Academic Standards

MIT’s academic standards are stated clearly in the official course catalog and the Institute also expects complete academic integrity at all times.

Normal Expectations

MIT expects you to complete the requirements for a single SB degree in four years. This means passing an average of 48 units of credit per term for eight terms. With rare exceptions, registration during IAP or summer term is not required.

With the approval of your faculty advisor, you may follow a program leading to an SB degree in more or less than eight terms; you may also pursue a double major, minor(s), and/or a concurrent SB/MEng degree. In most cases this means taking more than 48 units per term.

The Institute expects you to complete the following subjects and requirements in the time frame listed:

  • Most of the Science Core subjects during the first year.
  • Keep pace with the Communication Requirement—one CI subject each year, preferably CI-H in first and second year, CI-M in third and fourth.
  • Both Restricted Electives in Science and Technology (REST Requirement) during the first two years.
  • The Physical Education Requirement (eight points plus the swim test) during the first two years.
  • The three HASS Distribution subjects (Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Requirement) during the first three years. 
  • Make satisfactory progress, as defined by your department, toward your major requirements during the second, third, and fourth years.

See the MIT Bulletin for details on subjects and requirements, including degree charts for all majors.

Academic Integrity

MIT expects all students and faculty to uphold high standards of academic honesty and personal conduct. True learning occurs only with honest effort 

You may feel intense pressure to get high grades—to get into medical, graduate, or law school, land an internship, or to please your parents. You may be on Academic Warning, needing to improve your grades. Under such pressure, using someone else’s work may feel like the easier choice when you’re facing mountains of work or don’t understand the material. 

If you find yourself tempted to cheat, stop; take a deep breath, and think of the big picture. Cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, and other forms of academic dishonesty are considered serious offenses for which disciplinary penalties can be imposed

MIT offers many sources to help you understand and practice academic honesty: 

  • Each subject syllabus should include information on what the instructor considers appropriate collaboration.
  • Check Academic Integrity at MIT for a full discussion and examples, including definitions, consequences, and advice on maintaining honesty. 
  • See the Institute’s official policy in section 10 of MIT Policies and Procedures
Satisfactory Academic Progress

MIT expects you to achieve at least a satisfactory record each term. These minimum requirements have three components:

  • Pass at least 36 units of credit.
  • A term grade point average above 3.0 on the 5.0 scale. (Occasionally CAP may set a higher level of minimum performance for a student with a previous poor record.) 
  • Progress toward the General Institute Requirements (GIRs) and your major program. 

If you do not meet these standards in a term, your department and the CAP will review your record and take appropriate action. See CAP End of Term Academic Review for details of this process. 

Note that some scholarship-granting agencies (e.g., US Federal Title IV financial aid, ROTC programs) have stricter minimum academic standards than those of MIT itself. If you have any questions about your academic standing and financial aid, consult your Financial Aid Officer in Student Financial Services.

Communication Requirement

The Communication Requirement is the only paced General Institute Requirement – you are expected to pass one Communication Intensive (CI) subject each year. Working with departments and the Communication Requirement, the CAP monitors progress toward this requirement. 

At its End of Term Reviews, the CAP takes action on the records of students who are behind pace with the Communication Requirement. Actions include two levels of Warning and, in rare cases, Required Academic Leave. 

For more information, contact

Light Loads

Light Load refers to a term registration of fewer than 32 units. Because light loads slow a student’s progress toward the degree, the CAP monitors these registrations:

  • For the first and second consecutive terms on Light Load, the CAP reviews the record at its End of Term Meetings and normally takes no action, as long as the advisor and home department approve. Students do not need to submit a petition to the CAP for a first or second consecutive term but should consult a Student Support Services (S3) dean and follow the Registrar’s procedures for tuition adjustment.
  • Students hoping to register on Light Load for a third consecutive term (or more) must petition the CAP for permission to continue. Such petitions must be discussed with a dean in S3.

Note the information on the Registrar’s website regarding financial and legal implications of Light Load.

Resolving Incompletes

Faculty Rules state that undergraduates may not receive the degree with a grade of Incomplete on the record. You must resolve all Incompletes before the end of your final term, preferably long before.

There are four ways to resolve an Incomplete:

  • Complete the work and receive a final grade.
  • Repeat the subject in a later term. If you pass the subject in a later term, the I grade remains in the earlier term, but it will not prevent you from graduating.
  • Not complete the work. In this case you will receive a final grade based on the work you completed by the end of the term when the Incomplete grade was assigned (the “default grade”).
  • Not complete the work, and petition the CAP to retroactively drop the subject from your record. Note that the Committee rarely approves such petitions. You have an obligation to complete your work and receive a grade for each subject, regardless of whether the subject fulfills a requirement or is an elective. All students are given adequate time to complete their Incompletes. The CAP will not drop an Incomplete simply because you neglected it over a long period of time. 

If you and your advisor believe there are legitimate reasons for the CAP to allow a Late Drop, you may submit a Late Drop an Incomplete Petition (PDF).

If your Late Drop an Incomplete petition is denied and a default grade has not been awarded, you must ask the instructor to submit a grade for the subject. If the instructor is unavailable, contact the undergraduate academic administrator for the subject in question. The Incomplete will be resolved when the Registrar’s Office receives a grade for the subject.