Why is the most common letter of the alphabet not found on report cards?
May 3, 2006 6:46 PM   Subscribe

From jr. high through grad school, we may see the following letters on our report cards : A, B, C, D, F. Why no E?
posted by Afroblanco to Education (33 answers total)
My junior high school and one of my high schools did give out Es instead of Fs. It's a school thing, I guess.
posted by schroedinger at 6:47 PM on May 3, 2006

I always thought that "F" is not really a grade like A-D are, it stands for "Fail" and actually just means that credit doesn't count. In my post-highschools degrees we always had A-C, then D for "drop," "L" for "listener," etc.
posted by neustile at 6:50 PM on May 3, 2006

Must be an American thing. In 70's England we had A, B, C, D, E and U for unrated. D and E were considered fail grades and U was considered, "I rote 'FUK TEECHER' on my paper, but I am SO going to be a rok star and all you creeps will be sory."
posted by Decani at 6:57 PM on May 3, 2006

Perhaps because "E" is already used in this common rating scale:

P - Poor
G - Good
VG - Very Good
E - Excellent
posted by ROTFL at 7:01 PM on May 3, 2006

I doubt they still do this, but when I attended the Chicago Public Schools in the mid-70s to the mid-80s, they used the following system:

E (excellent)
G (good)
S (satisfactory)
U or N (unsatisfactory, or not satisfactory)

But I would agree with Neustille that F stands alone on the ABCDF scale, because unlike ABCD, it's not associated with a range of scores, only with being below all acceptable scores.
posted by j-dawg at 7:01 PM on May 3, 2006

wordreference says this about it. They outline how it is done in other countries. It doesn't directly address your "no e" question, but it's pretty interesting to read. A little more less authoritative reporting here.
posted by jessamyn at 7:05 PM on May 3, 2006

I briefly attended a high school that used A/B/C/D/E. It felt stupid and goofy, because when you failed you got an F, not an E.

My grad school used (IIRC) E/G/F, and a nearby graduate school used H/P/F for high pass, pass, fail.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:07 PM on May 3, 2006

You mean when you failed, you got an E, not an F?
posted by hodyoaten at 7:13 PM on May 3, 2006

Don't forget that weird American grade-school scale where you might get a "Check plus" -- what was THAT all about?
posted by GaelFC at 7:17 PM on May 3, 2006

The school I go to divvies out Es all the time.
posted by bd at 7:32 PM on May 3, 2006

Detroit public schools in the 60s and 70s.... the failing grade was an E, not an F.
posted by The Deej at 7:38 PM on May 3, 2006

At my Uni the grading scheme was all over the shop, different faculties did what they wanted, and the back page of the results was a how-to decoder for the marks. Anyway, when they did the A to F thing, there was an E, where E was 40 - 49%, and F was 0 - 39%.

I think the E goes missing just because F can stand simply for Fail, and they don't want to dwell on the metric of your failure, once you've failed you've failed, there's no need to say how badly.
posted by wilful at 7:48 PM on May 3, 2006

At my high school they used E's to denote "effort", meaning a student who tried but was unable to obtain enough points to receive a passing grade. It didn't qualify them for much GPA wise but they did receive credit for the class. My impression was that it was something the school had the option of using if they needed it but it really never was...after all, how often will somebody who wants to pass not be able to...
posted by baphomet at 7:51 PM on May 3, 2006

My college uses the "E" instead of the "F."
posted by thomas j wise at 7:52 PM on May 3, 2006

Maybe because by adding a single line, you've just given yourself a whole grade increase. It's the simplest forgery you can do.

F + _ = E
posted by tomble at 8:06 PM on May 3, 2006

My nephews' junior high gives out Es instead of Fs.
posted by mewithoutyou at 8:57 PM on May 3, 2006

Don't forget that weird American grade-school scale where you might get a "Check plus" -- what was THAT all about?

I actually like that system, as far as single, relatively simple, hard-to-really-screw-up assignments go. I wouldn't use it to give someone a grade for a whole course, but I'd put a check on an assignment if it was basically all right and met the requirements without really wowing me. Check-plus means it was not only right but I thought it done well. Check-minus means it was basically right but missing something essential. It's a way of giving something a more subjective score than a numeric or letter grade.
posted by wanderingmind at 9:28 PM on May 3, 2006

I'm with baphomet; E was for effort
posted by vaportrail at 9:47 PM on May 3, 2006

ASU switched to using an E instead of an F, perhaps out of faux political correctness.

Seriously, I have no idea what the history is, and less idea why they'd switch to E. It's not like F was confusing anyone at college level.

