I current have an 85% in his class but my final is pass or fail. I’m horrible at math and have really tried my hardest to get that b but my professors math final is either you pass it or if you fail it, you fail the course! Is allowed? I also asked around and it seems he’s the only professor that is doing this.

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    What did it say in the syllabus at the beginning of the semester? – ff524 Dec 17 '18 at 17:14
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    In general, professors have quite a bit of leeway in how they design exams. How much depends on your institution's policies, which we don't know. – henning -- reinstate Monica Dec 17 '18 at 17:41
  • To expand upon @ff524's comment: I've had a several of math classes where 70% or more of one's grade was based on the final exam. While not an explicit "fail the exam, fail the course", if you god a score of, say, 50% on the final, you were likely to fail the course just because of how the percentages broke down. The Syllabus will often list the total grading percentages for the course. – sharur Dec 17 '18 at 18:00
  • One time I took an extraordinarily difficult math class and failed (perhaps 20% passed). Several of my colleagues took the course with different professors, and their returned midterms and finals were significantly easier. Some professors run really hard classes, and it is kind of their prerogative. For a course with a lot of sections it is definitely smart to ask classmates or even use various professor rating sites. Professors rarely have really high ratings, but the truly terrible ratings are significant. Look at the syllabus on day one, you can usually change classes still! – user102072 Dec 18 '18 at 0:21

Why wouldn't it be allowed?

  • Legally? You didn't say what country you are in, but I'm not aware of any country that regulates courses at this level.
  • Your university's rules? You didn't say what university you are in, so it's impossible to say for sure. In general, though, the "instructor of record" has the authority to make decisions about how a course will be graded.

Broadly speaking, this does not seem like a bizarre policy that some wacko professor implemented; I've actually seen this in other math departments. I guess the philosophy is that most entry-level math courses are about skills: they do not want to pass you onto more advanced courses unless you know these foundational skills well enough to do them in a measurable way. (I realize that you may not personally plan to take more advanced courses, but the principle is the same).

Anyway: yes, unless your university has a policy that forbids it (e.g., a policy saying that all professors of a given course have to grade the same way), this policy is almost certainly allowed.


Since you asked your question so general (without specifying a country), I can also answer: yes, they can. In my country, for example, lecture courses are to be graded by only one single final exam.

It may be that this is not the case in your institution and that your professor is not allowed to grade in this way. Note, however, that many professors do weird things while nobidy cares. (I had a professor who openly annoced that women should not be allowed to study and all women failed his course, it was widely known, but nobody cared. This is of course an abosolutely horrible and extreme example - I also had other professors who went over the rules and nobody cared.)

So what I advise you is: Don't just ask "around", but ask specific people who know these kind of issues are are sympathethic to you. For example, your student's union or your academic advisor. Those people should know if this grading is allowed, and, if no, if it is possible in your institution to do something against it.

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