Last Updated 17 Mar 2023

A Discussion on the Effectiveness of a Pass/Fail Grading System

Category Grading System
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A pass/fail grading is on in which a student receives either a passing grade or a failing grade. Therefore, there is no accuracy in terms of numeric values or percentage in ranking students, especially in accordance to their results. A pass level and a fail level are set. After the final examination, instructors to the students will categorize the students in one of the two levels. Over time, some people have been led to believe that this particular system would be good for everyone in America. However, before such system is instituted for most colleges in America many factors need to be considered and come into play.

Even with the benefits associated with it, the pass/fail grading system would not be the most effective grading system to offer to college students in America.

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Such a move would change the academic outlook for many students in the country. To articulate principles that underpin colleges, a certain approach should be developed. Consequently, before an idea translates from being theoretical to an idea, much resources and time will need to be invested. According to recent researches, most students prefer the numeric values or percentage systems. The reports from the researchers suggest that the pass/fail system gives very little room for students to be able to evaluate themselves. In higher education, all students should have a more vivid way of monitoring their results in order to know which aspects of their studies they need to improve on (Quann, 2005).

Therefore, it is clear that the aspect of pass/fail system being integrated into American colleges would come with its pros and cons. Researchers who have sought to find out the strengths and weaknesses have found this particular to be less effective in terms of improving the quality of education than other systems. Therefore, it is only lucid that the system is not considered in American colleges even though it has some advantages to offer.

One of the advantages that this particular would offer American college students if it is taken up are that the education would prove to be less stressful. A recent study by Mayo clinic showed that students in the traditional grading often feel stressed out to perform exceptionally in exams (Davies and Sandra, 2006). However, the study also shows that students that are under the pass/fail system do not experience stress as such. This is because they do not have to worry about a grade point average like their counterparts. Consequently, they experienced less stress as compared to students under numeric value or percentage system.

Another plus that would come with the pass/fail system is that it would improve the morale and mood that students have towards education. Since the students are under little stress, they often are cheered up. This particularly goes a long way in establishing their quest for education since they suffer less from cases of depression and low self-esteem issues. However, there is only a slight difference in the pass/fail system and the numeric value system about setting the mood and attitudes of students with the pass/fail system just edging to be proved to be more advantageous.

The pass/fail system would also bring about an aspect of cohesion among students. This would prove to be advantageous since the students would stop forming certain group mentalities of which divided the bright students from the less bright students. Such a scenario is often the case in a numeric value or percentage grading system. Moreover, with the possibility of only passing or failing, competition will greatly be reduced among students. Consequently, students will be more unified since they all want to achieve one common goal; to pass. This would be the same for all students since no one has a higher chance of passing more than other students do (Quann, 2005).

One other aspect that shows that another benefit that would come with the employment of the pass/fail grading system is the room that it will create for students to acquire more academic proficiency levels and discipline. According to the research, students under a numeric value or percentage grading system avoid certain classes with the fear that they may not excel in them. However, with the pass/fail system, the risk of failing is greatly reduced. Therefore, students can engage subjects that seem challenging since they only need to pass instead of scoring high marks. Consequently, this helps in developing a good culture of taking up academic challenges among students. This can end up changing the whole outlook of the different career fields in America in just a matter of years (Guskey, Thomas and Bailey, 2007).

However, even with the benefits that the pass/fail grading system has to offer, the system still has a very big downside attached to it. Most of the advantages make life favorable to the student, but the workload that he or she has to carry during college years is not reduced in any way. Every student in America is expected to perform in the marketplace whether passing or failing. Additionally, the system in itself promotes a lifestyle that does not encourage a hardworking attitude. It is less stressful than the numeric value or percentage grading system (Guskey, Thomas and Bailey, 2007).

Concerning the students’ focus, the pass/fail system offers no benefits at all. They may be less stressed, but that does not assure us that they will focus more on their studies. In fact, according to the latest researches the most engaged activity by students is social media participation, which according to the research is the biggest reason as to why college students fail in their examinations in America. From this perspective, the introduction of the pass/fail system as a weighty matter that needs keen evaluation before it is advocated to be the main system for American college scholars (Quann, 2005).

There is also the aspect of introducing half-baked graduates to the business community. With the introduction of the pass/fail grading system, employers will have a hard time proving which of the graduates is most suitable to employ. Consequently, there may end up being much confusion in the marketplace as some choices may be costly in the end. Additionally, the aspect of striving and competing against each other ensures that people are producing their best results. Consequently, better results can be yielded at the workplace as well. However, this is not possible with the pass/fail grading system, which suggests that every student must be only in the pass or fail category.

One of the main challenges that students have to face because of choosing a pass/fail system is facing challenges in applying for further studies in other institutions. Without an accurate view of a student who has been under the pass/fail system, it is difficult for most higher education institutions in the world today to assess the performance of individuals. In finding no way to evaluate a students’ academic capabilities, the institutions often end up suggesting that students should start over the course under the percentile on numeric value grading systems. In the end, this may end up frustrating a student by hindering him or her to achieve the academic aspirations he or she had.


It is evident that the pass/fail grading system would be more harmful if it were introduced to US colleges today. Although the system has some benefits, it also carries with it burdens that the American education system has not articulated clear on how to address. Conclusively, the pass/fail grading system would not be the most effective grading system to offer to college students in America as per now (Davies and Sandra, 2006).

Works Cited

  1. Davies, Anne, and Sandra Herbst. A Fresh Look at Grading and Reporting in High Schools. 2006. Print.
  2. Guskey, Thomas R., and Jane M. Bailey. Developing Grading and Reporting Systems for Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin, 2007. Print.
  3. Quann, C. James. The Pass/fail Option: Analysis of a Grading Experiment. 2005. Print.

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