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See the Penn State Coronavirus FAQ page for ongoing information about the University's response and the Keep Learning site for information about Spring 2021 classes. 


Alternative Grading Options–Fall 2020–What is Best For You?

Remember, fall 2020 optional alternative grades are designed to serve as a safety net for students whose academic performance was impacted by COVID-19 and other extenuating circumstances. Different rules apply to fall 2020 alternative grades than to the spring 2020 alternative grades. Students should not make the decision to use alternative grades lightly and should try to earn and keep strong letter grades. 

If you are considering an administratively enrollment-controlled major (such as majors in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, the Smeal College of Business, and the Colleges of Engineering and IST), restrictions and additional considerations apply. Learn about considerations for administratively enrollment-controlled majors. If you have questions not answered by the frequently asked questions (FAQs) and the link provided, please consult your academic adviser. 

“Students will have the option of replacing one or more letter grades with alternative grades that will not be included in their GPA calculation." - Keep Learning website.

The alternative grading flowchart below is a "living" flowchart. When you click on the boxes below, you can learn more about the variables that may impact your decision to elect an alternative grade in place of your earned letter grade. Support materials for the flowchart are on the Alternative Grading Decision worksheet.

Click on one of the options for more information.
Click on one of the options for more information.
Click on one of the options for more information.
Click on one of the options for more information.
Click on one of the options for more information.
Click on one of the options for more information.
Click on one of the options for more information.
Click on one of the options for more information.
Click on one of the options for more information.

Alternative Grading Options for an A Grade

An A is an excellent letter grade, and you should keep this grade. Great work! 

Alternative Grading Options for an A- Grade

An A- is a great letter grade, and you should keep this grade. For most students, an A- will help your current cumulative grade point average (CGPA) and contribute to a strong foundation for future semesters.

Alternative Grading Options for an B+ Grade

A B+ is a good letter grade, and you should consider keeping this grade. A B+ will contribute to a strong foundation for future semesters. Students should use alternative grading very cautiously and with a lot of attention to the potential long-term implications of this decision, especially for SAT grades (C or higher grades).

Alternative Grading Options for a B Grade

A B is a good letter grade; you should consider keeping this grade. A B will contribute to a good foundation for future semesters. Students should use alternative grading very cautiously and with a lot of attention to the potential long-term implications of this decision, especially for SAT grades (C or higher grades).

Alternative Grading Options for a B- Grade

A B- is a solid letter grade; you should consider keeping this grade. A B- will contribute to a solid foundation for future semesters. Students should use alternative grading very cautiously and with a lot of attention to the potential long-term implications of this decision, especially for SAT grades (C or higher grades). 

Alternative Grading Options for a C+ Grade

For most students, it makes sense to keep the grade of C+. Students should use alternative grading very cautiously and with a lot of attention to the potential long-term implications of this decision, especially for SAT grades (C or higher grades). If your cumulative grade point average (CGPA) is currently below a 2.33, the C+ will likely improve your (CGPA). Carefully consider the following factors when deciding whether to elect a SAT grade for a C+:

  • The SAT grade will not impact your CGPA.
  • It can be used to meet prerequisites requiring a C or better but may not be accepted for some entrance-to-major courses. If you are considering an administratively controlled major, then you should consult with your academic adviser before electing alternative grades.
  • We do not know how graduate or professional schools will view alternative grades from the fall semester. In many cases, it makes sense to keep this grade if you are planning to attend graduate or professional school, even if it decreases your GPA. 
  • It does not count towards the entrance-to-major credit window in administratively controlled majors.

Alternative Grading Options for a C Grade

If your cumulative grade point average (CGPA) is currently below a 2.0, a C grade will likely improve your CGPA. If your CGPA is above a 2.00, a C grade will likely decrease your GPA. Carefully consider the following factors when deciding whether to elect a SAT grade for a C grade:

  • The SAT grade will not impact your CGPA.
  • It can be used to meet  prerequisites requiring a C or better but may not be accepted for some entrance-to-major courses. If you are considering an administratively controlled major, then you should consult with your academic adviser before electing alternative grades. 
  • We do not know how graduate or professional schools will view alternative grades from the fall semester. In many cases, it makes sense to keep this grade if you are planning to attend graduate or professional school, even if it decreases your GPA.  
  • It does not count towards the entrance-to-major credit window in administratively controlled majors.

Alternative Grading Options for a D Grade

In most cases, if you earn a D in a course, it makes sense to elect the alternative V grade. A D is only likely to improve your cumulative grade point average (CGPA) if it is currently below a 1.00. 

  • A V is considered a passing grade and will not impact your CGPA.
  • It can be used to meet requirements for which a D is an acceptable grade.
  • It cannot be used to meet C or better requirements. 

Alternative Grading Options for an F Grade

In almost all cases, if you earn an F in a course, you should strongly consider electing the alternative grade of a Z (no grade).

  • The Z is treated similarly to how a late drop (LD) would be treated at Penn State. No credit is earned with a Z grade. 
  • It does not impact your GPA.

See how this grade can affect your cumulative GPA:

You should use the GPA calculator to view this grade in the context of your other grades before you make a final decision: For a step-by-step guide of how to use the GPA calculator currently available in LionPATH, visit: https://www.registrar.psu.edu/grades/alternative-grading-system/gpa-calculator/index.cfm. You can access this calculator in LionPATH under Degree Planning and Progress now. To access the tool to elect alternative grades, log-on to LionPATH between December 23, 2020, and January 12, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Instructions on how to use this tool can be found here: https://www.registrar.psu.edu/grades/alternative-grading-system/fall-2020-grading/alternative-grade-calculator/index.cfm.

Consult with your adviser.

If you intend to keep a D grade instead of selecting a V grade, please consult your adviser before January 12, 2021. 

Consult with your adviser.

If you intend to keep a F grade instead of selecting a Z grade, please consult your adviser before January 12, 2021.

Review the specific entrance to major and licensure/certification considerations, if applicable.

If you are considering a major in...

  • Smeal College of Business, College of Information Sciences and Technology, or College of Engineering: View alternative grade considerations.
    • Actuarial Science: Students must earn a letter grade of a B- or better in the following courses to be eligible for VEE certification courses requiring: ECON 102, ECON 104, ACCTG 211, FIN 301, and STAT 415. You may not elect alternative grades in these courses.
  • College of Education: View the course considerations.
  • Eberly College of Science: The college will accept SAT grades for all ETM courses. Caution should be used when considering alternative grades if you have law, medical, or graduate school aspirations. Consult an adviser if you have questions or need additional guidance.
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders: View alternative grade considerations.
  • Advertising and Public Relations: For fall 2020 alternative grades: Letter grades must be present for ENGL 15 or any of the permitted substitutions: ENGL 30, ESL 15, ENGL 137H, or CAS 137H. For spring 2020 alternative grades: SAT grades are accepted for ENGL 15 and ECON 102. V and Z grades do not satisfy this requirement. 
  • Film/Video and Film Production: For fall 2020 and spring 2020 alternative grading, students must have grade of B in COMM 150 and COMM 242. SAT, V, and Z grades do not satisfy this requirement.

Review the specific student population information below, if applicable.