The faculty at the Haas School of Business developed a grading policy for all degree programs. The policy has three goals:
- To ensure that grading is fair and consistent across courses;
- To encourage students to take their coursework seriously; and
- To hold faculty accountable to the rigorous standards of the Haas School of Business.
All instructors who teach Undergraduate courses are required to follow this grading policy.
The mean GPA of core courses in the undergraduate program should not exceed 3.2-3.4. The grade distribution is flexible as long as the mean does not exceed this cap.
The mean GPA of elective (non-core) courses should not exceed 3.4-3.6. The grade distribution is flexible as long as the mean does not exceed this cap.
If you have questions about the Haas School’s grading policy, please refer to the FAQ's listed below.
Grading Policy FAQs
1) Why does Haas have a curve?
Haas undergraduate courses do not have a forced “curve.” There is a grading policy which requires that the mean GPA not exceed the stated caps above. In the past, grading curves were used in Haas classes, as is the case across the campus and in large prerequisite courses. The variance of curves used in the Haas classes and issues of grade inflation led the faculty to develop a recommended distribution for undergraduate core courses back in 2006, which had a mean GPA of about 3.0. Now, there is no longer a forced curve for Haas undergraduate courses. The grade distribution is flexible as long as the mean GPA does not exceed the cap.
2) Do other business schools use curves/mean GPA guidelines?
Most business schools (and other professional schools) have such policies. Berkeley-Haas has a grading policy that is comparable to other peer top-tier business schools.
3) Is this a new policy? When did it begin?
Haas has always had grading policies. However, they have been inconsistently used across various courses, including multiple sections of the same course. The new policy allows for consistency and enforcement school-wide. It also removes the forced grade curve and provides more flexibility in performance by class.
4) Who created the policy?
The Faculty Policy and Planning Committee (P2), which is an elected group of faculty responsible for long-range planning, proposed the policy at the request of faculty and students. The Proposal was adopted by the Faculty at the Faculty and Academic Planning (FAP) meeting on April 29, 2011. It was later amended on October 21, 2011 and May 3, 2013 for courses to move from a forced distribution to a maximum mean GPA of 3.4 and 3.6 for core and electives, respectively. This more closely reflects the historical mean for core and allows for evaluation based on the performance of the class.
5) What are the main reasons behind creating a policy?
- To establish clear and consistent academic standards within and across the undergraduate and graduate professional degree programs at Haas
- To establish clear and consistent academic standards across multiple sections of the same course, particularly when sections are taught by different instructors
- To establish clear and consistent guidance on grading policy for ladder-rank and professional faculty teaching in the Haas School’s undergraduate and graduate professional degree programs and to set expectations for students
- To encourage students to come to class, and to come to class prepared
- To be responsive to requests from student leadership for clear and consistent grading standards
- To enforce the existing grading policy in the undergraduate and full-time MBA programs
6) Is this a pilot?
No, it is a school-wide policy.
7) Are there any exceptions to the policy?
The policy states that faculty wishing to violate the grading policy must explain in writing why the course, and the distribution of students who are enrolled, warrant a deviation. Written approval from the Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction and Dean of the Haas School must be obtained to proceed with a different mean GPA for the class. In the event of such an approved deviation from the policy, the mean GPA of any course should not exceed 3.65.
8) Does the grade policy apply in summer business courses?
All Haas courses offered during Summer Sessions are expected to hold the same standard of excellence and academic rigor as courses offered during the regular academic year. Given the significant demographic differences in summer enrollment it is expected that the average class grade point average (GPA) may not meet historical averages. Even so, the Haas grading policy should be used as a guideline.
9) Can it be overturned?
The policy was created and approved by faculty who are members of the Academic Senate. Therefore, any changes must be made by the same faculty governing body.
10) Why doesn't the UG mean GPA match the MBA mean GPA?
The MBA students are generally more experienced, homogenous and highly selective advanced degree seeking students. It is expected that their performance would be higher than undergraduate courses that include non-business majors.
11) How was the mean GPA determined?
The Faculty Policy and Planning Committee (P2) based the policy on the historical average of grades in undergraduate courses at Haas but also took into consideration benchmarking against peer institutions and academic departments at UC Berkeley. The Professional Faculty Committee (P-FACT) and the Undergraduate Program Committee were also consulted.
12) How is it implemented?
The Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction reports a list of violators, their courses, and the complete grade distribution of their course to all Berkeley-Haas instructors. Such violations are considered when making non-ladder faculty appointments or reappointments, and when discussing teaching in ladder faculty merit cases.
13) How have the faculty been advised of the policy?
The policy has been added to the Haas School’s bylaws and distributed to the faculty by the Dean’s Office. It has also been communicated to all professional faculty by the program offices and Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction.
14) Won’t this foster competition? Why should I work collaboratively in teams?
Competition and collaboration have always co-existed at Berkeley-Haas, and there is no evidence that students will collaborate less in courses with the policy. In this case, the grading policy is based on the historical average so a significant shift in grades is not expected.
15) Are employers being notified?
The Undergraduate Career Center informed employers of the grade policy. Employers are very familiar with the rigorous nature of the Berkeley-Haas curriculum. As many recruiters are Cal alums, many are aware that the Haas School of Business has had a recommended grade distribution.
16) Won’t this put me at a disadvantage when competing for jobs against other schools that don’t use curves?
Many of the top peer institutions also have similar grading policies. There is no data from the Undergraduate Career Center confirming that the number of students securing employment has decreased even with the previous recommended grade distribution.
17) How will you measure the intended positive effects of this policy?
By reviewing whether grading across programs are more uniform and consistent.
18) Why should I be at Haas versus another major since the environment will be more competitive than usual?
It is understandable how perceived“new” policy can create anxiety, particularly for prospective Haas undergraduate students. The change in environment might be an issue of perception because the grading will not, in fact, significantly change. So with all things being relatively equal, Berkeley-Haas will continue to provide benefits for students in a professional school setting and learning community.
19) Where should I go to express my concerns?
You can share your concerns with the HBSA President who sits on the Undergraduate Program Committee (faculty committee). Or you can contact the Undergraduate Program Office.