Monday, March 25, 2024

I know what A-B-C-D-F mean but what about V? X? HP?

 I am looking at LOTS of transcript of students who applied for my program REU-CAAR so I sometimes come across grades that I don't understand. The transcript does not have a guide to them, and I have been unable to find the meaning on line.

Normal grades of A,B,C,D,F possibly with + or - I DO understand, as do you, though standards differ from school to school.

UMCP also has 

P for Pass in a course the student chose to take Pass-Fail

W for withdrawing from a course

WW which will be on all courses in a semester- so the student dropped out that semester 

XF means failed because you cheated. I suspect people outside of UMCP would not know that, though the `F' part looks bad. 

NG seems to mean they placed out of the course somehow. Might stand for No Grade. 

I've seen

V at Georgia Tech. Lance told me that means the student audited the course. 

Q at University of  Texas at Austin.I do not know that means. 

X at Depauw. I do not know what that means.

HP at Harvey Mudd. I do not know what that means.

WV at Harvey Mudd. I suspect some kind of withdrawal but I don't know. 

SX at Cornell. I do not know what that means.

E is used at some schools for FAIL and at other schools for EXCELLENT

Some schools in India use O for Outstanding- higher than an A. 

Fortunately it is rare that I NEED to know a grade that has a letter I don't understand the meaning of. However, another problem is names of courses. 

Analysis could mean Calculus with or without proofs, one or many variables. 

Discrete Math could mean an easy course on how to proof simple thing or a hard course in combinatorics. Often I can tell if its a Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, or Senior course so that may help tell what it is. 

Foundations could mean... a lot of things. 

So what can be done? The only thing I can think of is to have schools include a legend on their transcripts that tells what each grade means. Why hasn't this already been done? Speculation

a) Harder than it seems to do.

b) Not really an important problem (this blog is the only time I've every seen it mentioned)

There may be some tradeoff between how easy something is to do and how important a problem is to solve in order to take action. And this problem does not reach that threshold.

This would seem to be a problem for admissions to grad school as well, yet I have not heard of people complaining about it there either.


  1. UT Austin had a letter for when you took an incomplete and then a semester later still hadn’t finished. I think that’s what Q is.

  2. According to Google:

    University of Texas at Austin: A One-Time Exception is a Q-drop or withdrawal after the regular deadline.

    Depauw: An X indicates that a course has been taken for audit.

    Harvey Mudd: High Pass (HP): Superior performance and mastery of course material. Credit awarded. “WV” is supposed to only be listed within the registrar’s internal records, and not appear at all on the student’s transcripts. It means they took an exam to waive having to take a course but did not get credit by exam.

    Cornell: A few courses in the college are graded exclusively S/U; in that case, the final grade appears on the transcript as SX or UX.

  3. I can at least help in the case of Harvey Mudd:

    HP - Stands for "High Pass." This designation is for "superior performance and mastery of course material" during the first semester, where no letter grades are awarded.

    WV - Short for "waived." For cases where a student places out of a course by exam for the purposes of satisfying prerequisites and major requirements, but does not receive any credits. See:

    Looking at my own portal, it seems Harvey Mudd automatically includes such a legend on "official" but not "unofficial" ones. I'm not sure what the reasoning is there (or if it is even a conscious choice).

  4. I'm not sure even a legend might be meaningful...

    In the Netherlands grades are on a 1-10 scale. For translating between US-NL grades a typical legend would be:
    A = 9-10
    B = 8
    C = 7
    D = 6
    F = 5 or below

    But we don't have the "straight A" mentality I've seen with American students. An 8 is often seen as a quite good grade (and an 8 average is grounds for graduating cum laude) and I rarely give 9's and extremely rarely 10's.

    As a student I once overheard a discussion between an American exchange student and my professor during the lunch break. The student was complaining about his "low" grades and the professor was like "what are you complaining about?!? you're getting 7's and 8's, you're one of my best students!"

  5. Transcripts normally contain a legend where they explain what all the codes mean. Did you look at all the pages of the transcripts?