Letter-grade System Is Effective Than Pass-fail Grading System

Assessment is a very crucial tool for survival of humanity and grading system is a subset of it. Without categorizing most of the things around us, society would be a more complex and arduous place to live in. No doubt that the utmost function of education is learning but at the same time assessment in the form of grades is crucial too.In academic institutions grade system is the most significant and effective way to assess the progress of students, hence this system is the backbone of our academia.

Grading system tells us about the strengths and weaknesses we have. It encourages us to always stay in the phase of evolution and also prepare us to face the upcoming challenges of life. Noctem says in one of its article that “Grades have and always will play a major role in education and in life’  (Mandrell 435-39). There are few systems which now a day are in use for the evaluation of a student performance. Each one has its own pros and cons but as we are convinced with one most important rule of life that always follow the option that benefits you the most, relatively to the next best alternative, we have to decide between those.

There exists no system on planet earth with an absolute perfection. The two major classes of grading system are pass-fail and letter grade. The pass-fail grading system is defined as the one in which all the students need to reach a specific percentage of their subjects to pass them otherwise they would fail their courses. In this system, there is no distinction between students who study two hours and the one who study twelve hours a day. Letter grade system is the one which actually rewards the students based on the efforts they made. Although pass-fail grading system can minimize stress however letter grade system is more efficient as it encourages them to work hard, ensures a competitive environment and enables them to mark their relevance in the job market.

Motivation or incentive is such a necessary element that without it nobody wants to do anything and the letter-grade system is a perfect example which incentivised student to always struggle to stay at the top of the list. The fear of getting an “F” and satisfaction by the attainment of an “A” drives the student to study harder for the upcoming exams and always to be in a mood of much better off than the previous one. “Grades are usually a motivation to learn; without them, students would get lazy and carefree about the actual work involved” (Mandrell 435-39). “Carrot and stick rule” is a classical rule that is widely applied in almost every field of life. In letter grade system students get carrots if they perform exceptionally and if they will not then the stick of getting lower grades will always motivate them to study hard in the next examination.




This is not the case with the pass-fail grading system because it does not distinguish students base on the effort they put in studies. This rule can also be applied by putting the most crucial part of our lives in between that is our parents. If they see an “A” grade on transcript they know that their children are acting well but if there will be a lower grade, let say “D” then they know that something is wrong with their children. Then they either will try to eradicate any problem children is facing or will encourage them to effort again by giving the greed of high reward. Grading is a kind of rewarding students per their performance and rewards for high grades, in any form, have been proven to help create “intrinsic interest in academic behaviour” for most students (Noctem “Pros and cons of grading system”).

Letter grade system ensures efficiency in the education system. In this world of technology, we just care about the efficiency of a system and are always in a quest of making it more efficient. With pass-fail grading system, a better performing student will always be discouraged. This is because there is no distinction between him and the student who did not struggle at all but to extent just to pass the course. On the other hand, the letter-grade system not only encourages better-performing students to keep their higher performance level but also at the same time inspires other low-performing students to act more aggressively to improve their performance.

‘Peer pressure isn’t always a negative thing’ (Malvanker “Peer pressure”). Peer pressure and a better result of the class are the two closely related things. Psychologically when rest of classmates will be performing much better then low-performing students against their will must perform somehow better than previously. Due to this, the education system will be out turning a bulk proportion of high performing students in the society.

After graduation, students move out in job market. The primary purpose of getting high grades for most of the students is that at the end of the day they will get a high paid job.  The number of students graduating each year is always more than the demand of jobs in the market. If students are graded per pass-fail system, then almost every graduate will apply for a job. Now see the misery of system that all the students that got “P” are on the same plate no serious distinction between them. What employee are looking for is a hard-working, dedicated and committed student. “P” grade cannot clearly define that how well a student was performing and how much he was committed to his academics.




People are graded on various shades of gray in a vocational environment.’ A black and white system of grading can create unreasonable expectations that the working world operates in the same manner’ (Lombardo “Pass-fail grading system”). The Employee will die of the headache of seeing such a large number of applicants and interviewing them. Many large manufacturing corporations like General Motors, Ford, John Deere and Caterpillar want to see grades.’ They see GPA as a threshold to manage their recruitment’ (Adams” Do employers really care about grades”) With letter grade system, they can put a certain cap as a criteria of a particular job. Then this will be much easier for them to select a competent person for that job.

The pass-fail system reduces stress and anxiety level in students but we cannot adopt it just because of this. The cons it causes are much more severe and complex and considering them its pros is in no state to leave any notable effect on society. Pass-fail system helps students procrastinates. They know that they just have to reach a minimum level to pass the course so why to spend all the time on studies. This will organize their priority list in a way putting studies at the bottom of the list. Marks or grades are significant in providing both students and parents some feedback on the overall performance and knowledge of students.

‘With grade point average, grades are expressed in numbers with their corresponding grade equivalent while a pass/fail grading system only provide two results to choose from. This will not be able to point out what the weakness and strengths of the students are’ (“6 pros and cons of pass-fail grading system”). Pass-fail grading system keeps an equality between student but ‘equality is not always a good thing’ (Lombardo “Pass-fail grading system”). Students are also encouraged not to attend the classes because they know at the end the “P” will never tell anyone either he/she was regular or not. The overall attendance in classes will be lower down and at the end, students will start to lose interest in their studies.

Everything has its own good and bad aspects. How does the society choose between two options in real life is select the one with high benefits to drawbacks ratio. If benefits to drawbacks ratio of one of the options is more than the next best alternative, we being rational will always stick to the first one. Similar is the case with grading system. No doubt grading system causes certain harms to society by making them more stressed but if we compare the two options, pass-fail grading system is overflowed with a number of flaws that just cannot be ignored.




There are very few people in society who sometime suffer from stress or anxiety because of grading system but they must also realize one most important thing that this is for their betterment. Today they will take the stress, tomorrow they will be more encouraged to enhance their performance. when there is pass-fail system no one cares about classmates, there is no kind of interactive air in class.

While letter-grade system makes student curious about the grades of their fellow students, this encourage the interaction and widely there will be a perfectly competitive environment where the student will learn much better. This will help them to excel in future. So, the letter-grade system is the most reliable of all the other kind of grading systems.


Works Cited

Adams, Susan. “Do Employers Really Care About Your College Grades?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

Lombardo, Crystal, Marc Zorn, and Andrew Gazdecki. “Pass Fail Grading System Pros and Cons.” Vision Launch. N.p., 12 Aug. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2017

“6 pros and cons of pas-fail grading system”. Flow psychology.21 Apr. 2016. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

Noctem, Flora. “Pros and Cons of the A to F Grading System by Carpe Noctem.” Pros and Cons of the A to F Grading System – a column by Carpe Noctem. All poetry poets – All Poetry. N.p., 24 Sept. 2006. Web. 14 Mar. 2017

Web.Mandrell, Liz. “Zen and the Art of Grade Motivation.” The English Journal 86.1 (1997): 435-39. Web.

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