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Grades and Credit

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Grades

The grading system used at the university is shown below.

Letter Grade Point Value Description
A+ 4.3 Excellent to Very Good: comprehensive knowledge and understanding of subject matter; marked perception and/or originality
A 4.0 Excellent to Very Good: comprehensive knowledge and understanding of subject matter; marked perception and/or originality
A- 3.7 Excellent to Very Good: comprehensive knowledge and understanding of subject matter; marked perception and/or originality
B+ 3.3 Good: moderately broad knowledge and understanding of subject matter; noticeable perception and/or originality
B 3.0 Good: moderately broad knowledge and understanding of subject matter; noticeable perception and/or originality
B- 2.7 Good: moderately broad knowledge and understanding of subject matter; noticeable perception and/or originality
C+ 2.3 Satisfactory: reasonable knowledge and understanding of subject matter; some perception and/or originality.
C 2.0 Satisfactory: reasonable knowledge and understanding of subject matter; some perception and/or originality.
C- 1.7 Satisfactory: reasonable knowledge and understanding of subject matter; some perception and/or originality.
D+ 1.3 Marginal: minimum knowledge and understanding of subject matter; limited perception and/or originality.
D 1.0 Marginal: minimum knowledge and understanding of subject matter; limited perception and/or originality.
D- 0.7 Marginal: minimum knowledge and understanding of subject matter; limited perception and/or originality.
F 0.0 Failing: unacceptably low knowledge and understanding of subject matter; severely limited perception and/or originality.
S - "Satisfactory" equivalent to C–or above
U - "Unsatisfactory" equivalent to below C–
 

 Symbols Used in Lieu of Grades

INC The student has substantial passing-level equity in the course but is unable to complete it because of circumstances beyond their control.
R (Registered) This grade substitute is given after the first semester of a full-year course that does not require a grade until the end.
W(Withdrew) The student withdrew from the course (with college permission) after the seventh week (or beyond three-fifths of the duration of shorter courses).


S/U Grading Option

In some courses students have the option of receiving a grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory (S or U) instead of a letter grade. Students may pre-register for such a course under the S/U option or change the grading option during the first seven weeks of the semester. Changing a grade option is accomplished by completing the “Changes to Grade Option or Credit Hours” section of an add/drop form; this requires permission of the student’s faculty advisor and the course instructor or departmental representative. A grade of S is equivalent to a letter grade of A+ through C– U is equivalent to a grade of D+ or less.)

Important: After the seventh week of classes, the grading option may not be changed, nor will students be permitted to add a course in which they were previously enrolled (in the current semester) under a different grade option.

Engineering students may choose to receive an S/U grade option under the following conditions:

  • The course is offered with an S/U option.
  • The student has completed at least one full semester of study at Cornell. First-year students may not take any courses on an S/U basis during their first semester except for courses that are graded “S/U Only”.
  • The S/U course must be used as either a liberal-studies distribution or an Advisor approved elective in the Engineering curriculum.
  • Students may enroll S/U in only one (1) course each semester in which the choice between letter grade and S/U is an option. (Additional courses offered “S/U only” may be taken in the same semester as the “elected S/U” course.)

Note: S/U courses do not count toward eligibility for the Dean’s List and may weaken chances for acceptance into graduate school. Address questions regarding the S/U option to Engineering Advising.

Incomplete Grades

There are many legitimate reasons for delaying completion of a course beyond the time allotted. An extended illness or serious injury, for example, might make it impossible to finish by the end of the semester. In such situations, it is desirable to receive a temporary grade of incomplete and finish the course work at a later time.

To receive an incomplete, students must:

  • Have an extenuating reason that prevents them from completing the course in the time allotted; and
  • Have passing equity in the course at the time of the request. (This is generally defined as completion of at least half the course work at a passing level.)

Incomplete grades are granted at the discretion of the course instructor. If you think an incomplete is appropriate, discuss it with the instructor, making sure to arrange specific conditions under which the missing work is to be completed and set a deadline for submission. Generally, deadlines are one-year, but instructors may require shorter deadlines, and may, at their own discretion, extend a deadline. Having this “contract” in writing is desirable.

Evidence of an incomplete remains permanently on the transcript. When the course has been completed, a grade is entered with an asterisk, indicating that it was not completed during the regular semester. Once an engineering student has graduated, any remaining incompletes are permanently frozen on the transcript, and no additional coursework can be completed.

