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Incomplete Grades

Northwestern University expects students to finish their coursework on time or remove themselves from the course by dropping or withdrawing.  When situations outside a student's control arise that prevent timely course completion, Northwestern designates two different incomplete grades, X and Y to designate what work is outstanding.  X grades indicate that a student missed the final exam or did not submit the final assessment, but all other work in the term was complete. The assignment of Y grades is governed by the policy below. 

Northwestern undergraduate students may request an incomplete grade of Y when they have substantially completed the work, including any requirements of attendance or engagement. The university minimally requires that more than 50% of the course requirements must be complete in order for the course to be “substantially completed."  Students must also be passing the course based on the materials submitted thus far to be eligible for an incomplete Y grade.  

This policy allows but does not compel incomplete Y grades in the above circumstances: Grading is the purview of the faculty, as governed by school policies, and faculty may choose to deny requests for incomplete grades in cases where this policy allows them. 

Individual schools may also require approval by staff in the deans’ offices in order for an incomplete grade to be assigned (see the Weinberg College incomplete approval process). Schools may consider a number of other factors when considering approval or denial of incomplete grades, such as the number of incompletes a student has requested and whether any are outstanding.  Students must consider the school offering the course, not their own school, to determine the process by which an incomplete grade is requested and assigned. 

Impact of Incomplete Grades

As the tables above illustrate, both X and Y grades bear 0.00 grade points.  As such, schools factor incomplete grades into enrollment, probation and dismissal decisions, and students should be sure they understand how incomplete grades affect academic standing.

Resolving Incomplete Coursework

The student must complete the course and the grade must be changed no later than the end of the following like term (roughly one year later), or the incomplete will be changed to a final grade of F (failure). This University deadline to change an incomplete grade is the maximum amount of time allowed: Instructors are free to establish an earlier deadline and students are bound by that agreement. 

Students planning to graduate before the standard grade change deadline (the following like term) must complete courses and receive grades before graduating. Incomplete grades remaining at the time of degree conferral will be changed to final grades of F (failure). Grade changes are not permitted after a degree has been conferred.

Incomplete Grades

You will receive a grade of “X” if you miss your final exam for just cause, and your instructor believes you will complete a make-up exam in a timely manner. A grade of "X" is calculated into the GPA as an "F" until a completed change of grade form is received at the Office of the Registrar. 

You will receive a grade of "Y" if your class work is incomplete, and the instructor believes that you will complete this work within a reasonable time frame. A grade of "Y" is calculated into the GPA as an "F" until a completed change of grade form is received at the Office of the Registrar. Please note that some undergraduate schools prohibit the posting of X or Y grades without the approval of the dean’s office. This includes the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (WCAS) where approval is needed

You must complete the coursework and the faculty must submit a grade change no later than the grading deadline of the following like term. For example, an incomplete grade from fall quarter must be changed to a final, quality grade before the grading deadline for the following fall. If this does not happen, the incomplete grade will be changed to a final grade of F. Incomplete grades remaining at the end of three quarters will be changed to final grades of F. 

You are expected to complete all work in all courses by the appropriate deadline, as outlined by the instructor and University policies (see above policy). You will not be granted permission to make up a final examination or complete other assigned course work after the end of the quarter, except in circumstances clearly beyond your control. If you expect to miss or have missed a final examination, you must negotiate an alternate arrangement with the instructor. 

If you receive a grade of "X" or "Y" in a course, you must complete the required work to obtain a grade within one quarter from the quarter in which you earned the incomplete grade. Your adviser will contact you immediately to discuss a plan for resolving the incomplete, which includes communicating with the respective course’s professor. An incomplete is factored as an F into your GPA until it is resolved. A “Y” should be viewed as an option only for mitigating circumstances (health, emergency) – it is not to be pursued in cases such as simply falling behind or receiving a series of poor grades in a class. 

If you have not made what your adviser considers to be adequate progress toward resolving the grade, a registration hold will be placed on your account. Failure to resolve an X or Y grade by the end of the next like term manner may also result in an academic warning or other action. 

Keep in mind that it often takes time for your instructor to evaluate your work, sign the form, and submit it to the Office of the Registrar. Finishing up work from a previous quarter can be very difficult once you are involved in a new set of courses. Thus, you should make up incompletes as soon as possible. You must ensure that your instructor has adequate time to review your work and submit your new grade. It is at the instructor’s discretion whether work will be accepted beyond the established deadline(s) and how that work will be evaluated/graded. The deadline for resolving an incomplete should be established by you and your professor. If you do not meet the agreed-upon deadline, you risk failing the course. If you receive more than one incomplete in a quarter, you will be placed on academic probation. 

You should also consider how an incomplete will look on your transcript. An incomplete on your transcript can have a negative impact, especially when transcripts are required for graduate school, scholarships, fellowships, or other professional opportunities.

Other Grades

K Grades

 You will receive a grade of "K" for work in progress, which is not factored into your GPA. The best examples of the use of the “K” grade are for the Senior Honors Thesis Program, which extends over three quarters, the Certificate in Civic Engagement Capstone Project, which extends over two quarters, or for study abroad.

Late Course Withdrawal (Ws)

You may withdraw from a course without any academic implications until the end of the 6th week of classes. 

You may request permission for a “late drop” after the deadline until the end of the 8th week of the term, and before the due date of the final assessment of the class in question. At this stage, all approved withdrawals will result in a “W” (withdrawal) being posted to the transcript. You will be asked to attest that the due date for the final assessment in the particular course has not been reached. If you request a withdrawal after the final assessment date has been reached, you will be in violation of the academic integrity policy. 

You must discuss dropping a course with a grade of “W” with your adviser or the SESP Assistant Dean for Student Affairs prior to the deadline. 

You can find out more about Course Withdrawal from the Office of the Registrar.

P/N and NR Grades

You will receive a grade of “P” or “N” if you take a course under the Pass/No Pass option. The maximum number of courses you may take under the Pass/No Pass system is six. Coursework in which you earn a “P” may only be counted as an elective. 

You will receive a grade of “NR,” meaning “not reported,” if your professor does not submit a grade by the deadline. This grade, while it appears on your transcript, is not factored into your GPA. You should follow up with your professor to ask them to submit your final grade.