Undergraduate students now have the option to have their classes graded on a pass/no pass scale. | Credit: Lantern file photo

The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted a number of changes to the academic lives of students at Ohio State, and among those changes is the option for students to be graded on a pass/no pass scale.

Approved by University Senate March 26, the option applies to general education and elective courses. However, selecting pass/no pass requires consideration by each student depending on their situation.

Most colleges, including the College of Arts and Sciences and the Fisher College of Business, allow pass/no pass options for major and minor undergraduate courses as well, according to previous Lantern reporting. Some graduate programs also allow the option for some courses. 

“The main benefit of expanding the PA/NP option this semester is that it gives students additional control over their academic lives at a time of considerable disruption and uncertainty,” David Horn, associate executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said in an email.

According to a March 26 university announcement, any grade higher than a D grade and higher will be marked as “pass,” and any grade below a D will be “no pass.” Any pass/no pass grade will not count toward students’ final GPA calculation. 

Though selecting the option might offer relief in some situations, students should consider whether pass/no pass will help or hurt them, Beth Hume, dean of undergraduate education and vice provost in the Office of Student Academic Success, said in an email. 

“The key for all students is talk to an academic advisor if they are interested in being graded on a Pass/No Pass scale,” Hume said. “The rules for Pass/No Pass vary by program and by type of student (undergraduate, graduate or professional), so it’s essential that students understand how this option would apply to their circumstances.”

Students who are already succeeding in a course might not want to use the pass/no pass option, Horn said.

“For students who think they are likely to do well in a course, or who want or need to increase their GPA (because of academic probation, terms of a scholarship, or eligibility for honors), it may not be advisable to choose the PA/NP option,” Horn said.

Sam Block, a fourth-year in communication, said he decided to not use the option, so he could make the dean’s list. According to an email from his adviser, students who use the pass/no pass option for any of their classes will not be eligible for the dean’s list.

“One of my goals when I first got to college was to be on the dean’s list for every semester, and so far I’ve done that, so I definitely don’t want to ruin that for my last semester,” Block said. “My grades wouldn’t hurt me if I kept them, so I decided to keep them for that reason.”

Grace Elam, a fourth-year in marketing, decided to use the option for her online advanced business Spanish class.

“I think that taking Spanish online is really hard for me personally, and that’s why I’m doing the pass/fail,” Elam said. “I decided that since I’m a graduating senior and I already have a job and everything, that boosting my GPA wasn’t something I was worried about.”

Though Elam’s course is the last course needed to complete her Spanish minor before she graduates, other students should exercise caution when applying the pass/no pass option to prerequisite courses because certain programs might set the “pass” mark at higher than a D, Hume said. 

The deadline to request pass/no pass grading is April 17. Students should consult with their adviser if interested and can officially request to have their classes graded pass/no pass here. Once a course has been switched to pass/no pass, it cannot be changed to a letter grade, according to the form.