be informed about individual department requirements and expectations concerning academic performance.

Graduate Academic Standards for Federal Student Financial Assistance

Per federal regulations, a regular graduate student is eligible to receive federal student financial assistance if the student is enrolled at least half time per term and maintains satisfactory academic progress in his or her course of study.

Federal student financial assistance for graduate students includes Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, Federal Direct PLUS Loans for Graduate and Professional Degree Students, and Federal Work-Study.

To achieve satisfactory academic progress for purposes of federal student financial assistance, an MIT graduate student must achieve the following qualitative and quantitative standards:

  • Have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) exceeding 4.0 on MIT’s 5.0 scale; and
  • Pass 67% of cumulative credit units attempted (defined as “pace”); and
  • Make satisfactory progress in his/her academic milestones, as evaluated by his/her graduate program; and
  • Not exceed five terms of enrollment for a Master’s candidate and 13 for a PhD or ScD candidate.

Dropped subjects are not included in the GPA or pace calculations. Transfer credit, which carries no grade, is not included in the GPA calculation, but the number of units credited is included in the pace calculation. Incomplete grades are not included in the GPA calculation, but incomplete subjects are included in the pace calculation. Grades for repeated subjects are included in the GPA calculation, but repeated subjects count as only one subject in the pace calculation.

At the end of each term, the Graduate Academic Performance Group (GAPG) considers the academic performance of all enrolled graduate students and decides on the appropriate action for those students not making satisfactory academic performance (e.g. academic warning or denial of further registration). If a student is placed on academic warning, a set of requirements (academic plan) is set forth and communicated to the student for the student to continue to be eligible for enrollment.

Students on, or eligible for, federal student financial assistance who are placed on academic warning by GAPG are concurrently placed by Student Financial Services (SFS) on federal financial aid warning or federal financial aid probation.

  • The status of federal financial aid warning is assigned to students who were not on academic warning in the prior term, but are now placed on academic warning by GAPG. Students on federal financial aid warning may continue to receive federal student financial assistance for the academic warning term. Federal financial aid warning status has no effect on the amount of financial aid a student is eligible to receive from MIT, the federal government, or any other source during the federal financial aid warning term.
  • The status of federal financial aid probation is assigned to students who were on academic warning in the prior term and continue to be placed on academic warning by GAPG. Federal regulations mandate that students may only be placed on federal financial aid probation, which allows them to retain eligibility for federal financial aid, after a successful appeal. At MIT, graduate students on academic warning are encouraged to engage with and provide relevant information to their academic programs during the GAPG review of the students’ academic progress, which constitutes the required appeal process. Any decision by the GAPG other than requiring the student to withdraw from MIT constitutes a continuation of the student’s academic plan and enables students to be placed on federal financial aid probation. Federal financial aid probation status has no effect on the amount of financial aid a student is eligible to receive from MIT, the federal government, or any other source during the federal financial aid probation term.

Further information on federal satisfactory academic progress rules can be found on the SFS website.

Grades

In determining a student's grade, consideration is given for elegance of presentation, creativity, imagination, and originality where these may appropriately be called for. Grades at MIT are not rigidly related to any numerical scores or distribution function, that is, grades are not awarded solely according to predetermined percentages. As can be seen from the following grade descriptions, a student's grade in a subject is related more directly to the student's mastery of the material than to the relative performance of his or her peers.

Passing Grades. Undergraduate and graduate students who satisfactorily complete the work of a subject by the end of the term receive one of the following grades:

AExceptionally good performance demonstrating a superior understanding of the subject matter, a foundation of extensive knowledge, and a skillful use of concepts and/or materials.
BGood performance demonstrating capacity to use the appropriate concepts, a good understanding of the subject matter, and an ability to handle the problems and materials encountered in the subject.
CAdequate performance demonstrating an adequate understanding of the subject matter, an ability to handle relatively simple problems, and adequate preparation for moving on to more advanced work in the field.

Note that the MIT internal grading system includes plus (+) and minus (-) modifiers for use with the letter grades A, B, and C for all academic subjects (except advanced standing exams). These modifiers appear only on internal grade reports. They do not appear on transcripts and are not used in calculating term or cumulative grade-point averages. The MIT grading system for external purposes does not include modifiers.

DMinimally acceptable performance demonstrating at least partial familiarity with the subject matter and some capacity to deal with relatively simple problems, but also demonstrating deficiencies serious enough to make it inadvisable to proceed further in the field without additional work. Some departments require students with D-level performance in certain prerequisite subjects within the departmental program to do additional work, or to retake the prerequisite, before proceeding with the follow-on subject.
PWhen use of the passing grade P is authorized, it reflects performance at the level A, B, or C (A+ to C- with modifiers used within MIT), with the student graded on a P/D/F basis.

