Grades, Degrees & Credits
This section of our site describes the UW's policies around grades, degrees, credits and standards of scholarship. It also includes a description of the University's satisfactory progress policy.
The UW uses a numerical grading system. D- is the lowest passing grade. An E represents academic failure, with no credit earned.
There are two pass/fail systems at the UW: Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory (S/NS) and Credit/No Credit (CR/NC).
S/NS is an optional pass/fail way to take a UW course. When you take a course S/NS, your grade is converted to an S if you receive at least a 2.0, or an NS if your grade is below 2.0. If you receive an NS, you don’t earn credit for the course. Neither an S nor an NS grade affects your grade-point average. You can change a course to or from S/NS through the seventh week of the quarter. You aren’t allowed to change after the seventh week.The big drawback to S/NS is that courses taken S/NS can’t count toward any requirement. S/NS courses can’t be used to satisfy the requirements of a major, or count toward Areas of Knowledge, etc. S/NS courses count only as electives toward the 180 credits required to graduate. You may count a maximum of 25 S credits toward your degree.
Use caution when considering the S/NS option. There may be other ramifications for you depending on your particular situation. Consult an academic adviser to discuss whether or not S/NS is in your best interest.
CR/NC is a pass/fail option selected by the department or by the professor offering the course. Usually in a CR/NC course no grades are issued, and all work is graded either CR or NC. If you earn a CR you receive credit for the course; if you receive a NC you don’t receive any credit. Neither the CR nor the NC grade affects your GPA. Unlike S/NS, CR/NC courses may count toward requirements just like graded courses.
A grade of “X” is recorded if no grade is submitted by the instructor. Usually, X grades just mean that the instructor is late submitting grades for the entire class. Occasionally, an instructor will submit an X grade when s/he wishes to postpone submitting the grade for some reason. If you receive an X grade, you should check with the instructor.
Incompletes (I grades)
If you’re unable to complete the work required in a course before the end of the quarter, you can request an Incomplete from the instructor. You must not expect an instructor to submit an Incomplete automatically; usually, an Incomplete is submitted only if you and the instructor have talked and agreed on how you’ll make up the missing work. The instructor is not required to grant an Incomplete. Generally, an Incomplete is appropriate only if you have a small amount of work to make up. It’s not a good option if you are doing poorly overall in the course, or have fallen behind in the work required, and most instructors won’t grant an Incomplete in such situations.
At the time the Incomplete is granted, you and the instructor agree how the missing work will be made up, and usually agree on a deadline. You should never register for the course again to make up an Incomplete. If you do so, the grade you earn is posted for your second registration in the course, and can’t be used to remove the Incomplete in your first registration.
The expectation is that you will have the missing work completed within a few weeks. If the instructor doesn’t submit a grade by the end of the next quarter, and doesn’t submit a request to extend the Incomplete, the I automatically converts to a 0.0 grade.
If the instructor agrees, you can have up to a year to complete the work required; if a 0.0 has already been posted, it will be erased and the grade the instructor submits will be posted. You can’t make up an Incomplete if more than a year has passed since the end of the quarter in which it was granted; if you don’t make up the work, you’ll receive a grade of 0.0 for the course.
You can see your grades and print a copy of your unofficial transcript from MyUW.
Calculating your grade point average
You earn grade points for each graded course completed. Grade points are calculated by multiplying the number of credits by the grade earned. For example, 5 credits x 3.4 grade = 17.0 grade points. This system allows a course with more credits to count more in your GPA than a course with fewer credits. A grade in a 5-credit course, for example, adds more grade points to your total than the same grade in a 2-credit course. 5 credits x 3.4 grade = 17.0 grade points; 2 credits x 3.4 grade = 6.8 grade points.
The grade point average is calculated by dividing the total grade points by the number of credits attempted: 36.6 grade points ÷ 15 credits = 2.44 GPA.
Your UW GPA includes only UW courses. Your grades in transferred courses, however, are still important! Many majors at the UW have competitive admission, and admission to all graduate and professional schools is competitive. Any program with competitive admission will consider your grades in all college courses, including transfer courses, Running Start courses, and any college courses taken while you were in high school.
