FAQs About Electing Pass/Fail for a Spring 2020 Course

updated April 17, 2020

How will electing Pass/Fail affect qualifying for Dean’s List?

Pass/Fail will not disadvantage students from qualifying for Dean's List. 

How will Five College Consortium courses be graded?

The Five College Consortium registrars report letter grades to the student’s home institution. After grading in May, UMass students who completed Five College classes on other campuses will be able to change courses passed to P by contacting the Registrar’s Office.

Is the change to Pass/Fail automatic?

No, each student must elect the Pass/Fail option for any individual Spring 2020 course in SPIRE.

How many courses can a student elect for the Pass/Fail option?

The requirement limiting the total number of Pass/Fail courses that can be used in a given semester has been suspended, and students can elect Pass/Fail for as many courses as they would like.

When can a student elect to change a course to Pass/Fail?

Once the new functionality goes live in SPIRE (anticipated noon on March 30), students can elect the Pass/Fail option through April 29, 2020.

Can choosing Pass/Fail hurt a student’s GPA? How does Pass/Fail work?

As long as the student passes each class, electing Pass/Fail for a course(s) can’t hurt a student’s GPA. If a student receives an F, however, a zero is calculated into the GPA.

At the end of the semester the instructor will turn in the letter grade earned. If the grade is F, it is factored into the GPA. If the student receives a passing grade, an initial computation of the cumulative average will be made. This average will include all graded courses from prior semesters as well as graded courses from the current semester. If the course elected Pass/Fail during the current semester carries a grade higher than the initially computed cumulative average, the reported grade will be recorded and the cumulative average recomputed; otherwise the P or F will be recorded. (A grade of P is not assigned any quality points and does not enter into the computation of the cumulative average; the grade of F is always assigned 0.0 quality points and is used in computing the cumulative average.)

What if a student elects Pass/Fail before April 29 then changes their mind?

A student can revoke the Pass/Fail option in SPIRE. Students have up to six months after graduation to select a letter or pass grade before their University record/transcript is “frozen” and no further changes are allowed.

Can a student elect Pass/Fail for any requirement (e.g. major, college, etc.) or General Education course?

Yes, for the Spring 2020 semester only, General Education or required courses may be elected as Pass/Fail and count toward those requirements.  The restricted usage of Pass/Fail courses for satisfaction of major, School/College, and University requirements including Commonwealth Honors College requirements has been suspended for the Spring 2020 semester.

Will a course taken via another institution through study abroad or domestic exchange be eligible for this Pass/Fail option?

No, only courses offered by UMass or through the Five College Consortium in Spring 2020 are eligible for this Pass/Fail option. The host institution of a study abroad or domestic exchange program set the grading policies for their classes.

Do the adjustments to the Pass-Fail option for Spring 2020 apply to courses through University Without Walls?

Yes, UWW courses are included in the Spring 2020 Pass-Fail option.

Is there someone a student can speak with about choosing the Pass/Fail option?

Students can speak with their instructor or academic advisor about the benefits of choosing Pass/Fail. Additionally, students pursuing a special program, such as pre-med, should speak with that specific advisor. Commonwealth Honors College students should consult their thesis advisor and their department Honors Program Director as they make their plans.

If a student elects Pass/Fail for a course, can they later document the grade they earned, for instance for a graduate school or scholarship application?

Yes, the student may request an official letter from the Registrar’s Office indicating the letter grade that was submitted by the faculty member.

How does the Pass/Fail option affect graduate students?

Graduate School policies that restrict the usage of SAT courses for a Master’s degree will be suspended for the Spring 2020 semester.  Graduate students and undergraduates enrolled in graduate level courses have until the last day of classes (April 29, 2020) to request a SAT in lieu of a letter grade.

How does the Pass/Fail option affect students enrolled in 600+ level courses?

The grading for all 600+ level courses will follow the Graduate School’s grading scale for graduate courses.  Students, graduate and undergraduate, must earn a C or better to receive a passing/SAT grade.  Students, graduate and undergraduate, who earn a C- or below will receive a failing/F letter grade.

How does the Pass/Fail option affect students enrolled in 500 level courses?

Undergraduates enrolled in 500 level courses will be graded following the standard undergraduate letter grade scale, including P/F.

Graduate students enrolled in 500 level courses, will be graded following the standard graduate letter grade scale, including SAT.

Undergraduates who are enrolled in Spring 2020 600+ level courses and receive a grade of SAT may transfer those courses into a UMASS Master’s degree program in the future.

Undergraduates who are enrolled in Spring 2020 500 level courses and receive a grade of  P (Pass) must have an underlying letter grade of C or better in order to transfer the course to a UMASS Master’s degree program.

When deciding whether to opt for the SAT grade this semester, all students and faculty are strongly encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns related to disciplinary-specific accreditation or licensure requirements.  Questions about professional accreditation and licensure should be directed to the appropriate accrediting associations for guidance.