Source: MIT website
n the first term, all subjects are graded on a “pass/no record” basis. That means if a student does work at the A, B, or C level, a “pass” is recorded on his or her external transcript; if a student should happen to do work at the D or F level, the external transcript will show no record of the student ever having taken the class.
Why does MIT launch freshman year with this unusual grading system? Because it eases the transition to college, allows students to adapt to doing MIT-quality work, gives them flexibility to explore academic, research, and social opportunities at the Institute, and deemphasizes grade competitiveness while emphasizing learning for its own sake. These lessons stay with students throughout their years at MIT and are a big part of the MIT culture.
The second term at MIT is graded on an “A/B/C/no record” basis. While students do receive letter grades on their external transcripts for courses passed, students still have the “safety net” of having no record made of classes in which they happen to receive a D or an F. In this way, students have their entire first year to get used to the workload and standards of MIT.