Grading System and GPA Calculation

Grading System and GPA Calculation

Grades are assigned only by instructors and are reported only by letter grade. Plus and minus grades are not accepted.

The university uses the following grading system:
Grade Grade-points per credit
A Excellent 4
AB Intermediate 3.5
B Good 3
BC Intermediate 2.5
C Fair 2
D Poor 1
F Failure 0

The following grades have no associated grade points and are excluded from the graduate Grade Point Average (GPA):
S Satisfactory
U Unsatisfactory
I Incomplete (a temporary grade when work is not completed)
P Progress
PI Permanent Incomplete
DR Dropped
W Withdrew
CR Credit
N No Credit
IN Incomplete in Credit/No Credit Course (a temporary grade when work is not completed)
M Missing – used for audited courses
NR No Report (a temporary grade for a graded course when a final grade has not been submitted by the instructor; a final grade for an audited course when the student did not meet the instructor’s minimum standards)
NW No Work – used for non-attendance in a course
Q Question on Credits

GPA Calculation

  • To calculate graduate GPA:
    • Refer to the grading system table in Appendix 3 above to find the grade-point value of each letter grade on your transcript.
    • Multiply the grade-point value by the number of credits for the course. For example, a three (3) credit AB would be calculated as:
      3.5 grade-points for an AB
      × 3 credits
      10.5 grade-points
    • Continue this calculation for every course numbered 300 and above that you took as a graduate student. Do include independent study courses and seminars. Do not include research courses; each department determines course numbers for their research courses. Do not include courses taken as a University Special student. Add the total number of grade points earned and the total number of credits earned.
    • Divide the total number of grade points by the total number of credits.
      215 grade-points
      ÷ 60 credits
      3.58 GPA
    • This final figure is your graduate GPA.

The UW–Madison Cross College Advising Service GPA Calculator may be a useful tool.


Withdrawal policy

Withdrawal indicates that a student intends to stop attending classes for the current semester. Submission of a withdrawal request in MyUW Student Center is required between the first and last day of the semester, when a student wishes to drop all classes in which he or she is enrolled for the current semester. The electronic withdrawal process will not require submission of a signed paper form. Instead, students will submit withdrawal requests via their MyUW Student Center, and the requests are then routed electronically to the Graduate School for review. Approval from the Graduate School, as well as from the Office of International Student Services for students on J-1 and F-1 visas, is required before a graduate student is formally withdrawn from the semester. For more information visit the Office of the Registrar’s Withdraw from UW-Madison webpage.

If students drop all courses before the first day of classes, they officially cancel their enrollment, owe no tuition or fees for that term, and have no semester entry on their transcript. In this case, it is not necessary for the student to submit a withdrawal request to the Graduate School. Students planning to withdraw from their academic program should contact their program directly.

Students are considered enrolled for a term if they have courses on their record on or after the first day of classes for that term regardless of whether they have paid tuition and fees. Failure to attend classes or leaving the university informally does not excuse a student from having to pay tuition and fees. If students withdraw after the transcript deadline, a notation with the date of withdrawal will appear on the transcript. Enrollment deadlines are posted by the Office of the Registrar on their Enrollment Deadlines webpage.

Failure to withdraw properly and promptly can be expensive. Before withdrawing, students should consult the Office of the Registrar’s Enrollment Deadlines webpage for specific deadlines and refund dates. If a student received financial aid from the university, they should consult the Office of Student Financial Aid to determine repayment responsibilities. If students withdraw and are receiving remission of tuition, they are responsible for their entire tuition assessment.

See RefundsTuition and Fee InformationTuition Remission


Warrants policy

A warrant is a program’s recommendation that a student be admitted to doctoral candidacy (a preliminary examination warrant) or be granted a degree (master’s or doctoral), and is the Graduate School’s notification that a student has met both the Graduate School and the program requirements. Warrants are requested electronically by the Graduate Program Coordinator and must be returned to the Graduate School with faculty signatures upon completion of the degree requirements.

See Certificate of Doctoral CandidacyDissertator StatusFinal Oral Examination (Defense)Preliminary Examinations

Traveling Scholar Program

Traveling Scholar Program policy

The Big Ten Academic Alliance sponsors the Traveling Scholar Program as part of a continuing effort to increase cooperative use of its member institutions’ resources. This program enables doctoral-level students at any Big Ten Academic Alliance university to take advantage of educational opportunities (specialized courses, unique library collections, unusual laboratories) at any other Big Ten Academic Alliance university without additional tuition expenses.

