Courses & Exam-Related Policies

AP/IB Policies 

Credit is awarded by the Office of the University Registrar for high achievement on Advanced Placement examinations. Academic departments in the University determine the appropriate tests and scores for their designated areas. Students desiring Advanced Placement credit must request that the Educational Testing Service forward their official scores to the Office of the University Registrar. If credit is awarded, it will be displayed on the student’s transcript. Questions should be directed to the Office of the University Registrar.

Advanced Placement exams and the scores necessary to receive credit can be found here. Please note that in several instances departmental evaluations have changed from previous years; all of these policies remain under ongoing review and are subject to change. For the most updated information, students should refer to the External Exam Credit page.

Credit received for AP scores may be used to fulfill a free elective.

If you receive AP credit for one (or more) required courses, please contact for suggestions on alternate course options.

First Year Science Requirement 

The School of Nursing offers a fourteen week general chemistry course titled: NURS 0061 - Biologically Based Chemistry and a cell biology course titled: NURS 0068 Integrated Cell Biology & Microbiology. Most first year Nursing students will take these courses in the fall term.

Some students may be exempt from NURS 0061 – Biologically Based Chemistry. To be eligible for exemption, you must:

  • Receive an Advanced Placement Chemistry Exam grade of 5 (for students entering in fall 2016 and beyond) 
  • All students must enroll in NURS 0068. Students cannot be exempted from NURS 0068 by AP scores. 

Students who are exempt from NURS 0061 must still register for at least 3 course units in their first year fall semester.

Class and Clinical Attendance 

Policies regarding absence from classes are determined by the instructor(s) responsible for the course. Any special circumstances (including but not limited to religious holidays) must be discussed with the Course Director prior to the start of the semester. 

Students are required to attend all lab and clinical components of their course work. Absences from the lab and clinical portions of a nursing course will not be excused except for severe illness of the student or death/critical illness of a family member. In rare cases, absences for other personal or academic reasons may be excused with the approval of the Course Director and the Associate Dean for Academic Programs or Assistant Dean for Admissions and Academic Affairs. These special circumstances must be brought to the attention of the Course Director, Associate Dean and Assistant Dean within the first two weeks of the semester. 

Excused absences from lab and/or clinical will be made up through a plan developed by the clinical/lab instructor, Course Director, and/or Associate Course Director. Students with excessive excused absences from clinical may be asked to share the cost of the make-up clinical hours with the School of Nursing. Excessive absences for any reason may necessitate repetition of the entire course. 

More than one (1) unexcused absence from clinical or lab may result in a failing grade for the course based on the discretion of the Course Director and the Associate Dean for Academic Programs. If the Course Director allows a student to make up an unexcused absence from clinical, the student will be charged a Clinical Make-Up Fee as per the policy below.

Clinical Makeup Policy

Students are required to make up missed clinical and lab hours. Make-up clinical hours for unexcused absences (or in cases of excessive excused absence) will be charged at the following make-up rate:

First/Second Years (typically 2-4 hour lab/clinical): $200/per incident

Junior Year (typically 6 hour lab/clinical): $300/per incident

Senior Year (typically 8 hour lab/clinical): $400/per incident

Please note:  At the discretion of Course Director, students may be clustered with a clinical instructor during the make-up clinical section. The assigned instructor may not be the student’s regularly assigned clinical instructor. In all cases (clustered or individual session), the clinical fee remains as indicated above.

Course Report Absence System

The purpose of the Course Action Notice (CAN)- Absence Report system is to provide a way for students to communicate with instructors when medical issues, family emergencies, or other extenuating circumstances necessitate missing class. The CAN system does not replace the clinical call-out procedure established by the course faculty; however, an Absence Report must be filed as part of the call-out procedure.

Students log into the CAN system via this link and send a Absence Report to the relevant course instructors indicating the days that will be missed and a reason for the absence(s). Students who submit an Absence Report are then responsible for following up with the instructor about any missed coursework or content.

Please note:

  • Absence Reports are a communication tool and do not constitute “excuses.”
  • The clinical call out procedure remains in place and is expected in addition to the CAN system.
  • The CAN system replaces instructor notifications that have been provided by the Office of Student Services in the past.
  • The Office of Academic Affairs will no longer collect documentation or provide instructor notification for absences of 5 days or fewer.
  • Students who will be absent for more than 5 days should contact an advisor in the Office of Academic Affairs and the course faculty to discuss the impact this longer absence may have on their schoolwork.
  • Student Health will no longer provide documentation if you are not seen or treated by a practitioner at the time of a medical occurrence.

All religious absences should be discussed with the course instructor within the first week of the course. Students should consult the Policy on Secular and Religious Holidays in the Penn Book for further information.