A UW student is allowed to repeat a course once, with departmental permission. When you repeat a course, the course is recorded again on your transcript with the grade earned. The second grade doesn’t replace the first grade, nor are the two grades averaged together. Both grades remain on your transcript, and both are calculated into your GPA. You don’t earn credit for taking the course a second time unless the first grade was 0.0.
If you are allowed to repeat a course again (you need special permission to register for a course a third time), the grade earned is posted on your transcript but the grade isn’t calculated into your GPA.
The UW only accepts AP scores sent directly from the College Board. You can order AP scores from the College Board website.
Credit and placement awards for the most common AP exams can be found on the UW Office of Admissions website (search for “Advanced Placement Policies”).
The UW transfers credit awarded by another college for College Board AP scores of 3 or higher, even if the UW wouldn’t have granted credit for the score. All such credit transfers as UW 9XX. In addition to an official transcript showing the credit awarded by the other college, you must submit an official copy of the AP score.
There are a number of restrictions on how this credit transfers, the total amount that can count toward a degree, and on how the credit may count toward requirements. If you have questions, consult an academic adviser.
International Baccalaureate (IB)
The UW awards credit for IB scores of 5, 6, or 7 in many Higher Level exams. The credit and placement awards for IB exams can be found on the Admissions website.
You are awarded a credit for each course you complete with a passing grade. 1 credit = 1 hour in class + 2 hours study per week. Most UW courses are 5 credits each, so: 5 credits = 5 hours in class + 10 hours study per week. Of course, the actual study time each course requires will vary. Some courses require more than 10 hours of study each week. Other courses require more time in class and somewhat less study time. A 3-credit laboratory course, for example, might require 6 hours/week in class and only a few hours/week outside of class.
Credits per quarter
15 credits = 15 hours in class + 30 hours study per week. If you complete 15 credits a quarter, and complete three quarters each year (autumn, winter, and spring), in four years you will have 180 credits, the minimum number required for graduation. 15 credits a quarter x 3 quarters a year x 4 years = 180 credits.
15 credits is just an average. There’ll be quarters when you take fewer credits and quarters when you take more. You might also choose to take summer courses. Most full-time students take between 12 and 18 credits each quarter.
Typical class schedules
Here are a few examples of typical freshman class schedules:
ENGL 131 Expos. Writing 5
MATH 120 Precalculus 5
GEOG 100 Geography 5
GENST 199 Univ. Community 2
ART H 201 Western Art 5
SOC 110 Sociology 5
OCEAN 101 Oceanography 5
CHEM 142 General Chemistry 5
MATH 124 Calculus 5
GENST 199 Univ. Community 2
POL S 201 Political Theory 5
PHIL 115 Pract.Reasoning 5
ARCH 150 Architecture 3
GENST 197 Freshman Seminar 1
A big difference between college and high school is that in college you’ll spend much less time in class and much more time studying on your own. You’ll probably find that you have much more homework in college than you are accustomed to. Most college freshmen—and many transfer students—find that they need to work on improving their study habits and time management skills.
Your class standing—freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior—is determined not by the number of years you have been in college, but instead by the number of credits you have completed.
0–44 credits freshman
45–89 credits sophomore
90–134 credits junior
135+ credits senior
Your class standing is used to determine your registration priority. Seniors register first, then juniors, then sophomores, then freshmen. For registration, we determine your class standing by your credits completed plus your current credits in progress. If, for example, you have 30 credits completed and are currently taking 15 credits, you’ll register for the next quarter on the sophomore registration days, and you’ll have access to any courses that are restricted to “sophomores and above.”
Any courses you transfer from other colleges will be evaluated and, whenever possible, translated into the equivalent UW courses. Some courses may not transfer, however. The courses are listed on a transfer evaluation, which is kept in your advising file. Your Unofficial Transcript, available in MyUW, includes your transfer evaluation. (An official transcript will include only your UW courses.) The Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS), available through both the MyUW and MyPlan websites, will tell you how your transferred credits count toward UW requirements; if you have questions about the transfer evaluation, discuss it with an adviser.
Semester credits are multiplied by 1½ to convert them to quarter credits.
