The page uses Browser Access Keys to help with keyboard navigation. Click to learn moreSkip to Navigation

Different browsers use different keystrokes to activate accesskey shortcuts. Please reference the following list to use access keys on your system.

Alt and the accesskey, for Internet Explorer on Windows
Shift and Alt and the accesskey, for Firefox on Windows
Shift and Esc and the accesskey, for Windows or Mac
Ctrl and the accesskey, for the following browsers on a Mac: Internet Explorer 5.2, Safari 1.2, Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape 6+.

We use the following access keys on our gateway

n Skip to Navigation
k Accesskeys description
h Help
Cornell University    
  Sep 23, 2017
Courses of Study 2015-2016 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Grading Guidelines

Only the instructor of the course has the responsibility and authority to judge the quality of a student’s work and assess the appropriate grade.  No one can overrule instructors and require them to go against their judgment of the work.  Grading must not be arbitrary or capricious or influenced by illegal discriminatory considerations.  To avoid the influencing of grades by improper consideration or student pressure, a grade, once given, may only be changed if an error in the original grade is claimed by the instructor.  The instructor should be willing to review the basis of an assigned grade with an inquiring student and correct the grade if an error is found.  The evaluation of the quality of the student’s work is solely up to the instructor, but the grade must not contain a punitive element for an offense against academic integrity if the student has been found innocent of this offense by a duly constituted board.

Grading System

The official university grading system is composed of letter grades with pluses and minuses. Passing grades range from A+ to D–; F is failing. INC denotes a grade of incomplete, and R is the grade given a for an in-progress multi-semester course. The grades of INC and R do not have quality-point equivalents attached. These are the quality-point equivalents:

A+ =4.3 B+ =3.3 C+ =2.3 D+ =1.3
A   =4.0 B   =3.0 C   =2.0 D   =1.0
A– =3.7 B– =2.7 C– =1.7 D– =0.7
      F   =0.0

Grade point average is calculated by multiplying the credit hour and quality point equivalent for each course and then dividing by the total number of credits taken.  The cumulative average is the sum of the products of all the grades at Cornell divided by the total number of credits taken.

S–U Grades

The purpose of the Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory (S-U) system is to encourage students to venture into courses outside their main areas of familiarity without great risk to academic record.  The distinction between S and U is not the same, however, as that between pass and fail in the letter-grade system. In the S-U system, S indicates performance that would be graded C- or higher, and U indicates performance that would be graded below a C-. Students earn credit toward the fulfillment of graduation requirements for course grades of S, but not for course grades of U. Grades of S or U are not assigned numerical value and thus are not averaged in with other grades in computing grade point averages.

The various schools and colleges differ in the restrictions they place on the election of S-U grading over letter grading.  However, in those courses where college rules and course procedures allow it, the election is a student option that must be exercised within the first 57 calendar days of the term. 

Audit Grades

Classes taken as audits, and grades for those classes will appear on a student’s official transcript. Audit grades will display as either “V” or “INC”, depending on successful completion of the class.


The grade of incomplete is appropriate only when two basic conditions are met:

1. the student has substantial equity at a passing level in the course with respect to work completed; and

2. the student has been prevented by circumstances beyond the student’s control, such as illness or family emergency, from completing all of the course requirements on time.

An incomplete may not be given merely because a student fails to complete all course requirements on time. Such a practice would be open to abuse; by deferring completion of some major course requirement, a student could gain advantage over his or her classmates by obtaining additional time to do a superior job.  This is not an option that may be elected at the student’s own discretion.

While it is the student’s responsibility to initiate a request for a grade of incomplete, reasons for requesting one must be acceptable to the instructor, who establishes specific make-up requirements.

The consequences of failure to complete all course work within the time permitted will depend upon the policy of the student’s college.  Some colleges convert the incomplete to a grade of F; others let the incomplete stand on the student’s transcript.  In either case, the option to make up the work is lost.  It is the responsibility of the student to see that all incompletes are made up before the deadline and that the grade change has been properly recorded with the student’s college registrar.

Changes in Grades

Each semester’s work is an entity and grades are to be assigned for work completed during the normal period of the semester.  Subsequent changes in a grade may be made only in the event that the instructor made an error in assigning the original grade.  As a matter of equity, grades must not be changed after the end of a semester on the basis of a student’s subsequent completion of additional work.


The Office of the University Registrar issues official transcripts bearing the Cornell University seal and the signature of the University Registrar.

At the end of each term, a student may view his or her grades in Student Center.  Once grades are posted in Student Center, they are immediately available on transcripts. Official transcripts reflect all courses taken at Cornell, including summer, extramural, undergraduate and graduate courses.

Students may request official transcripts through Student Center. An official transcript can be sent electronically as a secure, certified pdf or in a sealed envelope directly from the Office of the University Registrar.  There is no fee for official transcripts except for express mail services.  A transcript request will not be processed if the student has a hold that prevents the release of a transcript (holds may be viewed in Student Essentials).  Learn more about ordering transcripts from the Office of the University Registrar.