Effective for the 2021-2022 academic year, the college is replacing its Flexible Grading Option (FGO) policy with a revised pass-fail grading option, and is transitioning from a 14-point grading system to a standard four-point grading scale. The change follows a pair of faculty votes in late spring that overwhelmingly approved the proposals.
Under the new grading policy, students can declare their intent to take a course pass-fail by the first day of the exam period, with permission from their advisor(s), after which they will receive a “P” for a passing grade (i.e. a “D” or higher) or an “F” for a failing grade. Students who enter the college as first-years will be able to use the pass-fail option four times throughout their college career, but can only use it for at most one course per semester.
The change in grading scale is, for the most part, administrative and practically negligible in practice, but it notably removes the grade point distinction between an “A” and an “A+.” Whereas an “A” and an “A+” would correspond to grade points of 13 and 14 respectively on the old grading scale, they now both correspond to a 4.0 on the new grading scale.
These modifications mark a departure from the expanded FGO policy that was implemented at the start of the pandemic, which built on the FGO policy adopted at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. That policy allowed students to opt for a pass (“P”) for a designated FGO course after grades were posted, with additional usage of the FGO being permitted for the last three semesters due to the pandemic.
Faculty members who supported the changes voiced a number of arguments in their favor. For the transition to a pass-fail grading system, faculty members cited the simpler process it offered compared to the “confusing” process that the FGO entailed, as well as the increased difficulty of exploiting the system under the new policy.
For the change in grading scale, proponents noted the irregularity of Amherst’s 14-point grading system compared to other colleges and universities, most of which use a four-point grading system, as well as the uneven usage of the “A+” grade between different departments and professors.