3 semester credits = 4½ quarter credits
4 semester credits = 6 quarter credits
Many UW students spend a quarter or more at another college and then transfer the credits to the UW. You might, for example, attend a community college close to home during the summer. You can plan ahead by consulting the Transfer Equivalencies list on the UW Admissions website. There is a section for each Washington community and technical college, listing their courses and the UW equivalents, and indicating how each community college course will count toward UW requirements.
Contesting a grade
First discuss the matter with the instructor before the end of the following academic quarter. If you are unsatisfied with the instructor’s explanation, the next step is to submit a written appeal to the chair or dean of the department (within ten days after meeting with the instructor). Send a copy of your appeal to the instructor as well.
Within ten calendar days, the chair or dean will consult with the instructor. Should the chair or dean believe the instructor’s conduct to be arbitrary or capricious and the instructor declines to revise the grade, the chair or dean, with the approval of the voting members of his or her faculty, will appoint an appropriate member, or members, of the faculty of that department to evaluate your performance in the course and assign a grade.
Bachelor’s degrees (B.A., B.S., etc.)
Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees, also called baccalaureate degrees, are granted by four-year colleges and universities. They represent at least four years of full-time academic work (an academic associate degree may satisfy up to two of these four years). Your major is only one part of your degree, though often the two terms are used interchangeably. Your degree type, however, is determined by your major.
The Bachelor of Arts degree (B.A.) is the most widely offered. It is usually earned by extensive study within, and a major through, the College of Arts and Sciences, though other Colleges offer the B.A. as well. The Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) is more focused on the research methods of the natural sciences than the B.A. It is intended to prepare students for graduate-level work in a specific discipline. As such, the B.S. tends to include more classes in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Physics than the B.A. The B.S. is offered through a number of programs in the College of Engineering, the College of the Environment, the School of Public Health, and others. The B.S. can also be earned in the College of Arts and Sciences, though with fewer choices of major. Beyond the B.A. and the B.S., the UW offers Bachelors of Arts in Business Administration, Design, Fine Arts, and Music.
Some UW majors offer different options within the major. In some departments all students are in one option or another; in other departments the options are, well, optional. For example, all students majoring in Scandinavian Studies are in one of five options: Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Scandinavian Area Studies, or Swedish. Students majoring in Political Science, on the other hand, can choose whether or not they want to complete the political economy option, the international security option, or no option. Options, if completed, are posted on your transcript along with the name of your major.
Master’s degrees (M.A., M.S.W, etc.)
Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees usually represent one or two years of postgraduate education. To be eligible to enter a Master’s degree program, you must first earn a Bachelor’s degree.
An academic master’s degree program consists of one year of advanced coursework and one or more years of research, culminating in a lengthy paper called a thesis.
A professional master’s degree program consists of advanced coursework oriented toward a particular profession, such as public health or social work. Students from a wide range of majors are eligible to apply. Professional masters’ programs usually do not require original research and a thesis.
Professional degrees (M.D., M.I.T., etc.)
Professional degree programs prepare students for professions such as medicine, dentistry, teaching and law, and (at other universities) podiatry, optometry, and veterinary medicine. In most cases, prior completion of a bachelor’s degree is required. Examples of degrees:
- M.D. (Doctor of Medicine)
- D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery)
- Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy)
- J.D. (Juris Doctor–law)
- D.V.M. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine)
- M.I.T. (Master in Teaching)
Doctoral degrees (Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.)
The Doctor of Philosophy degree represents from three to ten or more years of postgraduate education. Some doctoral programs require students to first complete a Master’s degree; some don’t. In a doctoral program, you’ll complete a research project of several years’ duration that makes a significant contribution to your field. The lengthy paper in which the research project is reported is called a dissertation or a thesis. The Ph.D. prepares you to teach at the university level and engage in continuing, independent research.
Certificates are awarded by some colleges at the completion of special programs. At community colleges, certificates are awarded at the end of vocational programs that are significantly shorter than a typical associate degree.
UW Professional & Continuing Education offers a number of evening and weekend programs, both credit and non-credit, leading to certificates in fields such as Paralegal Studies or Audio Production. These programs are separate from our regular curriculum and usually the credits don’t count toward a bachelor’s degree.
Associate degrees (A.A., A.S.)