Course Drop/Add 

Students can use Path@Penn to add, drop, or change a course or section. Students may add a class until the end of the second full week of the semester. (Language classes under the 200 level, writing seminars, and clinical courses may be added only until the end of the first full week of classes). The Course Selection period allows students to visit classes before finalizing their schedules, but students are expected to attend all class sessions in any course they may wish to add in order to keep up with assignments and material. Even during the Course Selection period, instructors may restrict admission to students who have been attending regularly.

Most courses may be dropped through the fifth week of the semester. Clinical courses must be dropped or added within the first week of the semester. Section changes and changes from normal grading to pass/fail (or vice versa) may be made through the fifth week of the semester.

Dropped courses are not reflected on the student transcript. Students wishing to leave a course after the end of the course selection and drop period will need to withdraw from the course, resulting in a “W” on their transcript. 

Please note that should a student fail to attend classes in a course for which they are registered, they will not be automatically dropped from the course. Students who fail to drop a course they are not taking, but are still registered for, within the five-week course selection period may receive an F in that course.

Dates for adding and dropping courses by semester can be found on the academic calendar. Please note that seven week courses and summer courses are on a different calendar. Please consult your course syllabi for deadlines for specific courses.

Withdrawing from a Course 

Between the fifth and tenth weeks of the semester, students in the School of Nursing have the option to request withdrawal from a course if they obtain written permission from the course instructor and the Assistant Dean of Admissions and Academic Affairs. If withdrawal is approved, the registration for the course remains on the record and the notation of W is placed as a permanent entry in the grade section of the student’s transcript. The W does not affect the student’s grade point average. A student may only attempt a required Nursing course twice; therefore, only one withdraw per course will be permitted. Students must submit the official Course Withdrawal form by the deadline.

After the tenth week of the semester, withdrawals are not normally permitted. Students who have a serious and compelling extenuating circumstance may petition the Academic Standards and Progressions Committee to grant a late withdrawal for a course. Students petitioning for an exception must obtain written support from the instructor for the committee to consider the petition.

Course Load 

Students are considered full time when enrolled in 3 or more course units in a fall or spring semester, or 2 course units in a summer session. Students enrolled in fewer than 3 course units in a fall or spring semester are considered part time. The maximum course load is 5.5 course units in a fall or spring semester and 2 course units per summer session. Students with a GPA of 3.0 or greater may exceed this limit with the approval of their faculty advisor, however the maximum number of course units a student may take in a given semester is 7.5. Students are not able to request a max course units increase until add/drop/swap begins. For the purposes of financial aid, students with guaranteed student loans are considered full time with 3 course units per semester; state or federal grants also require 3 course units to be considered full time.

Students should understand that failure to enroll in at least 3 course units, or dropping or withdrawing below that number of credits, may have adverse effects in a variety of circumstances. The most common concerns are for:

All student athletes must complete an average of at least 8 course units per year. Carrying less than a full load may jeopardize athletic eligibility. 
International Students
The visas that allow most international students to study in the U.S. require carrying a full load of at least 3 course units per semester. Any reduction in that number may call their visa status into question. The International Student and Scholar Services Office can provide more information.
Students with Financial Aid
Many aid packages require that the student complete an average of 3 course units per semester. Carrying less than this amount may cause the student to lose some or even all of his or her financial aid. Call the Student Financial Services office for more information.

Grading Policies 

The following grades are used to report the standing of a student upon the completion of each course: A (excellent), B (good), C (average), D (below average), F (failed), I (incomplete), and P (pass). The grade point average (GPA) is tabulated at the end of every semester and is established on a scale in which:

A+ = 4.0 C+ = 2.3
A = 4.0 C = 2.0
A- = 3.7 C- = 1.7
B+ = 3.3 D+ = 1.3
B = 3.0 D = 1.0
B- = 2.7 F = 0.0


To calculate GPA, the following formula should be used:  GPA = [SUM (C.U. x GRADE)] ÷ TOTAL C.U.s

There is no grade of D-. Once a grade of A+ to F has been entered on a student’s transcript and has remained for one semester, it is considered permanent, and changes will not ordinarily be permitted.

The notations of NR and GR indicate that the grade has not been received by the Registrar. All NRs (instructor did not submit grades for the course) and GRs (instructor did not enter a grade for the student in question) must be cleared from the student’s transcript before graduation. The notation W indicates an approved withdrawal from a course. For those courses that require two semesters to obtain credit, an S indicates satisfactory progress in the first semester. Upon completion of the second semester, one grade will be issued for the two semesters of the course, replacing the S or the U (unsatisfactory progress) given for the first semester.

All course grading policies are at the discretion of individual course instructors.

