What Grade Do You Need to Pass a College Class?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

In undergraduate programs, 'D' is typically the lowest passing grade, but passing may not be enough to fulfill graduation requirements.

[Featured image] Student sits in her school library with her laptop open smiling while she studies.

In college, the grading system is typically divided into five letter grades, A, B, C, D, and F. Each letter grade corresponds with a grade point average (GPA) and a numerical range. You’ll usually need to receive a letter grade between A and D to pass a class, often the numerical equivalent of 65 percent or higher. Receiving an F—which stands for “fail”—indicates that you did not pass the class. The cutoff to receive an F is usually 64 percent.

Let’s take a closer look at the college grading system and what grades qualify as passing.

What is a passing grade?

Many college grading systems consider a D, or 65 percent, to be the lowest passing grade.

LetterPercentage gradeGPAPass/Fail
A90-1003.7-4.0Pass
B80-892.7-3.3Pass
C70-791.7-2.3Pass
D65-691.0-1.3Pass
F0-640.0Fail

Note that different schools, programs, or classes may have different cutoff points for what they consider a passing grade. For example, some schools consider 60 percent to be the lowest passing grade, similar to common high school grading scales. Some classes may be graded on a curve, meaning your percentage grade likely won’t align with the typical letter or GPA structure. In graduate programs, it’s common for a C to be the lowest passing grade.

Additional requirements may make it important for you to score above a D to maintain your academic standing, graduate, or qualify for scholarships and financial aid.

Is a D a passing grade?

Typically, a D is considered a passing grade. However, receiving a D may indicate that you didn’t fully understand and retain all of the course material. Even if your school considers a D to be a passing grade, you may still want to consider retaking the course if you plan on taking higher-level courses in the same subject area.

Learn more: What is a Good College GPA and How Can You Raise Yours?

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Passing grade policies

The grade you need to receive to pass a class may differ depending on:

  • General credit requirements

  • Core curriculum requirements

  • Major requirements

  • Scholarships and financial aid requirements

You’ll need to receive a certain number of college credits to earn your college degree, and you’ll only earn credit for courses which you pass. The passing cutoff point to satisfy general credit requirements is typically a D or above.

Sometimes, your school may have higher grading standards to satisfy your core curriculum or major requirements. For example, some schools may require you to get a C or higher in courses related to your major or maintain at least a 2.0 GPA across all courses to qualify for graduation.

You may have higher grading or GPA requirements if you receive scholarships or financial aid. Check the specific terms of your scholarship or financial aid package to find out.

Read more: How Many Credits Do You Need to Graduate College?

What grade do you need to pass a class?

In order to find out the grades you need to earn to pass a class, receive credit, or meet graduation requirements, search “grading policy” on your school’s website. You can also consult your academic advisor for further clarification.

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Pass/fail classes

Some schools allow students to take courses on a pass/fail basis. If you choose this option, that means you will only receive either a grade of Pass or Fail—there is no in-between. In this case, a passing grade typically indicates that you’ve earned a C or above.

Taking a course on a pass/fail basis may count toward your total graduation requirements, such as the minimum number of credits you need to earn, but your grade will not be used in calculating your overall GPA. It may be a good idea to take a class on a pass/fail basis if you’re concerned about how you may perform and want to protect your GPA.

How to improve your grades

If you are looking for ways to improve your grades, it may be helpful to look at your study habits and consider whether there are alternate approaches that may make studying easier or more engaging.

Some research-backed good study habits that may be worth trying include:

  1. Finding a good place to study

  2. Minimizing distractions

  3. Taking breaks

  4. Spacing out your studying

  5. Setting study goals for each session

  6. Rewarding yourself

  7. Studying with a group

  8. Taking practice tests

  9. Using your own words

  10. Asking for help

  11. Taking care of yourself

To go beyond developing good study habits, learn more about how to be successful in college.

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