At the conclusion of each course, instructors give students one of four grades designated as Category I, II, III, and IV. These grades are reported to the Registrar’s Office.

  • Category I: Given to the top 15%–20% of students in an RC section. Given to the top 15%–25% of students in an EC course section.
  • Category II: Given to the next 70%–75% of students in an RC section. Given to the next 65%–75% in an EC course section. The actual number of Category II grades is subject to the number of Category I grades assigned.
  • Category III: Given to the lowest performing 10% of students in an RC section or EC course section.
  • Category IV: Seldom assigned; designates failure of achievement and/or commitment and, therefore, failure to meet minimum standards of the course. If Category IV is used in a course, the combined number of students who receive Categories III and IV must equal the lowest 10% of the section.

Notes: These percentage guidelines do not apply to EC courses of 25 or fewer students. Faculty are not able to request adjustments to the mandatory grade distribution.

While grading varies considerably among courses, grades are typically calculated from class participation (30 – 50%), written midterm exams (approx. 5 – 15%) and written final exams (30 – 60%). Grades reported for an individual student are not averaged. No determination of rank or academic standing is made, except for the purpose of awarding academic honors.

Designations of Incomplete and No Academic Credit are not considered grades. However, their effect on a student's academic status can be significant.

RC Exam Quartiles

In addition to the above term grades, exam quartile scores are required for all case-based RC courses. Exam quartiles are designed to indicate to students their performance on the final exam for each RC course. They comprise seven values:

Quartile Quartile Meaning
1 In the top quarter of the class
1/2 On the borderline between quartile 1 and quartile 2
2 Between the top quarter and the midpoint of the class
2/3 On the borderline between quartile 2 and quartile 3
3 Between the midpoint and the bottom quarter of the class
3/4 On the borderline between quartile 3 and quartile 4
In the bottom quarter of the class

Twenty-five percent of the enrollment for each class should receive each of the main quartiles (1, 2, 3, or 4), but because it is sometimes impossible to divide the class evenly, borderline categories have been provided.

Exam quartile information does not appear on a student’s official transcript.

Independent Projects

Independent Projects will receive a grade of Pass, Low Pass or Fail. “Pass” represents satisfactory performance and will not figure into honors calculations. For the purpose of evaluating academic performance, a “Low Pass” on an Independent Project will be treated as a Category III grade and a “Fail” grade will be treated as a Category IV grade.


At the beginning of a term, each instructor makes their course requirements clear to students. If a student does not fulfill all course requirements (due to illness or another acceptable reason), the instructor has two options: submit a course grade based on the student's performance or report the student’s work as “Incomplete.” An “Incomplete” allows the student an opportunity to complete the requirements of a course after the term has ended.

  • An Incomplete reported at the end of a fall term (generally Term 1 or Term 3) would require the student to submit missing work by the final day of classes of the subsequent spring term.
  • If a student's incomplete record at the end of Term 2 does not allow a determination of whether the student has met minimum academic requirements, typically the student will be expected to make up the incomplete requirements during the summer before they will be allowed to begin Term 3. Unless otherwise directed, the student will be expected to make up the incomplete requirements by August 1.
  • Incompletes are not granted in the final EC term.
  • A student who has withdrawn from the School must make up incomplete requirements within three months of the last day of classes of the term during which they withdrew. The student may petition the Academic Performance Committee for an extension for good cause. If an "Incomplete" is not removed from a student's record within the time allowed, a determination of "No Credit" will be recorded.
  • Any rules regarding the "Incomplete" designation for HBS courses also apply to similar reports received from a course taken through cross-registration.

No Academic Credit

The designation of "Incomplete" will not be used if a student's failure to satisfy the requirements of a course results from unexcused absences or other unacceptable behavior. Reasons for a "No Credit" ("X") determination by an instructor include, for example: failure to submit a major piece of written work, failure to take the final examination, repeated absence from class, and repeated failure to prepare for class. In such a circumstance, the instructor will report that a student has not performed adequate work and no credit has been earned.

  • If a "No Credit" determination is recorded in any RC course, the student will be subject to Academic Review by the Academic Performance Committee (APC) at the end of Term 2 (for insufficient credits). In accordance with its usual procedure, the APC may, upon review of the situation, require a student to withdraw from the Program or may specify the conditions that would need to be met for the student to be allowed to continue without interruption.
  • If a "No Credit" determination is recorded in Term 3, the student may take an additional course in Term 4 if they meet the requirements for taking extra credit units. If the student does not qualify to take an extra course, or if the determination of "No Credit" occurs in Term 4, the student will most likely not meet the requirements for the MBA degree. In such an event, the APC may, at its discretion, suggest a procedure by which the student can make up the deficiency. 
  • If a student has cross-registered for a course outside the MBA Program, the grade earned must be acceptable for graduate credit at the school where the course is offered. If the grade is too low to count toward a degree at that school, it will be treated as a "No Credit" determination for purposes of evaluating whether the student has satisfied the minimum academic requirements for the MBA degree. 
  • If a student believes that a "No Credit" determination is unwarranted, they may submit a written appeal to the APC within three months of the last day of classes of the term during which the "No Credit" determination was made. The APC will render a final decision after reviewing the instructor's initial determination and after obtaining any necessary additional information from the instructor, the student, and others. 
  • If the APC decides either that the student has met the "essential requirements" of the course or that the failure to meet an essential requirement occurred for acceptable reasons, the APC may ask the instructor either to permit the student to make up the work or to report to the Registrar the grade earned by the student on the basis of the student’s performance in the course.

Feedback on Grades

All requests for grade feedback should be directed to faculty members. Grade change requests must be initiated by the faculty member and subsequently approved by the Course Head (RC only), Unit Head, RC or EC Chair, and finally the Academic Performance Committee.

Grade Release Date

Please note that these dates are subject to change. HBS reserves the right to release grades to students contingent on satisfactory completion of relevant surveys or evaluations. Unless indicated otherwise, all grades can be viewed online. 

Grade Release Dates – 2023/2024 Academic Year
Date Group
Monday, January 8 EC Fall
Thursday, January 11 RC Fall
Thursday, February 8 January
Monday, May 20 EC Spring
Tuesday, June 4 RC Spring