Law School Rules

Chapter 2. Grading Rules For 2005 And Later Matriculants

2.01 General Grading Rules.

(1) In all courses students shall be graded on a letter-based scale except as otherwise provided at 2.01(3), (4) and (5). The scale shall be: A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D- and F and, where appropriate, S+, S, S- and U.

(2) For purposes of calculating grade averages, the letter grades shall be converted to numerical equivalents according to the following conversion table:

Letter Grade Numerical Equivalent Qualitative Equivalent
F0(failure, no credit for course)

(The descriptions in parentheses are not themselves grades, but are intended simply to help translate the grading scale into qualitative language.)

(A) Grades of S, S+, S- and U are not taken into account in computing a GPA. Grades of S, S+, S- or U do not affect a student's GPA, but if a U is reported as a grade, that U is recorded on the student's transcript, and no credits are earned for that course.

(B) For purposes of calculating honors and awards, Order of the Coif, and other circumstances in which a GPA is used, the GPAs should be calculated to two decimal points. When rounding GPAs, round up; for example 3.455 becomes 3.46, whereas 3.454 remains 3.45.    

(3) In the following courses the instructor may elect to give S+, S (Satisfactory), S- or U (Unsatisfactory) in lieu of letter grades:

a. Advanced Legal Writing;

b. Seminars. A seminar, for the purposes of this rule, is a course in which the enrollment is less than 20 AND the principal basis for the grade is a paper or class presentation.

c. Appellate Advocacy (non-moot court).

All students in a course section must be graded on the same basis, i.e. all must be given letter grades, or all must be graded S/U, except that a student who is not working toward a JD degree may be given a letter grade even if other students in the course section are graded S/U.

If an instructor chooses to use the S- to S+ scale, the grade S+ should be awarded to no more than 20% of the students in each course section. Absent permission from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, the 20% limit is not to be exceeded.

(4) In the following courses grades of Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory must be given in lieu of letter grades (except that a student who is not working toward a JD degree may be given a letter grade):

a. Law Journal;

b. Moot Court;

c. Directed Reading;

d. Directed Research. 

(5) Clinical courses, Trial Advocacy, and the Lawyering Skills course must be graded on the basis of either S+, S, S- and U or on the basis of S and U, in lieu of letter grades.  The grade S+ should be awarded to no more than 20% of the students in each clinical program or course section. Each clinical program or course under this subsection is responsible for developing a system for assuring that, absent permission from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, the 20% limit is not exceeded.

(6) A student who receives a grade of F shall receive no credit for the course, but the grade shall be counted in determining the student's weighted average. A student subsequently shall receive credit for the course if he or she rewrites and earns a grade of D- or better on the rewrite. The rewrite rules of section 6.09 apply.

2.02 Class Rankings. The Law School will not make available, or routinely prepare, student class rank, except for the top 10 rising 3L students. The Law School will prepare a table showing, in increments to be established by the Dean's office, how particular grade point averages compare with those earned by students, with comparable numbers of credits, during the previous 3 years.

2.03 Pass-Fail Option.

(1) A student who has earned 25 or more law school credits prior to the semester in which the option is being exercised, may select, over the remaining course of the student's law school career, not more than two courses* in which the course grade will be reported as provided in paragraph (2), except that this option is not available with respect to the first-year courses, to wit: Contracts I, Civil Procedure I, Criminal Law, Legal Research and Writing I and II, Torts, and Property. In addition, it is not available with respect to second semester first-year options, if taken as first-year options: e.g., Contracts II, Constitutional Law I, Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure II, Legal Process, etc.  The election is available during summer sessions. A student may exercise the option for two courses in the same semester.

(2) In a course selected under this section grades shall be recorded as follows:

a. If the grade reported by the faculty member is B+, A-, A or A+, the grade will be recorded as reported;

b. If the grade reported by the faculty member is C, C+, B- or B, the grade will be recorded as an S;

c. If the grade reported by the faculty member is F, D-, D, D+ or C- the grade will be recorded as reported.

(3) The grades in courses selected under this rule shall be separately recorded. The registrar shall not report the separately recorded grade to the student, either before or after the completion of the student's law school career. Faculty members who choose to do so may disclose to students the grade which they reported to the registrar.

(4) The deadline for selecting a pass-fail course shall be the last day of classes for the term in which the option is being exercised.]

(5) Non-law graduate students are eligible to exercise this option, so long as they submit a letter from their faculty advisor indicating the approval of the department or school in which they are enrolled as a graduate student.

(6) Faculty members teaching upper level courses have the right to decide whether students who enroll in courses they teach may exercise the pass-fail option. The decision to make the course ineligible for the pass-fail option shall be made at the time the faculty member submits his or her teaching preference questionnaire, and this information shall be posted on the course-schedule portion of the Law School's web site.

* Mandatory pass-fail courses (under Rules 2.01(3), (4) or (5)), or courses from outside the Law School for which a grade of S may be ascribed (as with courses from other law schools or from study abroad), do not count against the limitation of two pass-fail option courses. back to Rule 2.03(1)

2.04 Transition Rules. Students who first matriculated at the law school prior to September 2005 shall continue to receive grades based on the numerical grading scale in effect when they entered. For academic years 2005-6 and 2006-7 faculty shall continue to report grades using the 65-95 scale.

