How MBAs Are Graded At Top Schools

Grading Policies At Some Top Schools

SchoolGrading SystemAcademic HonorsMinimum Standards
Harvard Business SchoolCategory I: Top 15% to 20% in required courses & 15% to 25% in elective coursesCategoryII: Next 70% to 75% in the core & 65% to 75% in electivesCategoryIII: Lowest performing 10% in both core & electivesCategory IV: Seldom assigned; designates failure. The combined proportion of category II and IV grades should equal 10%Baker Scholars: Top 5% of graduating class

Other Awards: For top performance in each year

Students receiving 5 or more out of 10 Category III/IV grades in the core are brought to a faculty committee. Some are asked to take a hiatus before returning. Most finish the program.
Stanford GSBH: Honors (Top 10%)HP: High Pass (Next 30%)P: Pass (Next 50%)LP: Low Pass (Lowest 10%)

U: Unsatisfactory (failing grade based on absolute performance)

Arjay Miller Scholars: Top 10% of graduating class based on GPA (H = 6 points; HP = 4 points; P +3 points; LP + 1 pointGood Standing: GPA above 2.65Academic Probation: GPA between 2.25 & 2.65Disqualified with the right to petition: GPA between 1.5 & 2.25, one U in a core course, or two U’s in electives.Disqualified without right to petition: GPA of less than 1.5 or 3 or more U’s
Chicago (Booth)A through D with +/- distinctions and F.An A+ = 4.33 points.The average GPA for a course may not exceed 3.33.High Honors: Top 5% of the graduating class

Honors: Next 15% of the graduating class

Dean’s Honor List: Every quarter for students with GPAs above 3.5

Probation: GPAs of less than 2.33 in a quarterAdministrative leave of absence or dismissal: Two consecutive quarters on probation
UPenn (Wharton)A through D with +/- distinctions and F.LT: Lowest 10% of each class; not noted on transcriptA+ is 4 pointsThe average GPA for a course may not exceed 3.33Palmer Scholars: Top 5% of the graduating classHonors: Top 20% of graduating classFirst-Year Honors: Top 20% at the end of first yearDirector’s List: Top 10% each semesterProbation & Dismissal based on accumulation of LT designations.Dismissal: 5.0 or more credit units of LT in the first year and 8.0 or more cumulatively
Columbia Business SchoolH: Honors (Top 25% to 30%): 10 pointsHP: High Pass (Next 55% to 65%): 7 points

P1: Pass (P, LP, and F combined = 10%): 4 points

LP: Low Pass: 1 point

F: Fail: 0 points

Grades have =/- distinctions

Dean’s Honor: Top 25% of graduating classDean’s Honors plus Distinction: Top 5% of graduating class

Dean’s Honor List:

First Term, GPA of 9.0 or better

Later Terms, GPA of 9.25 or better

Probation & dismissal based on accumulation of LP grades during the programWarning occurs if GPA in first term is 5.9 or below, dismissal occurs if GPA in first term is 4.4 or below
NYU (Stern)A through D with =/- distinctions and F.Upper limit of 35% on As in core classesBeta Gamma Sigma: Top 20% of graduating classGraduation with Distinction: Top 10% of graduating classStern School: GPA of 3.7 or above after first yearProbation and dismissal based on GPA and credits taken
Dartmouth (Tuck)H: Honors (Top 15% first year, 20% second year)S+: Satisfactory (Next 25% to 50%)S: Satisfactory (Next 25% to 50%)LP: Low Pass (up to 15% in first year, 10% in second yearF: FailEdward Tuck Scholars graduating with highest distinction, high distinction and distinction based on GPAProbation: Three or more LP gradesDismissal: Six or more LP grades. F counts as two LPs.
Northwestern (Kellogg)A through D and F (no +/- distinctions)No grade distribution suggested, but every course’s actual grade distribution is made visible to other facultyMBA with Distinction: Top 10% of graduating classDean’s Honor List: GPA of 3.75 or above in a quarterMinimum C average
Yale SOMHigh Honors: Top 10%Honors: Next 25%Proficient:Pass (two lowest categories to be uniformly 10% for core courses and a target of 5% for electives)


No HonorsA failing grade in a core course must be remediated in the next term or part of term in which the course is offered. A student who does not remediate the failing grade will automatically be dismissed from the program.A student falls short of the Quality Standard if he/she:1. Accumulates nonproficient grades in 21 or more units of course work; or2. Accumulates nonproficient grades in more than 12 units of core courses; or3. Accumulates failing grades in more than 4 units of core courses.

Source: Analysis by Anjani Jain of Yale SOM 

  • HBS

    Lol. Yale is definitely not a top school when it comes to business. Stick to literature, history and law.

  • Guy

    “Source: Analysis by Anjani Jain of Yale SOM.” that’s why.

  • Norbert Weiner

    Yale is #8 in U.S. and #10 globally per FT. (

    Please stop the Yale-hating.

  • rajendra

    Anjali , good table. John, thank you again.

  • rajendra

    After having achieved the admission in the school of choice its imperative that the best work is done in the classes too. A habit , or an attempt, to master the subject/topic of the class is essential and must be attempted. Moreover grades cant be changed after passing out. So why not do a good job on the campus? And continue to excel later in the profession with same spirit?

  • Renault

    And Stern is above Tuck and Kellogg — I wouldn’t lose sleep about the order.

  • Kris

    For some reason, Booth is placed above Wharton in this table. P&Q: Biased as usual. Why deceive readers into believing in an inferior product?

  • Matt

    Thanks for sharing.

  • RealAssetsFTW

    That would be great. Keep up the good work!

  • JohnAByrne

    Again, this is only meant to be a glimpse at some top schools to show the differences–not a complete overview of grading systems. I do intend to do more of a deep dive on this subject in the future which will naturally include a more comprehensive comparison among the best schools.

  • metric0

    You could’ve simply said – “John, I’m surprised to not see GND policies mentioned for the schools, as I believe that’s a very relevant variable in this discussion. Was there a reason you opted not to include that variable?” – and gotten your point across without coming across as having no social skills

  • Indigo

    Yale? I thought you said top schools.

  • RealAssetsFTW

    ^^^ Please add Sloan to the mix.

  • MadridStudent

    I study at IE Business School in Madrid, which is a well known Business School in Europe and we have a pretty strict grading rule compared to what I read here. Every single course gets curved with a somewhat normal distribution (which still holds in the elective where courses can have only 15 students) with a mean GPA average per course of 3.15 on a 4 scale.

    C+ 5%, B- 15%, B 35%, B+ 25%, A- 15%, A 5%;

    Failing a course is only possible if you cheat or do not show up to class, but if students get an average GPA below a certain level (permanent C+ and B-) they get expelled from the program without a refund, which is checked after each term.

    The grades are also published internally but also on all transcript of records and in the supplementary documents to the final degree.

  • anon

    John… I’m surprised you didn’t bring up grade non-disclosure policies at these different b-schools. GNDs probably affects student behavior a lot more than do differences in grading scales… Perhaps you should be a bit more thorough on your research…

  • Jay

    What about Sloan?