HKS courses are graded A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D and E; a B average is a requirement for graduation. Courses with grades of E, UNS, INC, PI, ABS or AWD will not count toward graduation. A D is the lowest elective course grade for which students can receive credit toward graduation. Instructors teaching reading and research courses will award either SAT (satisfactory) or UNSAT (unsatisfactory) grades; letter grades will not be awarded for these courses and a SAT grade will not be included in GPA calculation.

An HKS grade below B- is a failing grade for any required course or distribution requirement. Individual grades will not be released by the HKS Registrar’s Office to students. Unofficial transcripts may be viewed and printed through


If students do not complete the required written assignments for a course and do not have instructor approval, in writing, by the end of the semester’s reading period, they will be awarded an incomplete (INC) in lieu of a letter grade. Normally, an INC is regarded as a temporary grade with a deadline to complete the coursework no later than the last day of the reading period of the next semester. To extend the deadline beyond the normal due date, students must file a Petition to Extend an Incomplete (with the HKS Registrar’s Office), which must be approved and signed by the instructor. The instructor is under no obligation to grant either an INC or any further extension. Once the work is complete and a letter grade assigned, the instructor will submit a Grade Change Report form to the HKS Registrar’s Office; the grade will be changed on students’ transcripts. Grades or grade changes that are submitted after established deadlines are subject to approval by the Registrar. If the work has not been completed by the deadline or an extension has not been granted, the INC becomes a Permanent Incomplete (PI) and the course may not be counted towards graduation. If students receive an INC for a cross-registered course, they should check with the host school’s Office of the Registrar for its policy on INC grades.

Absent/Failure to Drop (ABS)

Absence from a final exam: to receive credit for an HKS course with a final examination, students must attend the exam unless they are excused by the HKS Registrar’s Office for serious illness or family emergency prior to the time of the exam; in this case, they must also inform their program director or the associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs (DPSA) of their expected absence. If students are not excused and fail to sit for the exam, they will receive an ABS grade. This may be converted to a letter grade only if they provide medical documentation that they were suddenly seriously ill at the time of the exam. In that circumstance, or if an excused absence, they will be required to take a make-up exam scheduled by the instructor.

Failure to drop a course: if students fail to submit a drop petition when dropping a course, they will receive an ABS grade. If students receive an ABS or an E grade in two classes, they will ordinarily be required to withdraw without the possibility of readmission.


Students may not take courses on a pass/fail basis unless the instructor indicates that all grades in the course will be awarded as either pass or fail. If students cross-register with other schools and are given the option of being graded on a pass/fail or letter grade system, they must select the letter grade option.


Audits for HKS courses do not appear on student records and are at the discretion of faculty members. Audits at other schools will not appear on students’ academic records.

Cross-Registered Courses

Students must meet the grade requirements of the school in which the course is offered. See the HKS Registrar’s Office KNet page for details on cross-registration.

Grade Changes

Students may not ask faculty members to review a final grade once it has been submitted to the HKS Registrar’s Office unless there has been a mathematical miscalculation of the grade.

In addition to a grade, how are credits awarded?

Courses are awarded four credits for a term-length course and two credits for a module. There are also several courses labeled “Y;” typically, these courses are equivalent to four credits. They normally span the full academic year; meeting times vary. Students must complete both terms to earn course credit.

Other schools at Harvard use different systems to award credit. Students must understand how many HKS credits they will earn in a cross-registered course. Refer to for the table of credit equivalencies.