How is the grade F viewed in US academic system, is it abhorred or people see that grade as any other grade. If a student gets an A retaking that particular course, the previous F grade he got would be overwritten, even though there will be a mark on the transcript.Is there any sort of negative stigma because of that?

  • might help to clarify what sort of stigma you mean. A stigma among your student peers? A stigma from Professors, from academic administrators? From the job market (specifically what field)?
    – Jonathon
    Jun 7, 2015 at 5:44
  • Well I would definitely hate to get an F, in fact I loathe it - but in certain circumstances, well personally I in many circumstances did not feel belonging to certain courses due to ideals of teachers - I felt much to give a damn about my grade - I knew I had to redo the course with another teacher anyway, so when applying for graduate school, I knew it would hurt someone somewhere ~ hence I asked about the perspective of others out here.
    – motiur
    Jun 7, 2015 at 6:19

3 Answers 3


At my university (in the United States), a failure grade (which is E here) can only be replaced if in a lower division (of undergraduate) class, and only a certain number of times. After that, or for upper division courses, the failure grade and the passing grade are recorded in the transcript.

As for the stigma associated with failure grades, I suppose that there shouldn't be any immediate negative stigma as there are many possible factors associated with the student:

  1. The student took too many courses at once, or the particular course was very challenging.
  2. Any social/health/familial reasons that have the student leave the university.
  3. The student does not study well in general, or take exams well (more present if the course grade is primarily based off of exams).

Of course, there are other reasons for a failure grade, such as academic dishonesty (a grade of XE instead of E) or pure laziness in not completing most/all of the course requirements.

  • 2
    +1 for citing genuine reasons that aren't laziness. Taking too many courses at once happened to me once, I ended up having to drop one but I was so busy working on the other one that it took me a long time to actually find the time to formally drop the course, so my attendence record suffered.
    – Pharap
    Jun 7, 2015 at 10:32

As F stands for failing, of course there's a stigma associated with it. How much depends on the course in which it's received. For example, failing freshman biology matters much less if you're in art than if you're planning on applying for medical school.

Also note that different schools handle repeated courses differently. Some schools count only the last grade, while some count both equally in the final average (a zero plus whatever an "A" grade counts as).

  • And some schools offer `academic bankruptcy' which allows you to request that your performance up to some point in time be disregarded so that you get a "do over" after a bad start. Jun 6, 2015 at 15:09
  • At my school, the default is to average all grades for a single course, but students can apply to have the second grade in a course replace the first, if the first is low enough (D or F), for up to four courses. [This creates a perverse incentive for C students to argue that their grades are too high.] But all this administrative legerdemain is only for the university's official GPA calculation; all grades appear on the transcript.
    – JeffE
    Jun 6, 2015 at 15:29

A very wise supervisor of mine gave me an interesting aspect to ponder here. He also ran a a business, and when hiring, he liked to hire people with F grades on the record. He didn't like to hire people with a W (which at our school stands for "withdraw" - students who don't complete the class). The F, especially when combined with success when retaking the class, to him indicates the stick-to-it-ness that he was looking for in his employees.

So an F may not be all bad.

  • 4
    I love your supervisor's perspective but for the record, I know a lot of people withdraw a class simply because it brings down their overall GPA. I know a lot of recruiters will not even look at a resume unless they meet a certain GPA requirement.
    – aug
    Jun 6, 2015 at 22:08

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