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Since fall 2020 I have been using a mastery-based grading system instead of a traditional points-based approach.   Here is how it works in one particular course, Math 104: Introduction to Probability:

The Mastery Based Scale


There are no points anywhere in the grading scheme.  Instead, each assessable item is scored on the following mastery scale:


Mastered Progressing Needs Improvement Ungradable
Your solution is complete and correct, or contains only a minor, non-conceptual error.  Your solution shows significant understanding, but contains enough errors or omissions that it isn’t up to the level of mastery. You have made a reasonable start on your solution, but it is seriously inaccurate, unclear, or incomplete.


The solution hasn’t been started or cannot be read, or there isn’t enough written to assess accurately.


There is a detailed list of 36 learning goals for the course, and they are used directly in the assessment of student work on homework and exams.

Each homework assignment has one or more learning goals associated with it.  Each exam has a large number of learning goals associated with it, and the final has all of them. Students receive extensive comments on their work, and a score on the mastery scale for each associated learning goal.

Assignments and exams are scored separately, so that for each learning goal, a student has separate scores in the assignment category and in the exam category.  There is also, for each learning goal, an overall, course-level mastery score, which is the greater of the assignment and exam scores for that learning goal.


Opportunities to Improve Scores


For each homework assignment and exam other than the final, students can submit the solution to a “second chance” problem.   A strong enough performance will improve the mastery score on one learning goal for each assignment or exam.


From Mastery Scores to Course Grade


To earn a particular letter grade for the course, a student must achieve at least the indicated mastery levels in all columns:


pre-class work (21) in-class work





post-class assignments

(36 LGs)


(36 LGs)

Learning Goals


A 19 10M, 7P 9M, 8P   29M, 5P 29M, 5P 32M, 4P
B+ 19 9M, 8P 7M, 10P   25M, 8P 25M, 8P 28M, 6P
B 18 8M, 9P 5M, 12P   21M, 11P 21M, 11P 24M, 8P
C+ 16 6M, 10P 3M, 12P   15M, 15P 15M, 15P 20M, 10P
C 14   3M, 12P        15P     10M, 17P    10M, 17P 16M, 11P
D 11        13P        12P     5M, 20P 5M, 20P   10M, 15P



To earn an A, the student must

        • complete at least 19 (out of 21) pre-class assignments, AND
        • have scores on in-class work with at least 17 scores (out of 21) of P or better, of which at least 10 are M, AND
        • have scores on quizzes with at least 17 scores of P or better, of which at least 9 are M, AND
        • have scores on post-class assignments with at least 34 scores of P or better, of which at least 29 are M, AND
        • have scores on exams with at least 34 scores of P or better, of which at least 29 are M, AND
        • have scores on overall course-level learning goals with at least 36 scores of P or better, of which at least 32 are M