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Everything You Need to Know About Pass/Fail Classes

We’ve all heard of someone taking a class Pass/Fail, but what does that even mean? Here is all the information you need to know to decide if taking a class Pass/Fail is for you.

First things first, what does it mean to take a class Pass/Fail?

Bottom line: earn a D- or higher and “Pass” the course. Your degree audit will report a “P” as long as you got a 65 or higher. 

Sounds pretty great, right? I’ll get to the pros and cons, but here are the University’s stipulations:

Firstly, you must be a Sophomore, Junior, or Senior to enroll in a class Pass/Fail. You can be a second semester Freshman but only if you have the approval of the Associate Dean to take a sixth three-credit class.

Also, the class must be a non-major, non-minor, and non-Core course. A total elective.

You can only take one course of three credits or more Pass/Fail in any one semester

Sadly, classes in the Carroll School of Management and Woods College cannot be taken Pass/Fail.

Also, keep an eye out for specific requirements because departments can designate certain classes as not available for Pass/Fail.


So what are the pros and cons?

Pro: You only need a 65!

So I get to miss a few classes, study less, not really participate, and finish without penalty? Sign me up! Although I wouldn’t recommend aiming for only a 65, try for a C just to be safe.

Con: You still need a 65.

You still need to do the work. Getting a 65 does take effort. You may be able to blow off some of the little things, but exams will still need to be studied for and papers will still need to be written.


Pro: Good option if you need to focus on other things.

Like most BC students, I am super involved outside of academics, so choosing to take a class Pass/Fail my senior year was helpful in giving me the extra time I needed to spend on my extracurriculars without worrying too much about my readings. Also a good option if you’re taking another super hard course (hello Orgo!) or spending a few days a week at an internship.

Con: Changing the weight of your semester GPA and other grade-based issues.

Taking a class Pass/Fail removes those credits from the total that will make up your GPA. So the GPA you get any semester you do this will not weigh as much as semesters with more graded credits. Additionally, if you already have a high GPA, taking away graded credits from your total may affect the Latin honors you receive at graduation.


Pro: Education for education’s sake.

Shifting the main focus of classes away from grades and towards actual learning is what can give us the best education. Taking a class Pass/Fail can open the opportunity to take a class in an area that truly interests us or is out of our normal skill set, without risk and the overwhelming requirements of trying to earn an A as well.

Con: People may judge and classmates may be annoyed that you don’t put in as much effort.

Obviously, some people may look at taking a class Pass/Fail as a way to get out of doing work and your classmates will probably get annoyed when you don’t do as much work as they do. But definitely don’t slack on group projects; that’s just not fair! Also, I don’t recommend doing this in a class with friends who are taking it as a graded course unless you don’t mind their constant irritation with your justified lack of work.


What’s our best advice?

Choose a class that is reading and/or test based instead of writing based.

If you are taking a class Pass/Fail because of your already busy schedule, I definitely recommend a class where it will be easier to skimp on the work, such as a reading and test based class. Readings can be skimmed and summarized and tests can be studied for based on how much time you have (but remember it still takes work to get a 65!). Papers, however, no matter what grade you’re shooting for, still need to be researched, outlined, written, and edited. No matter your schedule, you will still need to write that 10-page term paper. You may be able to pass a final with a few less hours studying, but an under-researched, unedited 6-page term paper won’t get you that P.  Definitely not saying to not take writing based classes Pass/Fail, the one I took was writing based, just something else to think about.


If the Pros have outweighed the Cons for you, here is how you can declare a class Pass/Fail:

  1. Log on to UIS and choose Option P- “Mark Course as PASS/FAIL.” Then simply mark a P next to the class you want and save your changes. You will be able to check this in your “Current Courses and Grades” tab on Agora. It should say “Pass/Fail” in the Comments box. IMPORTANT: THIS OPTION CAN ONLY BE DONE DURING DROP/ADD! This is the much easier option, so if you want to take a class Pass/Fail, try to decide by January 22nd.


  1. After Drop/Add period has passed, you can submit a request to have a course credited on a Pass/Fail basis to your school’s Associate Dean’s office. You may have to have a meeting to discuss the request with the Associate Dean and will have to have your professor sign a request. This must be completed by February 15th. Obviously this is a bit more work and it may be awkward to ask for your professor’s permission to take their class Pass/Fail, it is a good option to keep in mind in case the first exam or paper doesn’t go so well in your elective or if you find yourself overcommitted this semester.






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