Grades and Grading

Below are some considerations for certain grades, grading options, and notations that are a part of the general University Grading System. The general University grading system is applicable to all classes at Stanford University except those offered by the Graduate School of Business, the School of Law, and M.D. students in the School of Medicine. For official wording of Stanford's Grading System, students should refer to Stanford Bulletin: Academic Policies and Statements.


The “CR” grade indicates performance is equivalent to ‘C-minus’ or above; the “NC” grade indicates that performance is equivalent to ‘D-plus’ or below.  The grade option must be selected by the published deadline, or the Change of Grading Basis deadline in the Academic Calendar. Deadlines may vary by school.

Please note the following:

  • All courses for meeting university requirements, including General Education requirements, must be taken for a letter grade; the only exception being the Language requirement.  Most departments limit or do not accept CR / NC notation for courses for credit within the major requirement. Therefore, students who take a course CR/NC who then wish to use that course for the major should be encouraged to consult with their major department to inquire if/how the course may be counted for a requirement. 
  • For students admitted as first year students Autumn Quarter 1996 and later: No more than 36 units of Stanford course work (including activity courses) in which a "‘CR" or "‘S" was awarded can be applied to the 180 (or 225 for dual majors) units required for a bachelor’s degree.

Stanford Bulletin: Grading Systems

Incomplete Grade

A grade of Incomplete ("I") may be granted by an instructor only if:

  1. the student requests the Incomplete before the last class meeting; and
  2. the student has satisfactorily completed a substantial part of the coursework.

Even when both of the above criteria have been met, whether to grant the Incomplete or not is left to the discretion of the instructor.  The maximum period of time for which an Incomplete can be assigned is one year.

Instructors are free to determine the conditions for completion of the work, including setting a deadline of less than one year. Thus, students should be advised of the possible implications of being granted an Incomplete, including Academic Standing review. Students should confirm their agreement on the terms for finishing the incomplete with the faculty member in writing (e.g., email).

Students should not request an Incomplete, nor should instructors grant an Incomplete, if the student needs to “sit in on” or retake the entire course or the majority of the course to finish the work. 

  • Instead, the student should withdraw from the course by the deadline and retake it later.
  • Students who do not officially withdraw from a course should not be awarded a grade of Incomplete, but should be assigned a grade by the instructor to reflect the amount and quality of work submitted.

Keep in mind the potential difficulties in completing the work of the course in a timely fashion.

  • Incompletes automatically revert to “No Pass” or “No Credit” by the end of one year and may severely impact academic standing and degree progress.
  • All students—but especially international students, financial aid recipients, those with an Academic Standing status, and varsity athletes—should take care to ensure whether or how an Incomplete may impact any federal, university, or organizational requirements.

If you have questions, please contact the Office of Academic Advising.

More Information:

  • Some departments and programs have an official incomplete form that students must fill out and submit for approval.
  • Students are urged to consult with an advisor to determine whether an incomplete is a good course of action given their current academic standing and future plans.

Stanford Bulletin: Grading Systems

Withdraw (from a course)

Students may withdraw from a course after the drop deadline but before the deadline to withdraw. The course will be noted with a designation of “W” on the transcript.  The "W" has no impact upon a student's GPA, but will impact a student’s units earned and may impact minimum satisfactory progress.  The "W" will remain on the transcript and cannot be changed even if a student takes the course again.  While withdrawing from a course may be the appropriate (and often best) option, students should be aware of any implications that may result from the withdrawal.

Please note the following:

  • The notation "‘W" will not be changed if a student takes that course again. 
  • Students who withdraw from a course that is necessary for their major or specific pre-professional track should consult closely with a Academic Advisor about options for fulfilling this requirement in subsequent quarters.
  • Students who do not officially withdraw from a course should not be awarded a grade of Incomplete, but should be assigned a grade by the instructor to reflect the amount and quality of work submitted.

Stanford Bulletin: Grading Systems

Repeated Courses

  • Students may retake many courses already on their transcript, regardless of the grade earned. The original grade will be replaced with the notation "RP". Courses that may be repeated for credit are noted in the Bulletin.
  • Only the units and the grade for the second enrollment in the same course count toward the GPA.
  • A Repeated course will not replace a final grade of "W".
  • Students may not take a course for a third time unless they received an "NC" or "NP" the second time. Students must also meet with an Academic Advisor before being allowed to enroll in a course for the third time.
  • A "W" in a course does not count toward the three-retake maximum.
  • Students should not enroll in courses for credit for which they received either Advanced Placement or transfer credit. 
  • Discuss the academic value of retaking any course with your academic advisor.

Stanford Bulletin: Grading Systems