Clinical Grading System 

The clinical component of most clinical courses is graded on a pass/fail basis. Please note: Failure in the clinical portion will automatically mean a failure for the entire course.


In courses taken on a pass/fail basis, a passing letter grade (D or above) assigned by the instructor is converted to “P” by the Registrar’s Office and entered on the student’s transcript. Instructors are not informed by the Registrar as to who is enrolled on a pass/fail basis. A “P” is not calculated into the GPA, but an “F” is entered as a 0.0 and does affect the GPA.

Students in the School of Nursing may take up to four courses pass/fail. Only one course in a given semester may be taken pass/fail, and ONLY if it falls in the following course categories:

  • Free Electives
  • Language Requirement Courses

Students who fulfill the language requirement by passing a qualifying examination rather than by taking language courses may take their additional free electives pass/fail.

Courses taken to fulfill any Sector Requirement, the Major Requirement or requirements for a minor cannot be taken pass/fail. Other restrictions may exist for certain courses that prevent a student from taking the course pass/fail.

Students must register to take a course pass/fail or change to the pass/fail option before the deadline published in the Academic Calendar. It is the student’s responsibility to verify that the correct grading status has been entered in the system. No changes in grading options will be made after the deadline.

Final Examinations 

The School of Nursing complies with the University Provost rules governing final examinations.

  1. No instructor may hold a final examination nor require the submission of a take-home final exam except during the period in which final examinations are scheduled; when necessary, exceptions to this policy may be granted for postponed examinations (see 3 and 4 below). No final examinations may be scheduled during the last week of classes or on reading days.
  2. No student may be required to take more than two final examinations on any calendar day during the period in which final examinations are scheduled. If more than two are scheduled, the student may postpone the middle exam. If a take-home final exam is due on a day when two final examinations are scheduled, the take-home exam shall be postponed by one day.
  3. Examinations that are postponed because of conflicts with other examinations, or because more than two examinations are scheduled in the same day, may be taken at another time during the final examinations period if the faculty member and student can agree on that time. Otherwise, they must be taken during the official period for postponed examinations.
  4. Examinations that are postponed because of illness, a death in the family, for religious observance or some other unusual event, may be taken only during the official periods: the first week of the spring and fall semesters. Students must obtain permission from their Dean’s office (Associate Dean/Office of Academic Affairs) to take a postponed exam. Instructors in all courses must be willing to offer a make-up examination to all students who are excused from the final examination.
  5. No instructor may change the time or date of a final exam without permission from the appropriate Dean.
  6. No instructor may increase the time allowed for a final exam beyond the scheduled two hours without permission from the appropriate Dean.
  7. No classes or required class activities may be held during the reading period.
  8. The first examination of the day begins at 9 a.m. and the last examination concludes by 8 p.m. There will be one hour between exam time blocks.
  9. All students must be allowed to see their final examination. Exams should be available as soon as possible after being graded with access ensured for a period of at least one regular semester after the exam has been given. To help protect student privacy, a student should have access only to his or her own exam and not the exams of other students. Therefore, for example, it is not permissible to leave student exams (or grades or papers) in publicly accessible areas.
  10. Students may not be asked for their Social Security Numbers. Instructors may not publicly display a student’s Penn ID or any portion of the Social Security Number, nor use name, initials, or any personally identifiable information to post grades. Even when an identifier is masked or absent, grades may not be posted in alphabetical order, to protect student privacy.
  11. Final exams for College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) courses must be given on the regular class meeting night during the week of final examinations. No change in scheduling is permitted without unanimous consent of all students in the class and the director of LPS. LPS final exams may not be administered during the last week of class or on a reading day.

In all matters relating to final exams, students with questions should first consult with their Dean’s offices. Faculty wishing to seek exceptions to the rules also should consult with their Dean’s offices. Finally, the Council of Undergraduate Deans and SCUE urge instructors to see that all examinations are actively proctored.

(Source: Almanac, April 17, 2018, Volume 64, No. 31)

Independent Study 

Students have the option of pursuing an independent study, and they must design the independent study project with a faculty preceptor, who approves the plan, the semester before the study is to begin. Once the independent study is approved, students register for the course as NURS 2990, with the appropriate section number obtained from the Office of Student Information. An independent study course is worth up to one course unit and can be used to fulfill the nursing elective or a free elective if taken for one course unit. Advisors will receive copies of the approved independent study proposals, faculty evaluations of the independent study, and annotated bibliographies.

Guidelines for independent study are available online here.

Transfer Credit and Credit Away 

Policies surrounding Transfer Credit and Credit Away differ whether you are a Traditional BSN Student or a Second Degree BSN/MSN student.  You can view policies and procedures for both here .