Policies & Guidelines

Grades provide students with important feedback on their understanding of the course material and mastery of learning outcomes, and where they need to improve. Grading also provides instructors with feedback that can be used to make subsequent decisions about teaching, either within the semester, or for following iterations of the course. It can therefore be helpful to consider grading as part of the larger process of learning and assessment, rather than as a matter of determining a student’s standing in class. Effective grading involves a sequence of activities, including:

  • establishing clear expectations through grading policies
  • designing assessments that measure the achievement of learning objectives / outcomes
  • establishing benchmarks and criteria for marking that reflect the student’s mastery of the learning outcomes
  • calibrating for consistency, fairness and adherence to relevant policies, and
  • providing useful feedback that helps students understand what they know or can do, and how they can improve

Grading is a natural source of stress for both students and instructors. The policies and guidelines below are in place to help ensure that the grading practices at Schulich are accurate and transparent and that student performance is fairly assessed regardless of the course, section or instructor. They are also designed on the premise that effective grading functions as a tool for learning and encourage a focus on the learning process rather than on getting the right grade, thus reducing the likelihood of student complaints.

Grading and Formative Feedback

Grading Guidelines

  1. Class participation should not account for more than 20% of the final grade. Exceptions to this guideline should be supported by a clear rationale.
  2. Due dates for assignments should generally not fall within the set final examination period.
  3. When presenting an assignment and returning marked work of qualitative nature, it is recommended that students receive with a copy of the grading standards or marking rubric to avoid the perception of unfair grading practices and ensure transparency with regards to how marks are assigned. Rubrics explicitly state grading criteria and link grades to the learning goals of an assignment and course.
  4. Instructors are encouraged to provide regular opportunities for formative feedback throughout their course. Formative feedback helps students identify their strengths and target areas to focus on while there is still time remaining in the course for improvement. Providing shorter but more regular feedback creates a continuous dialogue between students and instructors that manages students’ expectations and develops their reflective skills.
  5. If marks are allocated for participation, instructors should be transparent about how these marks will be determined. The inclusion of mark descriptors in the course outline (that indicate what students need to do to earn a particular participation mark) will clearly convey an instructor’s expectations right from the start of the course. It is also recommended that instructors provide students with ongoing feedback regarding their participation. Mid-term check-ins, for example, will ensure students are not surprised by their result at the end of the course.
  6. Please also refer the Faculty’s course design guidelines.

Grading Policies

  1. The components of the Schulich course outline template should be included in all course outlines. In addition to the items included in this template, course outlines should include the following information:
    • a statement as to whether grades will be curved and / or rounded in some way
    • a description of the components (attendance, quality and quantity of contributions, ) upon which the participation mark will be based and how these components will be weighted.
  1. The course outline should be made available one month prior to the start of the course.
  2. With the exception of courses explicitly required for certification by a professional body, or other exceptions agreed to by Senate, students pass or fail a course on the basis of their final course average, without the additional requirement of having to obtain a passing grade on a final examination. This policy does not exclude the possibility of a final examination representing more than 50% of the final grade in a particular course or the requirement that a student pass a specific course lab component.
  3. Students should receive graded feedback worth at least 15% of the final grade for 3.00 credit courses prior to the withdrawal date from a course without academic penalty. (This policy does not apply to 1.50 credit courses, courses on a compressed schedule, practicum courses, or courses where the coursework typically consists of a single deliverable.)
  4. No examinations or tests (in‐class or take‐home) collectively worth more than 20% of the course grade are permitted during the final 14 calendar days of classes in any Schulich course (Excepted are courses that run on weekends, courses in compressed terms, and courses with 6.0 or more contact hours per week.) An assignment is not considered a take‐home examination if students have at least two weeks to complete it.
  5. Instructors must keep class-by-class records of students’ contributions towards their participation mark that can be audited if needed. It is strongly recommended that records of contributions be completed right after each class.
  6. All class records, including records of class participation, should be retained for a period of twelve months and destroyed thereafter.
  7. The way in which course grades will be calculated should be clear to students from the start of the term
    • As Schulich does not use a standardized percentage grading scale, percentage grades have no automatic letter grade equivalent. Instructors that use a fixed translation of percentage grades to letter grades or index values should therefore make clear the translation at the start of the term. Translations commonly used at York University are shown below.
    • If curving of grades is needed, it should take place at the time each component is graded, not at the time final grades are calculated. Final course grades should be calculated by simply multiplying the component grades by their appropriate weighting.
    • The option to round grades is at the discretion of the instructor. If final grades are to be rounded, this should be stated in the course outline. A consistent rounding policy should be applied to all students in a class.
    • For core courses with multiple sections, grades should be calculated in the same manner.
    • Each component of the final grade should be reported separately to students (this includes class participation grades).
    • Sections of required core courses are normally expected to have a mean grade of between 4.70 and 6.10 grade points for Masters-level core courses, and between 5.20 and 6.20 grade points for Masters-level electives. For undergraduate courses, the average course grade awarded within a section should be between 5.50 and 7.00. Grade distributions that do not meet this policy must be reviewed by the Area Coordinator or appropriate Program/Specialization Director. The Course Director and the approver should be prepared to explain the basis for the grade distributions that do not meet this policy.
  1. Instructors must adhere to the policies communicated in their course outline and at the start of their course.

York University Grading Scales

The undergraduate grading scale is the common undergraduate grading system mandated by the University. Undergraduate students must maintain a 5.0 average (C+) to remain in good standing.

Grade Grade Point

/ Index Value

Percent Range

(Schulich guideline only)

A+ 9 90-100 Exceptional
A 8 80-89 Excellent
B+ 7 75-79 Very Good
B 6 70-74 Good
C+ 5 65-69 Competent
C 4 60-64 Fairly Competent
D+ 3 55-59 Passing
D 2 50-54 Barely Passing
E 1 (marginally below 50%) Marginally Failing
F 0 (below 50%) Failing

The masters-level grading system uses the following 9-point system, which contains no “D” grades. Students must maintain a GPA of 4.2 throughout the program and have at least a 4.4 to graduate. The Dean’s List requirement is 6.95 or higher.

Grade Grade Point / Index Value Percentage Points (guideline only) Description
A+ 9 90-100 Exceptional
A 8 85-89 Excellent
A- 7 80-84 Very Good
B+ 6 75-79 Good
B 5 70-74 Competent
B- 4 65-69 Fairly Competent
C+ 3 60-64 Passing
C 2 55-59 Barely Passing
C- 1 50-54 Marginally Failing
F 0 0-49% Failing


Please also see the following pages for completeness: Exams & Assessments, including
Use of Graders