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PDF grading policy will remain largely unchanged this spring

Students will still be able to PDF any course, though individual departments may require certain requirements to be taken for a grade

McCosh Chairs
Photo Credit: Lazarena Lazarova

Students will again be able to take any class on a pass/D/fail (PDF) basis during the spring 2021 semester, and individual departments will still have the final decision about which prerequisites and departmental requirements they will require to be taken for a grade.

“The Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing continued the temporary grading policy for the fall into the spring given that almost all instruction continues to be remote,” Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss explained to the ‘Prince.’


The PDF policy was first altered during the spring 2020 semester after students were sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest rendition of the policy was posted to the spring 2021 website on Dec. 9.  

Typically, students can only choose to PDF a maximum of four courses throughout their time at the University. Courses that students elect to PDF during the spring 2021 semester will not count towards the four course limit, as has been the case for the past two semesters. 

Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Academics Chair and incoming President Christian Potter ’22 told The Daily Princetonian that he hopes the continuation of this policy will help students cope with the added stress of attending college during a pandemic.

“As for the decision, the hope is that it’ll give students as much flexibility as possible so that PDF decisions prompted by the circumstances of these few semesters don’t count against the normal PDF allotment,” he wrote in a statement.

Students must choose the PDF option by the ninth week of classes. 

In spring 2020, the University mandated all departments accept grades taken on a PDF basis toward prerequisites and requirements. This semester, however, the decision was left to individual departments.


Eighteen departments continued counting all PDF-graded classes, three accepted PDF-graded prerequisites, but not departmentals, and one accepted PDF-graded departmentals, but not prerequisites. Fourteen departments required all classes to be taken for a letter grade. Some students criticized the lack of consistency. 

“Departments will generally require regular grades for independent work. Deadlines for independent work will revert to the regular University and departmental deadlines,” according to the announcement.

The University solicited feedback from USG before making a decision about the spring 2021 PDF policy, both Hotchkiss and Potter noted.

“USG provided as much direct student input as possible, including through hosting focus groups and facilitating an administrative town hall,” Potter wrote.

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