Carleton University’s Undergraduate Calendar stipulates that “standing in a course is determined by the course instructor, subject to the approval of the Faculty Dean” (Academic Regulation 5.4).  The University uses a 12 point letter grading system for most courses, with passing grades ranging from an A+ to a D-.

The University does not formally provide a definition of the standard for each grade level. Most undergraduate students in our Faculty are qualified for and admitted to Honours programs, in which the minimum cumulative grade point average required in the major for graduation is 6.5 (between a C+ and a B-). Typical understanding is that an A grade denotes excellence, a B is good to very good, C is acceptable, and a D grade is barely a passing grade.

The following general guidelines reflect current Faculty practice as well as the expectation that most students have the capacity to successfully meet the requirements for continuation and graduation. It is recognized that there may be some variation from year to year and from academic unit to academic unit. In particular, there are substantial differences in admission entry cut-off points, especially in comparing BA programs to other Honours programs in the Faculty. These higher entry cut-offs may lead to higher subsequent grade distributions. Furthermore, in the 1000 level courses, the expectation is that higher levels of instructor-student engagement and more continuous feedback will lead to grades in small First Year Seminar courses that are likely to be somewhat higher than the norm for large lecture classes.

The following percentages represent current FPA practice and are calculated by the OIRP on the basis of all recorded grades from 2018-19, including Fs and WDNs.

  • In 1000 level courses, the current practice is to allocate about 27% of grades in the A range, 27% in the B range, about 20% in the C range and 10% in the D range.
  • At the 2000 level, about 30% of grades are typically in the A range and 30% in the B range. C grades predominate over D grades at 20% and 8%
  • At the 3000 level, about 35% of grades are in the A range, 35% in the B range, while no more than 20% should be in the C and D range with C grades predominating over D grades (15% C vs 5% D).
  • At the 4000 level, about 52% of grades are in the A range, 35% in the B range and only 5% in the C range.

Note: The Dean’s office will be concerned about courses that have an unusually high percentage of D, F, and WDN grades. If the combined D/F/WDN grades are above 30%, units should consider steps that might be taken to promote greater student engagement and improvement of student performance. Further:

  • A+ is a legitimate grade and should be awarded where merited. However A+ grades should be awarded sparingly; they should be reserved for outstanding work that goes beyond the excellence represented by an A.
  • It is important to remember that Senate medals for outstanding academic achievement by undergraduate students will be awarded as follows:
    1. To the top 3% of the graduating class in each degree, subject to the requirement that, in all cases, the Overall GPA must be at least 10.60
    2. To all graduating students with an Overall GPA of at least 11.00

When computing final grades instructors should normally use the letter grade-percentage conversion table outlined in Section 5.4 of the Academic Regulations, and reproduced in Section 6 above. The practice of curving grades is strongly discouraged. However, if you calculate grades in a way that deviates from the University grading system, the alternative grading scheme must be carefully detailed in the course outline and clearly communicated to students at the beginning of the course. Instructors are also advised to confirm in advance with the Associate Dean (Academic) that any proposed alternative grading scheme is appropriate and consistent with University regulations.

Academic units are encouraged to take measures to increase the likelihood of consistent grading standards in multiple section courses. This may include the establishment of a grades review committee where the instructors of multiple sections would meet to develop common approaches to grading, and to review grades from multiple sections before they are submitted to the Dean’s office for approval.

Final Grades must be approved by the relevant Chair/Director, and by the Dean’s office before they become official. The Dean’s office, in reviewing grades, is concerned about maintaining equity among students, whether in different sections of the same course, among students in similar courses in the same department, or among similar courses offered by different academic units. Where grades differ significantly from Faculty and departmental experience and expectations for similar courses, instructors should provide an explanation for the difference. Where significant differences are noted, Chairs and Directors and/or the Dean’s office may request clarification, explanation or justification of the submitted grade distribution. In the absence of a satisfactory response and/or justification, the Chair, Director or Dean may request the instructor to modify the grading distribution so that the above circumstances no longer apply. If a collegial resolution cannot be achieved by the above means, then the Dean may be required to impose a unilateral solution.

All instructors are asked to include in their course outlines a statement on grading that reflects the role of the Dean in reviewing and approving grades:

“Standing in a course is determined by the course instructor subject to the approval of the Faculty Dean. This means that grades submitted by an instructor may be subject to revision. No grades are final until they have been approved by the Dean.”

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