Policies and Procedures

Grading Norms and Expectations


When compared with undergraduate education, graduate study places much greater emphasis on students’ self-directed work and individual commitment to learning.

The MA in Cultural Studies places special emphasis on your ability to communicate ideas in imaginative ways, to work creatively and productively with peers, and the extent to which you can apply your ideas further afield.  We tend to focus on the quality of your questions and discussions, the depth of your reading, and the rigor of your writing rather than quantifiable outcomes.

This means that your academic success is seldom expressed neatly by a grade. This does not means that grades don’t matter. The common problem with grades – for both students and faculty – putting them in meaningful perspective.

Under Policies and Procedures you will find information on the University of Washington's grading system for graduate programs, requirements for Satisfactory Performance and Progress, and procedures for appealing a grade.

Grades as a Form of Feedback

The following guidelines are general norms and typical expectations intended to help youread your grades as a form of feedback. These are not hard-and-fast rules, nor are they regulations to which faculty have to adhere.

Broadly speaking, these are some of the ways that you might interpret your numerical grades:

3.9-4.0. You're doing really well; keep up this level of work.

3.6-3.8. You're doing well. There are still areas where you might hone and strengthen your work.

3.3-3.5. Your performance is solid. Consider what might be possible if applied yourself more.

3.0-3.2.  More work is needed: seek prompt input from your advisor/s.

below 3.0. Your work prompts concern for your success. May be awarded to work that shows limited effort or engagement.

Faculty will award lower grades for work that is inadequate, consistently late, incomplete, doesn’t meet the scholarly standards for a given class or assignment, and/or for work that is missing altogether.  Work that is late may not be accepted at all: pay careful attention to instructors’ “late policy” in the syllabus.

Many professors use assignments spread throughout the quarter to evaluate your learning and engagement.  These assignments may not use conventional grading formats (e.g., letter grades or the UW’s 4-point system) but other formats (e.g. check-marks like √, √+ or √-) to indicate how you’re doing. 

Faculty vary in terms of awarding top grades (i.e. 3.9 and 4.0), with some expecting outstanding or exceptional work, and others expecting full participation and completion of all work.

Numerical vs. Credit/No Credit Grades

  • In the MA in Cultural Studies, core courses are assigned numerical grades. BCULST 511 Portfolio and Professional Development is the exception to this rule, and is assessed on a credit/no credit (CR/NC) basis
  • For Directed Research and Internships, faculty often opt to evaluate your work by awarding Credit/No Credit or by awarding a flat 4.0 for satisfactorily completed work.
  • The portfolio and the capstone project are two program requirements that are reviewed and assessed for approval, but not awarded a grade.  

Nota Bene

Grades are never an assessment of your worth as a human being. Nor, for that matter, are they a simple assessment of the value of your ideas, interests, and ambitions. Grades seldom bear a straightforward relationship to your effort or passion for a subject. Grades are primarily intended as broad feedback – a crude but considered evaluation of where your work stands in the bigger scheme of things whether it’s in relation to others in your class, others who have taken the class before, or others at graduate school. A grade should be treated as an opportunity to seek out ways to improve as you move forwards.