Students should weigh the cost of taking an incomplete against the reasons for doing so. It may be helpful to discuss the matter with a faculty advisor or a staff member in Engineering Advising.

Advanced Placement and Transfer Credit

Many students come to Cornell with advanced placement credit for courses taken in high school or with courses taken at an accredited college that are similar to courses offered here. Students who think they are already competent in the subject matter of a course offered at the introductory level can demonstrate their proficiency and receive credit for the course without actually taking it.

There is a difference between advanced placement credit and transfer credit. Advanced placement credit is awarded when a student shows competence in a subject by doing well on an approved exam. Transfer credit is awarded for a course that has been satisfactorily completed at another college and that has not been used to meet high school graduation requirements.

The only courses for which students may obtain advanced placement or transfer credit are those that fit degree requirements in the undergraduate engineering program. The College of Engineering decides whether credit should be awarded for particular courses, and in all cases this decision is final.

Advanced Placement Credit

Students may become eligible for advanced placement credit in four ways:

  • By taking a College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) examination,
  • By successfully completing a General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced (A-Level) examination,
  • By successfully completing an International Baccalaureate (IB) Higher Level examination, or
  • By taking a departmental Cornell Advanced Standing Exam (CASE), given during Orientation Week prior to the beginning of the fall term.

If a student’s performance on one of these exams is satisfactory, college credit will be offered.

Advanced placement credit need not be accepted. Choosing to accept credit will depend, in part, on whether a course is a technical course that will be a prerequisite for other courses in a student’s academic program. If it is not a technical prerequisite, there is no reason not to accept it. If it is a technical prerequisite, students should make certain that they are really prepared to take the next course in the sequence.

Departmental examinations test technical preparedness, and in this sense, they are better than CEEB AP exams, which may not test for what Cornell expects a student to know. The departmental exam is designed to test the depth of knowledge in the entire range of material customarily covered in a particular course offered at Cornell. Satisfactory performance on such an exam indicates that students already know what they would have learned if they had taken the Cornell course. Satisfactory performance on the CEEB AP exam is not as good an indication that a student knows the entire range of material. When in doubt, students should feel free to take a departmental exam, even if they have already passed the CEEB AP exam.

Since the amount of advanced placement or transfer credit awarded can affect the degree of difficulty of the first year and subsequent success as an engineering student, students should consider the options carefully, seeking advice from their faculty advisors during Orientation Week and talking with the undergraduate coordinator (see pages 10–1) for the primary Major of interest. The first year at Cornell is crucial to the development of an undergraduate program; wise use of advanced placement and transfer credit can make a positive difference.

Acceptable Subjects and Scores

A table showing the most common subjects for which advanced placement credit is awarded in the College of Engineering, and the scores needed on qualifying tests, follows. In mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science, advanced placement credit is awarded only for courses required in the engineering curriculum. (The College of Engineering does not award advanced placement credit for statistics.)

Modern Languages

Students can earn advanced placement credit for competence in a foreign language by taking the CEEB AP test or by taking the Cornell Advanced Standing Examination (CASE). Those with a score of 4 or 5 on the CEEB AP test in French, German, Italian, or Spanish will be awarded 3 credits. Qualification for the CASE (in any language) requires at least a 65 on a college placement test (taken either in high school or at Cornell during Orientation Week). Students achieving a passing score on the CASE will be awarded 3 credits. Modern language credits, earned via AP or CASE, may be used to satisfy part of the liberal studies distribution requirement (in the foreign language category) or the approved elective requirement, contingent on discussion with the faculty advisor.

Other Subjects

Advanced placement credit is granted for many subjects not discussed here. If guidelines for a subject area are not spelled out below, the College of Engineering follows the AP guidelines found in the “General Information” section of Courses of Study or online at http://courses.cornell.edu/content.php?catoid=12&navoid=2158#CEEB_AP_Exams

General Policies for Advanced Placement Credit

The general policies in the College of Engineering governing awards of advanced placement credit are as follows.

  1. Advanced placement credit will not be offered in any subject area without a documented examination.
  2. All advanced placement examinations are normally taken and scored before fallterm classes begin. Students who take CEEB AP tests in high school should have an official report of their scores sent directly to Cornell as soon as possible. Students who have completed either GCE A-level or IB Higher Level examinations must present the original or a certified copy of their examination certificate to Engineering Advising, 167 Olin Hall. Those who wish to take departmental examinations must do so during Orientation Week.