I am a second-year student at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research. There's been a lot of discussions among students and faculty in my institute regarding the grading system to be employed due to the coronavirus pandemic. As only the midterms could be taken, and as the number of cases has been rising daily, there aren't any plans to open the institute anytime soon to take the end semester exams.

What is the most appropriate thing to do in this situation? Is it fair to use the midterms to decide the final grade?

Edit :

My institute follows the conventional A/B/C/D/F grades for grading, there are some suggestions by the institute and I am listing them below:

  1. The institute wants to award grades on the basis of midterms but if you aren't satisfied with your performance, you can give an end sem exam for any particular course whenever the institute resumes (which no one has any idea), but the grade boundaries do not change.
  2. The students have to inform two weeks after the grades are assigned that they want to take the end sem exam or not.
  • Did the course end early, or did it continue to the normal end?
    – Buffy
    Jul 2, 2020 at 10:11
  • @Buffy the course up to midterms was taught at the institute but no teaching was possible at the institute after this. Although online teaching continued, there were problems with internet access for a significant proportion of the population, no quizzes or exams were taken with online teaching. Jul 2, 2020 at 10:16
  • 2
    The pandemic is unfair. You can't fix that. Jul 2, 2020 at 11:12
  • Why do you assume there is a fair way to grade, with or without pandemic?
    – user111388
    Aug 2, 2020 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


It depends, of course, on what you mean by "fair". If you mean correctly distinguishing top performers (high marks) from average or low performers, I don't think it is really possible without assessment. Certainly depending on a mid term exam is not fair.

But if, by "fair", you mean "not disadvantaging any student" then something like a universal "pass" for everyone is fair. This would come with a note on any transcript that grading was cancelled for this term.

One university in the US has decided that there will be three possible grades for the term just ended: Pass, Fail, and Incomplete. But even there, it depends on some sort of assessment to make the distinctions.

Even cancelling the term and returning everyone's money isn't fair.

The bigger problem, of course, is that we (myself, at least) no longer trust that this situation is temporary and we may need a fundamental re-thinking of both course delivery and student assessment. But, in the short term, some sort of bridge to whatever will follow is necessary.

Chaos requires extraordinary action.

One thing that can be done, I think, is an informal, personal, assessment to each student making suggestions about what they have missed and where they need improvement to continue. This doesn't scale well, of course. But even an ungraded "exam" will give the student some feedback that they can use, if they choose, to advance their education. But making "grading" decisions on such things is difficult to do as, then, cheating is difficult to control.

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