Do you remember the feeling of dread that came with seeing a red ‘F’ on your report card? For high school students, grades can be a source of stress and anxiety.

If you’re wondering what exactly constitutes a failing grade in high school, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of grading systems to help you better understand what grades mean and how they’re calculated.

From percentage-based grading to weighted GPAs, there’s a lot to cover. So, let’s dive in!

Percentage-Based Grading

Percentage-based grading is a common grading system used in high schools across the United States. It is a straightforward grading system that assigns grades based on the percentage of points earned out of the total points possible.

How Percentage-Based Grading Works

In percentage-based grading, students are graded based on the percentage of points they earn on assignments, exams, and other assessments. For example, if a student earns 90 out of 100 points on an exam, their grade would be calculated as 90%. The percentage is then converted into a letter grade based on the school’s grading scale.

Most schools use a 10-point grading scale, where an A is typically 90-100%, a B is 80-89%, a C is 70-79%, a D is 60-69%, and an F is anything below 60%. However, some schools may use a different grading scale, so it’s important to check with your school to understand their specific grading system.

What is a Failing Grade in Percentage-Based Grading?

A failing grade in percentage-based grading is typically anything below 60%. This means that if a student earns 59% or lower on an assignment, exam, or other assessment, they will receive an F, which is considered a failing grade.

It’s important to note that receiving a failing grade does not necessarily mean that a student is incapable of succeeding or that they are not intelligent. It simply means that they did not meet the minimum requirements for that particular assignment or assessment. It’s important for students to learn from their mistakes and work towards improving their grades in the future.

Weighted GPAs

What is a Weighted GPA?

A weighted GPA is a type of GPA that takes into account the difficulty level of the courses a student has taken. This type of GPA assigns more weight to honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses than to regular courses. Essentially, a weighted GPA reflects a student’s academic achievements in more challenging courses.

How are Weighted GPAs Calculated?

Weighted GPAs are calculated on a scale of 0 to 5.0. AP and IB courses receive a higher weight, usually a 1.0 or 0.5 additional point, depending on the school’s policy. For example, if a student earns an A in an AP class, their weighted GPA would be higher than if they earned an A in a regular class. Weighted GPAs are typically used by colleges and universities to evaluate a student’s academic performance.

What is a Failing Grade in Weighted GPA?

A failing grade in a weighted GPA depends on the grading scale used by the school. Generally, a grade below a C- is considered failing in a weighted GPA. However, since weighted GPAs are calculated based on the difficulty level of the courses a student takes, a failing grade in an honors or AP class will have a greater impact on a student’s weighted GPA than a failing grade in a regular class. It’s important for students to understand the impact of their grades on their weighted GPA and to seek help if they are struggling in a particular class.

Pass/Fail Grading

What is Pass/Fail Grading?

Pass/Fail grading is a system where students either pass or fail a class instead of receiving a letter grade. This system is used in some high schools, colleges, and universities as an alternative to traditional letter grading. In this system, a student must achieve a certain level of mastery to pass the course, but the specific grade is not recorded on their transcript. Instead, they receive a “P” for passing or an “F” for failing.

What is a Failing Grade in Pass/Fail Grading?

In Pass/Fail grading, a failing grade is simply an “F.” This means that the student did not meet the minimum level of mastery required to pass the course. However, unlike traditional grading systems, the specific grade is not recorded on the student’s transcript. This can be both a blessing and a curse for students who struggle in a particular subject. On one hand, it means that a failing grade will not negatively impact their GPA. On the other hand, it also means that they will not receive credit for the course if they fail.

Pros and Cons of Pass/Fail Grading


  • Reduces stress and anxiety for students who struggle with grades
  • Encourages students to take classes outside of their comfort zone
  • Allows for more focus on learning and less on grades


  • May not accurately reflect a student’s level of mastery in a subject
  • Can make it difficult to compare students from different schools or programs
  • May not be accepted by some colleges or universities

It is important for students and parents to consider the pros and cons of Pass/Fail grading before deciding if it is the right system for them. It may be beneficial for some students who struggle with traditional grading systems, but it may not be the best option for all students. Ultimately, the goal should be to find a grading system that encourages learning and growth while also accurately reflecting a student’s level of mastery in a subject.

How to Improve Your Grades

Getting a failing grade in high school can be a frustrating experience. However, it’s important to remember that a failing grade does not define you or your abilities. With some effort and dedication, you can turn things around and improve your academic performance.

Tips for Improving Your Grades

  • Stay organized: Keeping track of assignments, deadlines, and schedules is crucial for academic success. Use a planner or digital calendar to stay on top of your work.
  • Take good notes: Good note-taking skills can make a big difference in your understanding of the material. Make sure to write down important concepts and definitions.
  • Participate in class: Engaging in classroom discussions and asking questions can help you better understand the material and improve your grades.
  • Study regularly: Don’t wait until the night before a test to start studying. Make a habit of reviewing your notes and textbooks on a regular basis.
  • Find a study group: Studying with peers can be a great way to stay motivated and learn from others.

When to Ask for Help

It’s important to ask for help when you need it. If you’re struggling to understand a concept or keep up with coursework, consider reaching out to your teachers, guidance counselor, or a tutor. Remember, there’s no shame in asking for help.

If you’re experiencing personal issues that are impacting your academic performance, consider talking to a counselor or mental health professional. They can help you address any underlying issues and provide support as you work to improve your grades.


In summary, a failing grade in high school can vary depending on the grading system used. In percentage-based grading, it’s typically a grade below 60%. In weighted GPAs, it can depend on the specific school’s policies. And in pass/fail grading, it may mean not meeting the minimum requirements for a passing grade.

No matter the grading system, remember that grades are not the only measure of success. Focus on learning and growth, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. With hard work and dedication, you can improve your grades and achieve your goals.

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