Graduate Policies & Procedures


Grades at MIT are not rigidly related to any numerical scores or distribution functions, that is, grades are not awarded solely according to predetermined percentages. As can be seen from the following grade descriptions, a student’s grade in a subject is related more directly to the student’s mastery of the material than to the relative performance of his or her peers. In determining a student’s grade, consideration is given for elegance of presentation, creativity, imagination, and originality, where these may appropriately be called for.

Note that the MIT internal grading system includes plus (+) and minus (-) modifiers for use with the letter grades A, B, and C for all academic subjects (except advanced standing exams). These modifiers are included on internal grade reports. However, they are not officially part of student’s grades, they do not appear on MIT transcripts, and they do not affect internally or externally reported grade-point averages.

Passing grades: Graduate students who satisfactorily complete the work of a subject by the end of the term receive one of the following grades. Note that in most departments and graduate programs, grades below B are normally considered to be unacceptable as a measure of progress towards degree objectives.

A: Exceptionally good performance demonstrating a superior understanding of the subject matter, a foundation of extensive knowledge, and a skillful use of concepts and/or materials.

B: Good performance demonstrating capacity to use the appropriate concepts, a good understanding of the subject matter, and an ability to handle the problems and materials encountered in the subject.

C: Minimally acceptable performance for graduate work, demonstrating partial familiarity with the subject matter and some capacity to deal with relatively simple problems, but also demonstrating deficiencies serious enough to make it inadvisable to proceed further in the field without additional work.

P: When the use of the passing grade P is authorized, it reflects performance at the level A, B, or C, with the student graded on a P/D/F basis.

Non-passing grades: The grades and notations used for subjects not passed or not completed by the end of the term are as follows.

F: Failed. This grade also signifies that the student must repeat the subject to receive credit.

O: Absent. This grade indicates that the student was progressing satisfactorily during the term but was absent from the final examination, did not turn in the final paper or project, and/or was absent during the last two weeks of the term. Like an F grade, an O grade carries no credit for the subject, but the O grade can be converted to a grade of OX (see below). Unsatisfactory performance because of absence throughout the term should be recorded as F.

OX: Absence satisfactorily explained to and excused by the Dean for Graduate Education. The process to change O to OX requires a graduate student petition and confirmation from an appropriate provider at MIT Medical verifying that the student’s condition warrants the change. The student and the department academic administrator will be notified when an O is changed to an OX. An OX carries no credit for the subject. However, the faculty member in charge must provide the student the opportunity to receive a credit-carrying grade. This may be done with or without the instructor requiring a make-up final examination or other additional evaluation procedure. The work is to be completed before Add Date of the succeeding term of the regular academic year; however, the faculty member in charge, in negotiation with the student, has the right to set an earlier or later date for pedagogical reasons or extenuating circumstances.

I: Incomplete. The grade I indicates that a minor part (less than one-fifth) of the subject requirements has not been fulfilled and that a passing grade is expected when the work is completed. The work is to be completed before Add Date of the succeeding term of the regular academic year; however, the faculty member in charge, in negotiation with the student, has the right to set an earlier or later date for pedagogical reasons or extenuating circumstances. The grade I for the term remains permanently on the student’s record even when the subject is completed. A typical example of a “minor portion of the work required” might be a paper or a laboratory report.

If the work is not completed, the grade I will not be converted to any other grade. The student can petition the departmental graduate officer and the Dean for Graduate Education for an extension of the deadline. Such a petition is approved only under extenuating circumstances. When completion of the subject requires facilities that are normally but not continuously available, the work must be completed in the earliest term in which the facilities are available. Grades for completion of incompletes are not usually recorded for individuals who are no longer registered, though students receiving degrees have three months to complete an incomplete received in their final term.

J: A notation assigned by the instructor for thesis work that has progressed satisfactorily, but has not been completed. The grade given upon completion of the work in a later term also covers this term. The grade assigned on the completion of a master’s or engineer’s degree thesis of at least 24 units is given a weight of 24 units in the cumulative rating. The J grade may also be used for satisfactory completion of work in the first term of a subject that is to be continued into the following term. The use of the J grade for such subjects requires prior approval by the Committee on Graduate Programs.

T: Temporary notation. The grade T is used for subjects that cover the equivalent of one term’s work, but are scheduled over parts of two normal grading periods. Prior approval must have been obtained from the Committee on Graduate Programs for graduate subjects. This notation is recorded only on the student’s internal record. A permanent grade must be assigned when the subject is finished.

U: A notation for thesis work that has not been completed and in which progress has been unsatisfactory. Grade given upon completion of the work in a later term also covers this term. Unless a student’s progress improves significantly, the student may expect that grade to be failing. Such performance may lead to a dean’s warning or, if not corrected, denial of permission to continue.

Other notations: The following notations are also used on the academic record.

S: Notation for credit awarded for work done elsewhere.

SA: Notation for satisfactorily completed doctoral thesis. Doctoral theses are not graded.

DR: A notation to be used only on the student’s internal record for a subject dropped after the fifth week of the regular term.