Grades-Academic Advisory Center (AAC) - Carnegie Mellon University


This is a very important topic for families and students as well, so you may want to talk about how you both feel about grades. Because of the FERPA rules, grades will go directly to the student.

Families are encouraged to talk with their student about expectations regarding the sharing of grades before grades come out. Do you expect to see the grades? Do you expect your student to tell you if she is doing poorly or is doing extremely well? Do you want to know if the students  receives an academic action? These discussions lay the foundation for open conversations and good communications between students and their families throughout the college experience.

 Families should be aware  that grades in college are determined somewhat  differently than in high school. Assignments may be fewer in number and greater in magnitude, and they place more emphasis on theory and concepts than facts. College classes generally have infrequent tests, with each test cumulatively covering a significant amount of material. Attendance, class participation, effort,  quizzes and homework may or may not each make up a percentage of a student's grades. This will vary by class and instructor, and students must pay close attention to the grading policies included in the syllabus to know what is expected in each class. Students should be encouraged to visit instructors during office hours for feedback about grades and their standing in the class.


Mid-semester grades provide valuable feedback for your student. They give an idea of the student's performance in courses. The AAC receives copies of all mid-term grades and review those of the students who are undeclared.  This is a good opportunity to discuss the grade options for a course.

Mid-semester grades are not permanent and are kept only until final grades are recorded. Because mid-semester grades are not permanent, changes of mid-semester grades as a rule will not be accepted.

Final grades are awarded to each student, in each course scheduled, at the end of the semester, mini-semester or summer session. All students taking a course at Carnegie Mellon must be assigned grades. Final grades are generally posted within a week of the completion of the semester. The final grades are what determines the student's status: honors, probation, suspension.

Quality Point Average (QPA)

Carnegie Mellon has adopted the method of stating in “units” the quantity of work required of students. In each subject of study, the college catalog tells how much time per week is expected of the average student for each kind of work (e.g., recitations, laboratory, studio, study). For the average student, one unit represents one work-hour of time per week throughout the semester. The number of units in each subject is fixed by the faculty of the college offering the subject. Three units are the equivalent of one traditional semester credit hour.

A subject requiring 9 hours of the average student's time per week for a semester is known as a 9-unit subject. For example, Chemistry might require 3 hours in the laboratory, 3 hours of lecture/recitation and 3 hours of preparation, a total of 9 work hours. Mathematics might require 3 hours of recitation plus 3 hours of preparation for each recitation, a total of 12 work hours.

Final grades are given “Quality Point Values” as follows:

Grade    Meaning    Quality Point Value
A            Excellent                  4
B            Good                        3
C            Satisfactory             2
D            Passing                   1
R            Failure                     0

Units earned for a course multiplied by the Quality Point Value of the grade given for that course equals the Quality Points for that course. For example, a 9-unit course assigned a "C" grade is awarded 18 quality points (9 units x 2 quality points = 18 quality points).  Total Quality Points divided by Total Units Factorable equals the Quality Point Average.

For example, a student's record in one semester might be:

11 units in Mathematics "A"

11 units x 4 quality points


44 quality points

10 units in Physics "R"

10 units x 0 quality points


0 quality points

9 units in Chemistry "B"

9 units x 3 quality points


27 quality points

9 units in History "C"

9 units x 2 quality points


18 quality points

9 units in English "D"

9 units x 1 quality point


9 quality points

Total Units = 48

Total Quality Points = 98

Quality Point Average (98 divided by 48) = 2.04

"I" (incomplete), "P" (pass), and "W" (withdrawal) grades are not awarded quality points and are not considered as "factorable" units when calculating the QPA.

The same procedure is applied to all grades earned at the university to establish the Cumulative Quality Point Average.

Policies on Grades

Mid-semester and final grades are available to students via the Student Information Online (SIO) system.  A full list of policies and grading options are available in the Undergraduate Catalog.

Academic Actions

Academic actions are taken two weeks after the completion of the semester and are primarily based on the student's grades.  These actions are discussed in detail in the Academic Actions section.  Student's will recieve a letter from the Assistant Dean on behalf of the college outlining the action that is being taken and the items the student needs to do in order to return to campus.

FERPA (From the HUB/FERPA Site)

One of the most significant changes a parent or guardian experiences in sending a student to college is the difference in privacy standards for educational records. Carnegie Mellon values the student's right to privacy.  The university adheres to a federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also called FERPA or the Buckley Amendment) that sets privacy standards for student educational records and requires institutions to publish a compliance statement, including a statement of related institutional policies. For more detailed information, see our brochure [.pdf].

With certain exceptions, Carnegie Mellon officials will not disclose personally identifiable information from a student's education records without the student's prior written consent.  If a student would like to give consent to a parent or family member to have access to some or all of his or her educational records, the student must complete a Consent to Release Information [.pdf] form and return it to The HUB.
Directory Information

"Directory Information" will be disclosed without the student's prior written consent unless the student has notified us within the first 15 class days of the semester in a given academic year to restrict release of that information.  The student must complete a Directory Information Restriction [.pdf] form and return it to The HUB.

When student requests to have any or all directory information restricted, a private flag is set on the student record. No information should be released regarding that student's record, including their student ID number.

Carnegie Mellon University has designated directory information to be:

    Student's full name, campus electronic mail address, campus/local address, local telephone number, class, department, college of enrollment, dates of attendance, date(s) of graduation, and degree(s) awarded.

    For those students participating in intercollegiate athletic events, personally identifiable information included as directory information is the sport of participation, height and weight.

Note: Parent name, address, and telephone number are not considered directory information.

See the university's policy on Student Privacy Rights.