P/NP course grading policy for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021
Updated November 30, 2020
On Monday, Nov. 30, the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate voted to approve two motions that will temporarily lift restrictions on grading policies for College of Engineering undergraduates. This decision was informed by a prior vote of the College of Engineering faculty. As a result, all technical courses taken to fulfill major requirements, as well as courses taken to fulfill the Reading and Composition requirements, that are completed at UC Berkeley during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters may be graded on a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) basis.
Please see below for grading option and late drop deadlines, important related policies that limit the use of P/NP, and our recommendations about using the P/NP grading option.
At this time, the implications of P/NP grading for success in future courses, graduate/professional school admissions, internship/job applications, etc. are not known, and so Engineering Student Services (ESS) advisers cannot provide additional guidance on these matters. Students are urged to carefully consider any changes they make concerning the election of P/NP options due to this uncertainty.
Additionally, we do not yet know how P/NP will affect other policies, such as criteria for change of major, adding a double major or simultaneous degree, Dean’s Honors, or academic status. ESS expects to have more information about these related policies by Thursday, Dec. 3; updates will be posted on the ESS COVID-19 updates page.
Fall 2020 deadlines
- Students may change grading options in CalCentral until Thursday, Dec. 3, 11:59 p.m. PST.
- The deadline to submit a late drop petition is Friday, Dec. 4, 11:59 p.m. PST.
- These are final deadlines, and late or retroactive requests will not be considered.
Advice for choosing grading option
The pandemic and remote instruction have greatly upended the plans and lives of our students. Some students have said that it is simply impossible to learn the same amount in these semesters as they could have learned in a regular semester. For many students, hopes and dreams for this semester have been dashed, and the faculty join students in mourning this sad truth and we offer condolences to everyone whose future plans have been changed as a result of this global pandemic.
Human lives depend on the work of engineering teams. COE faculty believe it is best for our students to join these teams as content experts. We encourage students to achieve mastery. It is better to learn a few things very well instead of many things poorly. Students are encouraged to carefully consider the course load that they can realistically handle. We suggest reducing course loads and enrolled units to a level commensurate with ability to successfully learn the material — despite the pandemic and remote instruction.
We acknowledge that facing this reality can feel very unfair when the reduced ability to successfully learn the material is not the fault of our students. For some students, the right choice may be to P/NP certain courses so that mastery can be achieved in other courses in the few weeks that remain in the Fall 2020 semester.
For the Spring 2021 semester, however, we strongly urge students to enroll in a course load that can be realistically handled, this will vary from student to student depending on their personal circumstances. Aim to master the material — engineers will need to understand content later in their professional careers. The possibility of P/NP in Spring exists to provide a safety net — students should only use it in response to unexpected events in case they need to offload the pressure to succeed. P/NP is not intended to enable students to carry heavier course loads, for example, or to add a double major.
We understand that these are hard choices. It is important for students to know that there are many risks involved in choosing P/NP for courses, and many of those risks are of an uncertain nature. We encourage students to keep their focus first and foremost on the learning side: In engineering fields that are constantly evolving, students likely do not know which courses are actually going to end up being important for them. A C- level of understanding might not be enough to even pass a subsequent course, much less excel in it. These subsequent courses cannot support students’ attempts to learn two courses’ worth of material at once — it might even be impossible. Here, we strongly encourage students to seek guidance from their faculty advisers and the instructors in courses for which students are considering P/NP. The faculty can tell students whether there are course pathways by which they can make up the gaps in their understanding, as well as whether there are parts of the discipline that students might be inadvertently foreclosing as a result of gaps. Because this kind of advice requires a mature and deep understanding of the intellectual disciplines themselves, neither ESS nor peers are likely to be able to adequately advise students here. Students should ask the faculty.
Although less important than learning, we need to note that there might be career consequences of Ps on students’ transcripts. We cannot be certain, but this could have a negative impact on acquiring internships, getting a permanent job, joining research groups or REU programs, joining course staffs, admissions to graduate/professional schools, etc. A P grade in Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 could be interpreted as a C- since people know that optional P/NPs are likely to be taken by students who aren’t keeping up with the course material well. For example, a student’s transcript could end up looking worse to others if there are Ps instead of Bs. The impacts here will only become clearer in the future, when it will be too late to actually act on that clarity. This is unfortunate, and we encourage students to ask their faculty adviser for guidance if they have questions.
Important policies related to P/NP
- Students on academic probation (“subject to dismissal” status) are not eligible to take courses P/NP, unless the course is only offered on a P/NP basis.
- Students cannot change grading options for courses in which they have a student conduct case pending or verified.
College Writing R1A
- College Writing R1A must still be taken for a letter grade and must be completed with a C or better to satisfy the UC Entry Level Writing requirement.
Minimum GPA Requirements for Graduation
- An overall 2.0 UC GPA is required for graduation.
- A 2.0 UC upper-division technical GPA is required for graduation.
Honors at Graduation
- One criteria for students to achieve honors in general scholarship at graduation is to complete at least 43 UC letter graded units.
One-third Units P Grade Limit
- The one-third units P grade limit remains unchanged.
- Note that P grades from Spring 2020 do not count toward this limit, but P grades earned Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 will count toward this limit.
Repetition of Courses
- Students repeating courses in which they originally received a grade of D+, D, D- or F must repeat the course for a letter grade.
Satisfaction of Requirements
- The issuance of a P grade signifies that the student has passed the class at minimum C- level work. In most cases, a grade of D+, D or D- is sufficient to fulfill a requirement, however, under P/NP would result in an NP, which is not sufficient to fulfill any requirements.