Opinion: The case for a pass/fail grading system


Chloe Baker

Under a typical grading system, a B would be seen by people as an average or, to some, a bad grade to receive. With the pass and fail system, this grade would be equivalent to pass, which means that the student understands the concept or material well enough to get through the assignment.

Hayden Cottrell, News Editor

Letter grades. Those pesky A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s can either make or break your whole year. At some point throughout high school, almost every teenager feels like they are defined by their grades. Having letter grades instead of having a pass or fail system is detrimental to students. Here are some reasons why.

  1. Having a pass or fail system decreases student stress levels.

A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found when students have to deal with a pass/fail system, they become less focused on earning a certain grade, which in turn lowers their perceived stress levels. Though this study specifically focuses on medical students, many have applied it to high school students due to similar levels of stress and pressure found in both groups. In high school, where students are under extreme stress every day to get the GPA they need to make it into the college they want, this system could lessen the pressure that they face. Students will be able to not worry as much about achieving the bare minimum in a class to get good grades.

     2. A pass or fail system is a more fair way to grade. 

Grading practices vary from teacher to teacher across every school, city and country. Some grading systems focus on the quantity of work a student does within a class, while others are biased toward particular students. By standardizing how grades are distributed (by either passing or failing the work), students will be able to receive more personalized feedback based on their work. Fairness generated across the board under this system will be beneficial to both students and teachers. 

     3. It encourages students to take risks in the classes they take. 

Because students have to focus on getting specific grades, they’re less likely to take courses outside of what they excel at. When a student is really good at one subject, say science, he or she is then more likely to take on a larger amount of science classes rather than branch out into different subject areas, like fine arts or history. Within a pass/fail system, students are more encouraged to take other classes, because they only have to worry about passing or failing the class rather than receiving a letter grade they do not want.

Pass and fail systems have many advantages. They decrease student stress levels, they are a more fair way of grading and they encourage students to take risks. Moving on from the standard letter grade system would be beneficial to all high schoolers.