UCSD Mathematics


Questions about Grading at UC San Diego

This link is a gateway to a wealth of information about grades:

– Categories of academic standing

– Various grades that can be assigned at this campus, corresponding grade points earned, interpretations of grades

– How to check your grades

– How to appeal a grade

– How to change a grading option or number of units per class

– How to calculate a specific GPA

– How to repeat a class

– How to request/remove an incomplete

– How to select the P/NP (Pass / Not Pass) grading option. (Caution: Every course to be counted toward the requirements of any undergraduate degree in the Department of Mathematics must be taken for a letter grade, and a grade of “C-” or better must be earned. Reference:

How important are grades? There have long been philosophical debates on this, but grades continue to be looked on as a measure of student achievement. People on hiring committees or graduate school admissions committees are likely to have varying viewpoints on the importance of grades compared to other measures, but it would be hard to find anyone in these capacities who would argue that grades have no relevance.

When you graduate from university, the educational record on your resume should begin with your performance in university. Post-secondary grades will be with you for the rest of your life, which alone is a reason to take them seriously. In every class you take, you should strive to honestly attain the best grade you are capable of. Do not take this to imply that learning is irrelevant. Ideally, your grade in a class should be a reasonable reflection of what you learned, how well you were able to prove this in a controlled setting, and your preparedness for follow-up coursework.

Some Reasons Why Poor Good Grades Are Received

When a poor grade is earned, there tends to be clear signs of why. Here are examples:

Taking a course that you are not academically ready for. Every course has prerequisite material that you should have a present-day mastery of if you want to start on the right path for potentially performing excellently. If you earned a low grade in a prerequisite course, and/or if more than a few months have passed since you took that course, we strongly encourage you to brush up on its material. On the first day of a class, the faculty member teaching it rightfully expects students to be ready to start learning its new material. Although it may happen, it would be a mistake to expect that the faculty member teaching a class will review prerequisite material.

Lack of clarity on how academic performance in a class will be measured and how this results in a final letter grade. A syllabus is supposed to describe how students will be evaluated. For each that class you take, it is your duty to thoroughly, carefully read the syllabus as soon as possible when you receive it and ask the instructor for clarification as needed. (As the academic term progresses, read the syllabus again to ensure that you are aware of all policies and expectations.) We caution against assuming anything or taking the word of a friend on policies. What was standard practice in one class might not be the case in another class. You may wish to ask the faculty member syllabus-related questions by email so that you have a written response and avoid misunderstanding. If you ask for clarification in person, and receive a spoken answer, you can follow up with an email message where you state what you understood the professor to say, and ask whether your understanding is accurate. Aside from what is said in the syllabus, an instructor may give additional information during the term that impacts the scoring of assignments and your final grade. Students are responsible for listening to all information and asking questions when something is unclear. If you are absent from class, tardy, or leave early, you are still responsible for learning any information dispensed in class. Finally, faculty members and/or teaching assistants only know what you tell them. If there is information that you want them to know, disclose it early and clearly in/at an appropriate setting and time. If you require five minutes to discuss something, the 10-minute passing period between classes, when a faculty member is trying to gather his/her things and go elsewhere, is probably not a good time.

Procrastination or otherwise not following through on class responsibilities. As an adult in university, you are expected to take responsibility for your success. Your academic performance affects your achievement and reputation. That requires that in a timely manner you consistently follow through on obligations.

Overloading oneself or not making good use of time. To help on this issue, prepare a written schedule at the start of each term. It should lay out what you will be doing throughout each day, every week. Mark off the time that you will spend in each class, doing homework, other studying, and anything else that you need to care for. If you spend lots of time on social media (as students everywhere are seen doing), ask yourself, How is that helping me earn a university degree with an impressive academic record? How is it improving my understanding of important things that can positively impact my career plans?

Ineffective study habits. Not all study methods are equally effective. Just because a certain approach to studying works for one student does not guarantee the same level of success if used by someone else. Even the same student may find that different methods of studying are needed from one class/subject to another. Keep an open mind. Look for workshops on how to improve in learning, studying, and remembering, but do not make the mistake of treating your education as essentially about memorization. You might also try the online course Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects.

Low personal motivation. Normally people do not enter competitions unless they want to win, but what influences the order in which people complete the activities? One component is individual motivation. Few people are willing to do everything possible to succeed (while remaining honest throughout). They might say they want to win, but they acknowledge that there was more they could have done to perform better if they lose. You can only do your best at anything, but the question to always ask yourself is, Did I really do the absolute best that I was capable of?

Dissatisfaction with a Grade

When the final grade that you receive in a class is not to your liking, it is an unpleasant position to be in, and you might be quite unhappy about it. Before you react, though, think carefully about what you are displeased about or who with. Do you bear any responsibility for the poor grade? If so, acknowledge it. If you think there was an error in computation, promptly contact the faculty member or teaching assistant. Be professional in the manner of your approach. Reference: UC San Diego Academic Senate Regulation 502.