Credits earned by Traveling Scholars are transferred by the home university upon receipt of transcript from the host university. Courses and grades are posted directly on a student’s UW–Madison transcript and, if graduate level, count toward the Graduate School’s minimum graduate residence, degree, and coursework credit requirements. Terms are limited to two semesters or three quarters regardless of the number of courses taken.

Students interested in the Traveling Scholars Program should contact the Graduate School Degree Coordinator for an application or more information. Find a list of member universities or more information from the Big Ten Academic Alliance.

See Big Ten Academic AllianceMinimum Graduate Coursework (50%) RequirementMinimum Graduate Degree Credit RequirementMinimum Graduate Residence Credit RequirementPrior Coursework

Transfer of Graduate Work from Other Institutions

Transfer of Graduate Work from Other Institutions policy

Under the Prior Coursework policy, a student’s program may decide to accept graduate coursework completed outside of the students graduate career at UW–Madison when those courses are rigorous and meet the expectations of a graduate work for the degree. Students should contact their program when inquiring about or attempting to transfer graduate work from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy Graduate School minimum credit requirements. See the Satisfying Requirements with Prior Graduate Coursework from Other Institution(s) section of the Prior Coursework policy.

See Dean’s ApprovalMinimum Graduate Coursework (50%) RequirementMinimum Graduate Degree Credit RequirementMinimum Graduate Residence Credit RequirementPrior Coursework

Time Limits

Time Limits policy

Graduate degrees are awarded, in part, for completion of current coursework. Students who break enrollment from their graduate program may risk losing all credits earned prior to their absence.

Master’s degree: students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence.

Doctoral degree: students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence.

Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; however that coursework will not count toward Graduate School credit requirements. Although the program may count the coursework students did before their absence towards the program requirements, the Graduate School does not count that work toward the Graduate School’s minimum graduate residence, degree, and coursework (50%) credit requirements.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within 5 years after passing the preliminary examination may be required to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

A student’s program may appeal these time limits through a written request to the Graduate School Degree Coordinator. The appeal must provide information demonstrating that the student has remained current in the field of study. This information may include a resume showing applicable work experience and/or official transcripts from other schools attended.

See Effective DatesMinimum Graduate Coursework (50%) RequirementMinimum Graduate Degree Credit RequirementMinimum Graduate Residence Credit RequirementPreliminary ExaminationsReadmission to Graduate School (for previously enrolled graduate students)

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Satisfactory Progress policy

Continuation in the Graduate School is at the discretion of a student’s program, the Graduate School, and a student’s faculty advisor.  A student may be placed on probation or dismissed from the Graduate School for not maintaining satisfactory academic progress.  In special cases the Graduate School permits students who do not meet these minimum standards to continue on probation upon recommendation and support of their advisor.

The Graduate School sets minimum standards that all graduate students in the university must meet. Many departments and programs have additional requirements that exceed these Graduate School minimum requirements. The definition of satisfactory progress varies by program.

Most programs require satisfactory progress to continue guaranteed funding support.

The Graduate Guide includes the Graduate School’s minimum degree requirements and satisfactory progress chart, as well as each program’s minimum degree requirements and satisfactory progress chart.

In determining satisfactory academic progress, the Graduate School monitors the following: cumulative grade point average, incomplete grades, English as a second language for some international students, the grades of students admitted on probationary status, enrollment in minimum required credits (underload), and unsatisfactory (U) grades.  Detailed information for each is below.

Low cumulative GPA

Graduate students must meet the Graduate School’s minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA in order to graduate. Some probationary admission conditions may require higher grades. When a graduate student’s cumulative GPA drops below a 3.0 for one semester, we notify them via email (copy to grad coordinator) that they are placed on academic probation, and we place a GSD LGR enrollment hold on the following semester. They cannot continue enrolling until the probationary semester’s grades are reported and their cumulative GPA is above a 3.0.

If a student is placed on probation due to low GPA, they receive an email notification with the graduate coordinator copied.