The Associate of Arts and other associate degrees are granted by community colleges. They usually represent two years of work in either a general education program that prepares you to continue on at a four-year college or university, or in a terminal vocational program such as Bookkeeping, Horticulture, or Culinary Arts. The UW does not grant associate degrees.
If your GPA falls below 2.00 in your first quarter at the University you will receive an academic warning. If a cumulative GPA of at least 2.00 for courses earned in residence at the University is not achieved by the end of the next quarter, you will be placed on academic probation.
Probation and Dismissal for Low Scholarship
Students on probation status are dropped the following quarter unless their quarter GPA is at least 2.5 or they raise their cumulative GPA up to 2.0 or above.
If you have been dropped for low scholarship and wish to petition for reinstatement, you must first meet with an academic adviser.
If you are reinstated you will be on probation. While on probation, you must achieve either a 2.5 or higher grade point average during your reinstatement quarter or raise your overall cumulative grade point average to 2.0 to remain in school.
The Quarterly Dean’s List includes the names of matriculated undergraduate students who are pursuing their first undergraduate degree and who have attained a quarterly GPA of 3.50 for at least 12 UW graded credits. A notation is made on your transcript.
The Annual Dean’s List high-scholarship award is recorded on the academic transcript of matriculated undergraduate students who are earning their first undergraduate degree and who have achieved a quarterly GPA of 3.50 in 12 or more UW graded credits each quarter for three quarters of the academic year (summer through spring).
Students enrolled for four quarters of the academic year (summer through spring) must satisfy the conditions outlined above and attain a quarterly GPA of 3.50 or better in the fourth quarter, if enrolled for 10 or more credits. Note that courses taken S/NS or CR/NC do not count as graded credits.
Baccalaureate honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) are awarded only to recipients of a first bachelor’s degree. Cum laude means with praise, magna cum laude means with great praise, and summa cum laude means with highest praise.
These honors are earned by students who have completed at least 90 residence credits at the UW. At least 60 of the 90 credits must be graded credits. Transfer credit and credits earned through Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) are not counted toward the 90 credit total.
The University Honors Committee determines annually the grade-point requirement for each baccalaureate honor in each college of the University. In recent years, approximately 10% of students have been awarded baccalaureate honors.
The freshman medal is awarded to the sophomore having the highest scholastic standing for the first year of their coursework. To be eligible, you must have completed at least 36 graded credits in residence at the University.
The sophomore medal is awarded to the junior having the highest scholastic standing for the first two years of their coursework. To be eligible, you must have completed at least 40 credits in residence at the University.
The junior medal is awarded to the senior having the highest scholastic standing for the first three years of their coursework. To be eligible, you must have completed at least 40 credits in residence at the University.
Each year since 1932, the President’s Medal has been presented to the graduating senior who has achieved the most distinguished academic record at the University. In 2004, the President began giving the medal to two graduating seniors: one medal to a student who has completed at least three-fourths of his or her degree requirements at the UW and one medal to a student who entered the University with at least 60 transfer credits from a Washington community college.
You or your parents may be wondering if there’s a limit to the number of credits you can take at UW, or a limit to how long you can take to earn your bachelors degree. The short answer is yes.
Your limit has two parts, a clock part and a credit part. The clock part keeps track of how many quarters of college classes you have taken after you complete high school. Transfer quarters are included; Running Start quarters are not. The clock also does not include summer quarters. The credit part keeps track of how many college credits you’ve earned that apply towards your bachelors degree, regardless of where or when you took them. This includes AP and IB credit.
You are expected to graduate by the time your clock strikes 12 and by the time you have earned 210 credits, whichever comes last. Your limit is not reached until both parts are fulfilled. Note that since 180 credits is the minimum number of credits needed to earn an undergraduate degree 210 represents 30 credits beyond this minimum.
You have some wiggle room. There are some exceptions to these absolute numbers, primarily for students pursuing a double degree, but the formula of “minimum credits + 30” still holds. Another way of thinking about this is that your limit of 210 credits won’t be enforced until you’ve completed 12 quarters of college work beyond high school, not including summers.
Both your clock and your credits can be found at the bottom of your unofficial UW transcript. Since this may be a little tricky to understand at first, talk with an academic adviser if you have questions about how this policy impacts you.