Non-Passing Grades. The grades and notations used for subjects not passed or not completed by the end of the term are as follows.

DNSignifies a D grade on Freshman Pass/No Record and ABC/No Record.
FFailed. This grade also signifies that the student must repeat the subject to receive credit.
FNSignifies an F grade on Freshman Pass/No Record and ABC/No Record.
OAbsent. This grade indicates that the student was progressing satisfactorily during the term but was absent from the final examination, did not turn in the final paper or project, and/or was absent during the last two weeks of the term. Like an F grade, an O grade carries no credit for the subject, but the O grade can be converted to a grade of OX. Unsatisfactory performance because of absence throughout the term should be recorded as F.
OXAbsence satisfactorily explained to and excused by the dean for undergraduate education in the case of an undergraduate student or by the dean for graduate education in the case of a graduate student. The faculty member in charge of the subject will be notified when an O is changed to an OX. An OX carries no credit for the subject. However, the faculty member in charge must provide the student the opportunity to receive a credit-carrying grade. This may be done with or without the instructor requiring a make-up final examination or other additional evaluation procedure.
IIncomplete. The grade I indicates that a minor part of the subject requirements has not been fulfilled and that a passing grade is to be expected when the work is completed. The grade I for the term remains permanently on the student's record even when the subject is completed. The work should normally be completed before Add Date of the succeeding term of the regular academic year; however, the faculty member in charge, in negotiation with the student, has the right to set an earlier or later date for pedagogical reasons or extenuating circumstances. Graduate students may extend the five-week deadline with the explicit approval of the faculty member in charge.
The instructor is required to submit an Instructor's Report Form for a grade of I reported for an undergraduate. On the form, the instructor provides the date by which the outstanding work is to be completed and a default final grade. The default final grade represents the grade the student would have earned, using appropriately low scores for the missing work. If the subject has not been completed by Add Date of the succeeding regular term, the default final grade will be posted to the student's record unless a later deadline has been specifically agreed upon by the instructor and the student.
No grade of I can be assigned to any undergraduate in the term in which he or she graduates. All grades of Incomplete must be resolved prior to graduation.
JNotation assigned for work such as thesis, UROP, Special Subjects, or At Plant registration (internship or industrial practice), which has progressed satisfactorily, but has not been completed. Grade given upon completion of the work in a later term also covers this term. Faculty members must obtain approval from the Committee on Curricula or the Graduate Academic Performance Group to use the grade of J in subjects other than those mentioned above.
UNotation for thesis work that has not been completed and in which progress has been unsatisfactory. Grade given upon completion of the work in a later term also covers this term. Unless a student's progress improves significantly, the student may expect that grade to be failing.
TTemporary notation. Used for subjects which cover the equivalent of one term's work, but are scheduled over parts of two normal grading periods. Prior approval must have been obtained from the Committee on Curricula for undergraduate subjects or the Committee on Graduate Programs for graduate subjects. This notation is recorded only on the student's internal record. A permanent grade must be assigned when the subject is finished.

Other Notations. The following notations are also used on the academic record.

SNotation for credit awarded for work done elsewhere.
SANotation for satisfactorily completed doctoral thesis. Doctoral theses are not graded.
DRNotation used only on the student's internal record for a subject dropped after the fifth week of the regular term.
LISNotation used only on the student's internal record for a subject the student registered for as a listener.
URNNotation for a subject in UROP taken for pay or as a volunteer rather than academic credit.
VISNotation for a research subject taken as a non-degree visiting student.

Alternate Grades. When a significant disruption of academic activities is declared, as described in the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty, the use of the grades below may be authorized. These grades are not included in the calculations of grade point averages.

PEPerformance at any of the levels A, B, or C, under the circumstance of an Institute emergency closure.
NEPerformance at the level of D or F for which no record will appear on the external transcript.
IEIncomplete. Indicates that a portion of the subject requirements has not been fulfilled, due to a major disruption of the Institute’s academic activities. A letter grade may be assigned if the work is subsequently completed. The grade IE remains permanently on the student’s record even when the subject is completed. To receive a letter grade, the work must be completed prior to a date set by the Chair of the Faculty. If the work is not completed prior to the established completion date, the grade will remain an IE on the student’s record and transcript. A grade of IE does not carry credit but need not be resolved prior to graduation.

Additional information regarding freshman grading, hidden grades, and the sophomore exploratory and junior-senior P/D/F grading options is available in the Undergraduate Education section.

Grade Reports and Transcripts

Students may view their internal grade reports on WebSIS. Transcripts are available in an unofficial version free of charge or in an official version at a cost currently set at $8 per copy. Students wishing to request a copy of their academic record should see the Registrar's Office website.