Princeton University is committed to fairness and transparency in assessment of students' work and grading practices. This approach emphasizes well-defined evaluative criteria and meaningful feedback as the most important pedagogical components of the grading system.
The University's grading policy charges each department and program with articulating well-defined and meaningful grading standards for work within its discipline. Faculty, grading in accordance with those standards, shall use grades and substantive feedback to give students clear and detailed information about the quality of their work. The Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing shall periodically review departmental standards to ensure that they are consistent with the University's assessment philosophy and its commitment to the integrity of the grading system.
The grading policy, approved by the faculty at their October 6, 2014 meeting, was informed by the work of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Policies Regarding Assessment and Grading, which delivered its report in August 2014.
From fall term 2004-05 through spring term 2013-14, the University faculty had a common grading expectation for every department and program: A-range grades (A+, A, A-) were to account for less than 35 percent of the grades given in undergraduate courses and less than 55 percent of the grades given in junior and senior independent work. Each department and program determined how best to meet these expectations. In the fall term 2014-15, the faculty removed this numeric target for the percent of A-range grades.
In September 2016 the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing reported on the grading results for AY 2015-16. The grade point average for the University as a whole, in 100-400 level courses across all departments and programs, was 3.422 in AY 15-16. The standard deviation was 0.60. Additional grading data for AY 2015-16 is available here.
Additional information on grading practices, including auditors, incompletes, and A+ or F grades, is found on the website of the Office of the Registrar. Reporting of students in difficulty is also managed at that site.
Grade changes may be requested online by the instructor in charge of the course. Authority for approving a grade change rests solely with the Dean of the College for undergraduate students or the Dean of the Graduate School for graduate students.
In the fall of 2015 the USG Academics Committee met with the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing to discuss the possibility of allowing students to rescind a P/D/F decision. The result of those discussions was the following amendment to the current P/D/F policy:
At the point of declaring a concentration, students may appeal to rescind a P grade received for a single course taken in a previous semester in order to meet a prerequisite or departmental requirement for entry. The transcript will then reflect the letter grade earned in that course. Students wishing to make such an appeal should consult with their residential college director of studies. Students entering a certificate program may also appeal to rescind a grade of P earned in a single prerequisite or required course for that certificate provided that the program requires a letter grade for entry.
What does this mean in practice? The committee recognizes that a student’s academic plans may change over time, and it does not want a student to be prevented from pursuing a course of study simply because a course was taken PDF early in a student’s career. For example, a freshman initially thinking about majoring in molecular biology might take MAT 103 and then decide to PDF the course after changing her mind about majoring in science; however, on discovering a passion for Neuroscience in sophomore year, she realizes that she will need that math class as a prerequisite, and the department will only accept a letter grade. That student may petition her director of studies to rescind the PDF for MAT 103 and thus meet the prerequisites for Neuroscience. The exception is not intended to allow students to rescind a PDF because they have earned a better than expected grade in a course, even if that course is in their department of concentration.
A similar logic applies to students entering certificate programs. The PDF may be rescinded only if a graded version of a course taken earlier is required for entry into the certificate program.