Credit Limits & Grading
First-year students are graded differently and are subject to a credit limit by faculty rule. The grading policy is intended to help you adjust to MIT’s teaching and grading methods as well as the increased workload without having to worry about accumulating a grade point average (GPA) and the credit limit aims to help you adjust to MIT’s workload while also learning to live a balanced life with more autonomy than you may be used to having.
First-Year Grading Policies
The information provided below explains how first year students are graded at MIT, along with policies associated with the use and release of fall term internal “hidden” grades.
Special Features of First-Year Grading
First-year students are graded differently from upper-level students and your grades are also reported differently within MIT as well as on your outside official transcript. These policies are intended to help you adjust to MIT’s teaching and grading methods and the increased workload without having to worry about accumulating a grade point average (GPA).
Students entering in Fall 2020 or later will not be eligible to use Sophomore Exploratory or Junior/Senior P/D/F grading options.
In your first semester and Independent Activities Period, you will receive grades of Pass or No Record:
- A grade of “C” or better equals “passing” for first-years. Any subject you pass at the “C” level or greater is noted as “P” on both your external and internal transcripts.
- Non-passing grades of D or F only show up on internal transcripts; unofficial grades do not show up on any external transcript. The external transcript will show no record of failed subjects, i.e., those graded D or F).
- For advising purposes, you will receive internal “hidden” grades of A, B, or C. Hidden grades are neither figured into a GPA nor usable for any purpose other than advising.
- See Official versus Unofficial Grades below.
In your second semester, you will receive “A”, “B”, or “C” grades.
- These are recorded both internally and on your official transcript; “D” and “F” grades continue to be noted only internally.
- You will begin to accumulate a grade point average second term, but note that only passing grades are used to figure your GPA.
Important caveats about the Spring 2023 semester for first year students:
- First-year undergraduate students are covered by the new Flex P/NR grading option under which they have the option to designate up to 48 units to be graded on a P/NR basis after their first term and at any time during their course of study. Any subject is eligible for Flex P/NR designation including those that fulfill General Institute or departmental Requirements. To use the Flex P/NR option, students must designate the subject(s) after final grades are submitted and before Add Date of their next enrolled regular term.
Beginning in sophomore year, “A” through “F” grades will be reported, with “D” considered a passing grade. See the Registrar’s site for complete grading information.
Official versus Unofficial Grades
At the end of your first term at MIT you will receive both your official Pass/No Record grades and a copy of your unofficial “hidden” grades. You cannot use your hidden grades for any purpose other than advising.
Policy on Release of Internal Grades
MIT’s educational policy is to provide internal “hidden” grades to students for educational and advising purposes only. In almost all circumstances, hidden grades will stay hidden and not included on an external transcript. MIT will not communicate your internal grades to your parents or any other third party outside of MIT without your specific written permission.
Use of Fall Term Hidden Grades
Sometimes first-year students need to provide a transcript with grades when applying for scholarships or internships. Since MIT does not release letter grades for first-years, here is what you can do to provide transcript information in these situations:
If you are applying for a scholarship or internship that requires you to submit a transcript:
- You can get a copy of your external transcript from Student Services Center, Room 11-120.
- Because your are on Pass/No Record grading, your external transcript will only show a P grade for all subjects passed. (Subjects not passed do not show up on the external transcript.)
If you are applying for a scholarship or internship that requires you to submit actual grades:
- Your internal grades are meant to be seen only by you and your advisor for advising purposes.
- They are unofficial and therefore cannot be released to third parties outside of MIT.
- You cannot use the student copy of your internal grades because your name does not appear on it, nor can your advisor give you a copy of your hidden grades.
If the scholarship absolutely requires your internal (hidden) grades, do the following:
- You need to go to the Undergraduate Academic Administrator in each department in which you took a class (Physics, Math, etc.) to ask her/him to write a letter. The department administrators are used to doing this for first-years, so you shouldn’t worry that you are making an unusual request. The letter should be addressed to you, and should state, “[Your name] took 8.01 (or 18.01, etc.) under the MIT freshman Pass/No Record grading system. Had an official grade been recorded for you, it would have been an X [whatever grade you received].” You may then forward a copy of this letter on to the scholarship for which you are applying.
If you have any questions about the end of term, please contact advising staff in 7-103.
First-Year Credit Limits
First-year students are subject to a credit limit by faculty rule. The limit aims to help you adjust to MIT’s workload while also learning to live a balanced life with more autonomy than you may be used to. The credit limits for each term of your first-year are:
- Fall term = 54 units (plus 6 units of discovery‑focused subjects and related exceptions*)
- Independent Activities Period (IAP) = 12 units (all students are limited to 12 units in IAP)
- Spring term = 60 units (plus 6 units of discovery‑focused subjects and related exceptions*)
First-semester take no more than 54 units (plus 6 units of discovery‑focused subjects and related exceptions*)
Since most MIT subjects are worth 12 units of credit, this works out to 4 full subjects (48 units), plus 6 extra units, plus an additional 6 discovery-focusedunits that you may or may not choose to use.
- Options for these extra 6 units beyond the main credit limit include an Advising Seminar (3-units), the Terrascope subject-12.000: Solving Complex Problems (which captures 3 units plus six of regular credit), or one or more First-Year Discovery subjects.
In the spring semester, 60 units (plus 6 units of discovery‑focused subjects and related exceptions*) is the maximum
This credit limit increase allows you more room for exploration. While some students might benefit from taking 60 regular units, you should note 48-54 units is still considered a typical load and advisable for most students. Requirements at MIT are structured so that you do not need to exceed 54 units per semester (or 48 in many cases) to successfully complete your degree in 4 years. Please talk to your advisor about how many units would make sense for you given your fall experiences and goals going forward.
- Options for using the extra units in the spring are: one or more First-Year Discovery subjects.
- Students placed on Warning by the Committee on Academic Performance at the end of the fall semester have a spring credit limit fixed at 4 subjects, up to 48 units.
*The related exceptions are only 3 units for FAS and approved discovery classes.
Note: Physical Education classes are based on a point system and do not count toward the credit limit. Further, ROTC subjects, do not count toward the first-year credit limit.