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Taking classes Pass / Fail -- Good idea or bad one?


Averroes MD
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Hello friends, 

 

I'm currently doing a master's degree with a hope to do a PhD (although most likely in the UK).

 

I'm debating whether to change one of my courses to Pass / Fail. It's not a language course. I'm just concerned that I might get a B in it... for some reason, I just have that bad feeling... I have all A's otherwise (although I've only had one semester of grades so far)...

 

Would it be wise to change to P / NP so that I don't get a B in the mix? 

 

Is taking one course a semester P / NP a big deal?

 

Thanks!

Edited by Averroes MD
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If it's even tangentially related to what you'd want to study at the PhD level, then no, don't take it pass/fail. Generally, you want to avoid taking classes pass/fail if you want to pursue doctoral work. If you're in an MTS/MAR program, you should basically have none. One will raise a flag; more than that will be a serious problem. The problem is that a Pass grade is usually something from a D+/C- through an A, and an adcom has no way of telling where you fell on that spectrum. Pass reads as "did the minimum," which is not going to help you. Having one B isn't going to kill you, especially if it's not in your field.

Edited by theophany
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I had a 3.8 in my UG and both M.A.s, so there were some B's in the mix every time (except my last MA-only A minuses there). I'm starting a PhD at Duke in the fall. My professors told me a thousand times not to worry about the occasional B and I never believed them until now. Seriously, it's not that big of a deal--just take the B and move on.

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How about in regards to undergrad? Will graduate (MST) adcoms disapprove of one advanced language course taken for P/F? 

 

Also (I apologize for appropriating the thread, but I thought it'd be better than creating my own) -- what is the general opinion on withdrawals in undergrad? I have two because I dropped courses (in different terms) that were requirements for a major and minor I no longer sought.  

Edited by Asparagus Chamberpot
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Two W's in undergrad is not going to be a big deal.

 

The P/F for an advanced language course is going to matter a lot if your interests are dependent upon that language. P/NP in a language course is basically like not taking it (officially). You may have learned everything you would have had you taken it for a grade, but adcoms have no way of knowing that.

 

Now, if you're just applying to general MA/MTS programs, it's probably not going to matter, but you'll definitely want to make sure you have language courses that make up for the P/F if the language is central to future study (assuming you want to apply for PhD programs.)

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*MTS (I can't edit my above-post again). 

Thank you for the swift response. I took the course because the content appealed to me. I already had fulfilled my language requirements, so I didn't think it mattered much if I took the class for fun. From what you've said and since I am applying to religion in literature concentrations, it doesn't seem such an egregious error. Besides, I could pass the translation qualifying examination.

 

Thank you again for the counsel.  

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I was in a similar situation and ended up switching a course to Pass/Fail. It was a doctoral seminar during my first M* and I was worried I would get a B (I'm fairly certain I would have, too). In the end I'm glad I took it P/F because it allowed me to not worry myself with how I would be graded and instead could just focus on getting what I needed out of the class. It was not a 'language course' but a doctoral level course that required a lot of reading in ancient primary languages (classics stuff).

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Thank you all for your responses. You gave me a lot to think about.

Sacklunch, did you end up getting into a good PhD program?

 

Yes. I am in a highly selective program PhD program currently (top 5). I'd prefer to not give details publicly; message me if you'd like. 

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Yes. I am in a highly selective program PhD program currently (top 5). I'd prefer to not give details publicly; message me if you'd like. 

 

Thanks!

I've decided to take the class for a grade because I heard from people that the prof is an easy grader.

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