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MIT student blogger Michelle G. '18

What an “OX” means on a transcript by Michelle G. '18

and why I currently have two of them

So, grade reports at MIT are not super complicated. When you go online to look at your grades you might see the familiar

A – “Exceptionally good performance…”
B – “Good performance…”
C – “Adequate performance..”

and the hopefully less familiar

D – “Minimally acceptable..”
F – “Failed”

and if you’re a freshmen on Pass/No Record you can expect either a

P – “Pass” (!)

or a

DN – D, but not recorded

or an

FN – F, not recorded

Which are both pretty much okay, since you’re a freshman figuring your life out and your employers will never know. All of these marks are pretty straightforward, I think, but then sometimes you’re me ( / a person with some unique circumstance) and you open up your grade report to find it branded (twice!) with some obscure and slightly intimidating symbols where your letter grades should go.

For me, these were:

O – “Absent. This grade indicates that the student was progressing satisfactorily during the term but was absent from the final examination, did not turn in the final paper or project, and/or was absent during the last two weeks of the term. Like an F grade, an O grade carries no credit for the subject, but the O grade can be converted to a grade of OX”


OX – “Absence satisfactorily explained to and excused by the dean for undergraduate education in the case of an undergraduate student or by the dean for graduate education in the case of a graduate student. The faculty member in charge of the subject will be notified when an O is changed to an OX. An OX carries no credit for the subject. However, the faculty member in charge must provide the student the opportunity to receive a credit-carrying grade. This may be done with or without the instructor requiring a make-up final examination or other additional evaluation procedure.”

((Or in simpler terms, if you prefer:

O – “You didn’t take the final or do the final project and so you effectively failed”


OX – “You didn’t take the final or do the final project but you can make it up some time in the future, at which point the OX mark will disappear to be replaced with your actual grade.”))

I should probably clarify up front that nothing tragic or terrible happened to me that prevented me from taking my finals.. I mean I guess if I’m being dramatic I could probably define it as terrible; it was definitely not great, but there are definitely worse things to have happened. Basically, on the Friday before finals week I began to develop what would be a two-and-a-half week illness complete with moderate fever, various sources of pain, nasal and post-nasal slime, eye slime (?), there was a lot of slime, also a lot of coughing, and also eventually an ear infection. :’o But yeah, I spent that first weekend studying in hopes that I would be better by Monday, but when that didn’t happen, I visited Student Support Services (S3) to meet with a dean who would help me reschedule my Monday final to Friday. He was super nice (as the S3 deans generally are) and it was done easily and painlessly. He advised me to ask for an “OX” in the class if I wasn’t feeling better by the end of the week, and when I told him I didn’t know what that meant, he explained that I could arrange to postpone the final to IAP or Spring and have the “OX” in my grade report as a placeholder until then. I said I thought that wouldn’t be necessary cause I guess I had faith in my immune system, but then since faith is the negation of reason, or something, I only got more sick.

I ended up taking my Wednesday final while feverish because I wanted to get it over with and be like hardcore but by Thursday the amount of sick things I was experiencing was getting out of control and I could barely get out of bed so I sent an awkward, panicked email to my 21A.01 “How Culture Works” professor explaining that I would have to take an OX for the class. I visited S3 again to update my dean on the situation and then notified my 14.04 (Microeconomics) professor that since I was now even more sick than I had been before, I would have to take an OX for his class, too.

Then about a week later when I checked my grades, my GPA had apparently plummeted – ?!

OX in 14.04, O in 21A.01, ahh, apparently the professor had not seen my email (or did but had made a mistake, possibly). Until that was corrected I had “failed” the class, but thankfully it was after I sent a second email, which leaves me with two of these OX things for now.

I’m hoping to take care of these (i.e. take the finals) soon – as in, I’m taking 14.04 this week, and I’m Bad and haven’t scheduled 21A.01 yet, but I will, uh, definitely do that as soon as possible! Motivation is always a struggle (though hopefully proclaiming this out loud here will help) (we all know it’s illegal to tell lies on the Internet….)

But yeah, that is my experience of the OX mark. It’s slightly upsetting to be sitting in grade purgatory with two finals from last semester still looming over me, but definitely preferable to having messed up the finals by taking them while sick. Now I just have to start studying again… which I will also definitely do thoroughly and promptly. My word is good. :’)

PS if you are curious, you can find explanations for the full range of transcript/grade report symbols here.