(1) If a number grade needs to be translated into a letter grade (as will be the case when some of the students in a class are pre-September 2005 matriculants, and some are post-September 2005 matriculants) the following conversion table shall be used:

Number Grade Letter Grade Numerical Equivalent

(2) If, after the end of the academic year 2007, a letter grade needs to be translated into a number grade (as will be the case for a student who matriculated prior to Sept. 2005, and who has not completed the required work for a degree by June 2007) the following conversion table shall be used:

Letter Grade Number Grade

For all purposes other than the conversion of letter grades to numerical grades, after September 2005 students shall be governed by the grading rules set forth in this Chapter.                     

2.05 Conversion Scale for Intra-University Use.

(1) In translating law school letter grades into the letter grades used in other departments of the University of Wisconsin, the following conversion scale is recommended:

Law School Letter Grade Intra-University Letter Grade
A+, A, A-,B+A
C+, CB
C-, D+BC

(2) A non-law student who takes a law course or seminar graded on a satisfactory-unsatisfactory basis will have a grade of S or U transmitted to the student's department without any conversion, and a grade of U will mean no credit.

(3) The Law School Administrative Office may record grades in accordance with the conversion scale in Rule 4.08(1) for the purpose of reporting grades for non-law students.

2.06 Grading Consistency in Multi-Sectioned Courses.

(1) Faculty teaching courses for which several sections are offered in the same semester are expected to consult in order to maintain a consistency in the grading patterns of the sections. Consistency can be maintained by agreement in advance to an approximate grading pattern, agreement to follow a pattern set by the first instructor to finish grading, or submission of all grades after all grading has been completed and post-grading consultation has occurred.

(2) Consistency does not require that there be no differences in the grading curves between sections. However, faculty should be convinced that any differences between sections reflects differences in student performance and not just difference in faculty grading patterns.

2.07 Average Grades.

(1) For all first year courses, and for advanced classes with an enrollment exceeding 30, the mean grade shall normally fall between 2.85 and 3.1 on the 4.3 (A+ to F) scale.  For advanced classes with an enrollment of 30 or less, the mean grade shall normally fall between 2.7 and 3.3 on the 4.3 (A+ to F) scale.

(2) An instructor submitting grades with a mean falling outside the limits prescribed in the preceding section shall provide the Associate Dean with a brief written explanation for the deviation from the prescribed means. The Associate Dean may prescribe a form for the submission of such explanations.

2.08 Grade Distributions.

(1) The following table establishes target ranges for the distribution of grades in large and small sections. Large sections are courses or sections with an enrollment exceeding 30. Instructors should endeavor to fit within these ranges in assigning grades, unless circumstances peculiar to that course or the students enrolled in it justify a different pattern.

Grade Range Large Section Small Section
0-1.7 (F to C-)0-13%0-15%
2.0-2.3 (C & C+)7-17%5-20%
2.7-3.0 (B- & B)35-45%30-50%
3.3-3.7 (B+ & A-)28-38%25-40%
4.0-4.3 (A & A+)5-15%0-20%

(2) The Associate Dean shall study the grading patterns of all instructors. If they deviate significantly from these ranges over several courses, the Associate Dean shall consult with the instructor in an effort to come to some agreement whether the deviations are appropriate, given the subject matter of the course and the type of students enrolled.

2.09 Reporting of Grades.

(1) Instructors are responsible for reporting their grades in conformity with the deadline policies adopted by the faculty.

(2) Grade entry is accomplished by utilizing the Law School's on-line grade reporting system. The on-line grade reporting system may be modified from time to time, but should contain:

(a) a method for calculating the average and median grades for the course;

(b) a method for calculating the current combined cumulative average for all the students included on the grade sheet, to the extent that it is available; and

(c) a method for generating a table depicting the number of times each individual grade was given.

(d) a method for permitting instructors to include, along with their individual grades, a brief description of the method of testing or other basis for grades and any explanation desired by the instructor concerning special or unusual circumstances pertaining to the course.

2.10 Distribution and Posting of Grade Information.

At the end of each semester the Dean's office shall prepare and post a grading summary showing for each section of each course:

(a) Course name, instructor and number of students in the course;

(b) Average and median grades and range of grades in the course; and

(c) Such other information as may be deemed significant by the Dean.

2.11 Grading Grievances.

(1) There shall be no appeal from a grade on the allegation either that the grader misapplied the criteria for grading the exam, or that the criteria were themselves ill-chosen; faculty members should be scrupulously careful in constructing the exam, choosing grading criteria and applying those criteria. Once a grade has been turned in, that grade may be changed only if it is the result of an error in computation, or an error in transcription.

(2) Students who believe they have been the victim of discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, or other similarly arbitrary grounds, may seek redress from the office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, with a right of appeal to the Petitions Committee. Disputes concerning the right to, or extent of, any disability-related accommodations shall be resolved using the appeal process set forth as part of the ADA Campus Policies, and shall not be regarded as grading grievances under this section.

(3) A student who wishes to challenge the nature, quality, or fairness of an examination or other graded exercise for a particular course, rather than his or her particular grade on that examination or exercise, may bring a grievance to the attention of the office of the Associate Dean.

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