The Advantages of a Pass/Fail Grading System

by Maggie McCormick


A pass/fail grading system is one in which the student receives either a passing grade or a failing grade rather than a more accurate ranking of success. Any student that does work above a failing level--defined by either the school or the instructor--will pass the class. This type of grading system has been shown to have several advantages.

Less Stress

Students in a traditional grading system often feel stress to do exceptionally well on tests, papers and other assignments. When they receive only a pass or fail grade, they do not have to worry about a grade point average, which causes less perceived stress, according to a study by the Mayo Clinic.

Improved Mood

Less stress means that students under a pass/fail system have an improved mood. However, the study shows that this is only a slight difference from students under traditional grading systems.

Group Cohesion

Under a pass/fail system, students do not see other students as competition. Competition among students--especially in cases where students are graded on a curve based on other students' performance--makes students less likely to work together. In a pass/fail system, students can freely work with other students.

More Academic Risks

Some students will avoid classes that they may not excel in because they are afraid that a bad grade will negatively affect their grade point average. Under a pass/fail system, students feel safer trying new things and may be more willing to take academic risks.


While some subjects, such as math and science, have objective grading systems, others are more subjective. There is no standard way to judge an art project or an English paper, for example. Under a pass/fail system students know that if they complete the work in a satisfactory manner, they can pass the class.