Grades, GPA, and Honors FAQs

Q. May I take any of my required Government courses pass/fail?

A. You may take one Gov elective course pass/fail. Tutorials (Gov 97), seminars (Gov 94) and subfield requirements must be taken for a letter grade.  Gov 99r is graded SAT/UNSAT and does not count toward the one course P/F limit.

Q. Which cross-listed courses can count for subfield credit?
A. The only cross-listed courses that can count for subfield credit are those taught by Government Department Faculty.  Often Gen Ed courses taught by Gov faculty can fulfill subfield requirements.  If you have a question about a particular course, please contact the Undergraduate Office.

Q.: How do I know which courses are being counted into my Government Concentration GPA?
A.: Please ask the Undergraduate Program office for a list of courses that count in your Government GPA.

These are the grade point equivalents for letter grades:

A    4
A-    3.67
B+    3.33
B    3
B-    2.67
C+    2.33
C    2
C-    1.67
D+    1.33
D    1
D-    .67
E    0

Q.: Do Gen Ed and other cross-listed courses count into my Gov GPA?
A.: Yes, any cross-listed courses are considered Gov courses and will count into your Gov GPA.  Additionally, any courses you’ve received Gov credit for by petition will count.

Q.: I took a Gen Ed course my freshman year that was cross-listed with Gov.  Since then, I’ve taken more Gov courses, and would like to drop the Gen Ed course from inclusion in my Gov GPA, since the grades in my other Gov courses are higher.  Can I do this?
A.: No: any and all Gov courses you’ve taken are counted into your Gov GPA.  Even if you’ve taken more Gov courses than are needed to meet the minimum requirements, no courses can be dropped from your GPA calculation.

Q. Do Study Abroad classes approved for Gov credit count into my Gov GPA?
A: Since Study Abroad classes are not noted on your Harvard student record, we do not count them into your concentration GPA.

Q.: How is my Honors Recommendation from Government determined?
A.: Your Gov GPA is weighted to your Thesis Average 2:1.  Your Thesis Average is either the average of your two thesis grades (if your thesis had two readers) or, if your thesis had three readers (in the case that the first two grades were at least one full Latin grade apart), the median grade is weighted at 50% and the two outlying grades are weighted 25% each.  If you are a Highest Honors candidate and are given an oral exam, your Gov GPA/Thesis Average/Oral Exam grade are weighted 6:3:1.  More information about honors determination in Government can be found in the Guide to Writing a Thesis in Government.

Q.: What’s the difference between the Honors Recommendation from Government, and the Honors designation on my diploma?
A.: The departments determine your “English Honors” (Highest Honors, High Honors, Honors, or no honors), and send these recommendations to the College.  The College then determines your “Latin Honors” (Summa, Magna, Cum Laude, or no honors).  The process of determining Latin honors is described in the Harvard Student Handbook.

Q.: If I get an Honors Recommendation from Government, will I get the same level of Honors from the College?
A.: Not necessarily.  It isn’t possible to get a higher level of Latin honors than English honors, but it is possible to get a lower level.  

Q.: If I write a thesis, am I guaranteed an Honors Recommendation from Government?
A.: Each year there are some students who complete the honors requirements in Government but are not recommended for honors from the department.  Usually between 5-20% of honors candidates are not recommended for honors.

Q. What are the cut-offs for earning Honors in Government?
A. The cut-offs differ from year to year, and are determined by the performance of each class.  Government does not release its cut-offs, but the College does publish its cut-offs.  In 2016, the Magna Cum Laude GPA cut-off was 3.794, and the Cum Laude cut-off was 3.538.

Q. My Gov grades are pretty high.  What are my chances of getting honors from the College?
A. The College looks at your total GPA, not just your concentration GPA, when it determines your Latin honors.  If your total GPA does not make their cut-offs, then you can’t graduate with honors from Harvard, even if you received an honors recommendation from Government.

Q. Will my thesis grade be on my official transcript?
A. Government uses your thesis grade as part of how we determine your English Honors.  It is not noted on your transcript.

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