...well, maybe some folks at ASU...
posted by disillusioned at 10:15 PM on May 3, 2006

In Malaysian universities, the E is also used. D, E and F mean you have to repeat the course, but with Ds and Es you still get some credit toward your Grade Point Average.
posted by BinGregory at 10:20 PM on May 3, 2006

In my Catholic grade school we sat in rows according to our current grade. If you were getting an 'A', you sat in the 'A' row. If you were getting a 'B' you sat in the 'B' row, and so on through the 'D' row. But instead of an 'F' row (or an 'E' row), we had 'Skid Row.' Fail to turn in an assignment and you might be bumped from 'C' row to 'Skid Row' and have to sit with, you know, those people who aren't going to make in life. I can't imagine that happening at any school, Catholic or otherwise, today.

Anyway, to address your question, I've always taken it as 'F' for 'Fail' and treated it as a charming asymmetry. You know, like the fact you can have +/- grades for BCD but A is only A or A- and an F is just an F, no F+ or F-. Or like scoring in tennis (Love, 15, 30, 40? WTF?)
posted by zanni at 1:02 AM on May 4, 2006

...once you've failed you've failed, there's no need to say how badly.

I had a course once where you could resit the exam if you got an E (marginal fail), but not with an F (beyond hope).
posted by cerbous at 1:43 AM on May 4, 2006

In England and Wales (Scotland is different), at 16 the grades are A*, A, B, C, D, E, F, G (I think there's a G) and fail. At 18 they are A, B, C, D, E, N (for 'nearly a pass') and U (ungraded - fail).

At the university I attended, it was alpha, beta and gamma, (I believe gamma was still a pass, but a poor one) with any combination of up to two pluses or minuses.
posted by altolinguistic at 2:17 AM on May 4, 2006

My high school had Es and Fs, for whatever reason.
posted by sluggo at 3:47 AM on May 4, 2006

The GCSE system altolinguistic mentions is quite recent. I'm wondering if there might be a link between the ABCDF system and the system most British universities use which awards the top grade for work above 70%, then in range 60-70%, 50-60%, 40-50% and anything below 40% is a fail. This allows for only four categories plus the failure. This could quite easily have filtered down to educational establishments lower in the food chain.
posted by biffa at 4:30 AM on May 4, 2006

My college had A, B, C, D, and R. I never asked what "R" stood for, but we had our guesses.... ("Retake", among others.)
posted by inigo2 at 5:06 AM on May 4, 2006

My high school had A, B, C, D and E. E was the failing grade, and there were no Fs given.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:39 AM on May 4, 2006

We didn't have letter grades after elementary school (5th grade). It was all numbers 4.0, 3.75, etc. I never understood letter grading.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:43 AM on May 4, 2006

It was all numbers 4.0, 3.75, etc. I never understood letter grading.

4.0 = A
3.67 = A-
3.33 = B+
3.0 = B


not really that hard to understand.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:25 AM on May 4, 2006

4.0 = A+

It all comes down to rubrics, or a standardized process for applying a metric to an object/project/test/etc. Why no E? I think it's really that there was no F and F was added for out-and-out failure. It has it's issues because it doesn't have a numeric score and therefore is unaverageable.

When I taught, I kept term grades in percents and then mapped those to letter grades for report cards, which is silly because some A's are more equal than others, if you know what I mean.

For simple homework assignments I used plus, check plus, check, check minus, and minus, which corresponds to 10, 9, 8, 7, or 6 out of 10.
(lengthy discussion of personal scoring/grading/weighting removed to keep this more marginally on topic)
posted by plinth at 8:47 AM on May 4, 2006

From wikipedia:

"E or F: Failure or Exceptionally Poor; or bottom 60% (0-59) = 0.00"

"Whether the failing grade is E or F typically depends on time and geography. Midwestern and northeastern states have tended to favor "E" since World War II while western and southern states still tend to use "F." Ultimately, the grade "F" traces to the days of two-point grading as "Pass" (P) and "Fail" (F). "E" is less common."
posted by geeky at 10:10 AM on May 4, 2006

Thanks to everybody for your answers. I always wondered about this.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:50 AM on May 4, 2006

A little late to the party, but my experience was different than anyone has mentioned here. In my small-town Ontario grade school (grades 1-8) it was ABCDE (I think, it's been a long time), but in my small-town Ontario high school and at the University of Waterloo (math faculty, at least) it was all straight percentages. Term averages (both high school and uni) were calculated down to a tenth of a percent.

(The time frame for high school and university was 1985-1995, things may have changed since then.)

As someone who's never run across it outside of movies and books, the 4.0/etc scaling has always been rather mysterious. I know that 4.0 is "perfect", but it never really made sense beyond that.

(This message sure had a lot of parentheses.)
posted by flipper at 8:40 AM on May 5, 2006

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