The Incomplete “I”:

Sure, you thought this was going to be about the strangeness of the ego and the I, but instead it’s just a post about the “I” grade-placeholder some of you sometimes get. Let me explain here all about the “I.”

An “I” is something that a professor might give to a student temporarily in place of a final grade. The “I” signals “incomplete” and is not therefore a real grade of any credit or GPA significance.

It can only be given in cases where a student has met all attendance requirements and completed most of the other course requirements, but for some reason was unable to complete some of the written work by the final semester deadline. Typically in graduate English an “I” might be given to a student who completed most all course work successfully and on time except for the final term paper. In these cases the student may contact the professor and politely request a temporary “I.” Even in such situations, a professor does not have to grant the temporary “I” and rather often gives a real final course grade (A through F) based upon the student’s semester of work. It is not a student’s right to be granted an “I.” The granting of an “I” should be a special and rare event as it causes issues which extend beyond the semester and into future semesters. Students should never presume that an “I” will be granted and should aim to complete all work during the semester so as to avoid the issue of the “I” even being raised.

In the rare cases where an “I” is granted the student must complete the missing work which led to the “I” and submit that work to the professor as soon as is possible. As a general rule the work should be completed and submitted before the start of the next semester. The ultimate time limit for turning a graduate level “I” into a real grade is 12 months. But again, consider that if you’ve left unfinished work until the 11th month you’re now having to research and write on topics which you were studying almost a year ago, and you’re now asking your professor to consider work related to a course from almost a year ago. Again, in the rare event that you do need an “I” and are granted one by your professor, please be diligent and remedy it prior to the start of the next semester.

If the incomplete “I” is not remedied within the twelve month limit it cannot be turned into a real grade. In that case it remains a permanent “I” on the transcript and the student receives no credit for the course.

It is the student’s responsibility to be wary of the time limit for remedying an “I,” to submit all missing work to the professor within that time limit, and to maintain a record of the timely submission of such.

If you have any further questions about this, feel free to contact me at