Incomplete (I) grades

If graduate students have not resolved incompletes by the end of the subsequent semester of enrollment, these grades are considered unsatisfactory. Graduate students are not permitted to graduate with incomplete grades on their record. The Graduate School issues warnings for incompletes that have not yet lapsed into bad standing, and for three or less credits of incompletes. The Graduate School places student on academic probation for having more than three credits of incompletes in bad standing and uses the GSD INC service indicator (enrollment hold) to ensure that this requirement is met before continued enrollment is permitted.

If a student is placed on probation due to incompletes, he/she receives an email notification with the graduate coordinator copied.

ESL required at admission to the Graduate School

International graduate students may be required to take the ESLAT upon arrival at UW-Madison. This requirement applies to the following test scores: TOEFL (paper-based) test score is below 580; TOEFL computer based test (CBT) score below 237; (TOEFL internet based iBT) test score below 92; IELTS score below 7; or MELAB below 82. The ESLAT is administered by the English as a Second Language Program (Sandy Arfa, Director). ESLAT results may indicate that a graduate student is exempt from taking an ESL course, or these results may indicate a recommended ESL course. Graduate students for whom the ESLAT was required and who are not exempt based on the test results must enroll in the recommended ESL course during their first semester at UW-Madison. The Graduate School monitors successful completion of the ESL course for these students. The GSD ESL service indicator (enrollment hold) ensures that this requirement is met before continued enrollment is permitted.

Admit on probation

Applicants who do not meet Graduate School admissions requirements may be admitted on probation, with program recommendation and GS Dean’s approval. They are admitted as G17 or G18 (probationary admit) codes, and receive an admission letter from the Graduate School, as well as message in OASIS, that notifies them they are being admitted on probation. These cases are monitored closely to ensure that the students achieve a 3.0 GPA during their first semester of enrollment. A hold is placed (GSD ADT), which prohibits them from enrolling in the following semester classes until their first semester grades are reported and the GPA is above a 3.0.

Underload (1 credit)

Graduate students are required to enroll in a minimum of 2 graded, graduate-level credits each fall and spring semester. Those who are enrolled in only 1 credit each fall and spring semester are notified by the GS that they are under-enrolled. They are required to correct their enrollment immediately, and a GSD UNL hold is placed on their record, prohibiting them from enrolling in the subsequent term, until they meet the minimum enrollment requirement.

Unsatisfactory (U) grades

If a course has been structured to offer the S/U grading option (such as research), a grade of S in that course would mean a grade of B or better. The Graduate School monitors U grades. Since these grades are very rare, cases are handled individually. Upon identification of a graduate student with a U grade in research, we contact the faculty advisor to find out more about the situation. GSD LGR holds are not automatically placed for U grades but may be if necessary.



See Grade Point Average (GPA) RequirementIncompletesProbation

Repeating Courses

Repeating Courses policy

Typically, courses where content can change (such as special topics, seminars, independent studies, and research and thesis) can be repeated within the semester or on a semester basis. Repeated courses may earn course credit and satisfy the Graduate School’s minimum graduate residence, degree, and coursework (50%) credit requirements. Sometimes program authorization is necessary for enrollment.

Students are entitled to repeat any didactic course if they or their program feel it is necessary. Both grades will be used in calculating the student’s graduate grade-point average; however, the course will count only once toward the Graduate School’s minimum graduate residence, degree, and coursework (50%) credit requirements.

See FailureMinimum Graduate Coursework (50%) RequirementMinimum Graduate Degree Credit RequirementMinimum Graduate Residence Credit RequirementSatisfactory ProgressAppendix 4 – Grade-Point Average Calculation

Readmission to Graduate School (for previously enrolled graduate students)

Readmission to Graduate School policy

If graduate students do not continuously enroll during a fall or spring semester, they are required to apply for readmission to the Graduate School through the online application. The readmission process accomplishes two goals: (1) assures the Graduate School that graduate students are in good standing with their academic program; and (2) activates their enrollment eligibility. Further information about readmission for previously enrolled graduate students can be found here. To apply for readmission, graduate students must also contact their program for further details of the readmission process at the program level.

A returning student who is completing another same level degree within five years must comply with double degree requirements, including the 25% overlap rule.

Any student being readmitted to a graduate program must adhere to the requirements in the most current Academic Policies & Procedures and Graduate Guide.

See Double DegreesEffective DatesInternational Students Maintaining Legal StatusLeave of AbsenceTime Limits