The judges held their noses and said, 'Stan, you stink.
You're so bad we've got to give you a sub-zero score.'
It added up to negative twenty-four."
The Book Dumb Bob just turned in his essay. It wasn't just regular bad; it was the Plan 9 from Outer Space of high school essays. It was so bad that it somehow broke literature. Obviously, the regular grading scale is not extreme enough for Bob's horrifying essay, so Bob's teacher pegs his work with a grade completely off the scale: an F--.
In the United States and some of Western Europe, an F is the lowest grade possible. There are no additions to it, not a plus or minus. F simply means failure, no matter how bad. However, this is not always the case in the world of fiction. Sometimes, the only way to really show how badly the student performed is to add something special to the F and let the rest take care of itself. This also means that the trope name indicates a performance so bad, that not even the nonexistent grade of F- is bad enough for it.
This trope is for negative grades that go off the scale, from a simple F- all the way down to Z-. Or if grades are percentage-based, the percentage will be negative, meaning that the character got more answers wrong than actually existed. A staple of school comedies that don't take themselves particularly seriously. An inversion of Rank Inflation. Contrast The B Grade and compare Grade System Snark. When it's a reviewer doing this, it's Broke the Rating Scale.
- In-Universe in Big Finish Doctor Who. In "Omega," we learn how the eponymous Time Lord got his nickname. Rather than answering the questions on his exam, he took the opportunity to discuss a theory devised by a "lesser race." His instructor at the Prydonian Academy decides to give him an "omega" grade, a grade so bad it was previously only theoretical.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- In one comic, Susie is happy with the smiley face sticker she got on her test. Calvin, however, is less than thrilled. When she asks what he got, he refuses to tell her, leading her to accuse him of getting a frowny face sticker. Calvin denies it, then comments to himself that he never knew they even made barfing face stickers.
- In the bug collection assignment arc, Calvin is trying to do the aforementioned project on the day it's due. He gets 4 bugs (out of the 50 he needs; also, one of them is actually a ball of lint) before he has to go to class. Susie snarks that if he labels them scientifically in the next 30 seconds, he might get an F-Plus. At the end of the arc, Calvin tells Hobbes that he got an D-Minus-Minus on the assignment (which, to Calvin's "credit", is technically not a failing grade).
- There's a comic strip by Tony Carillo named F Minus. Carillo has said that he sometimes wishes he'd picked a different title, since it means that people who send him hate mail all tend to make a predictable comment...
- From German comic Haiopeis:
- In one strip, Sally shows her school report to Charlie Brown and asks him what grade he thinks it'll get. His response: "Do they give out Zs?" It appears that "Z" grades do exist in the world of Peanuts since Peppermint Patty once expressed that she has a straight-Z average in school.
- There is also a strip where Patty runs up to Marcie, crowing, "I got an 'N' on my English test! That's the highest grade I've ever gotten!", only for Marcie to tell her she's holding the paper sideways.
- Another time Patty gets a Z minus and complains to her teacher, who raises it to a Z.
- In Snoopy! The Musical, Lucy was given a Z by her teacher which she refutes as sarcasm.
- In one Squirt strip, Squirt's homework was so bad that his teacher extended the alphabet 15 letters past Z in order to aware him an accurate grade.
- Happens to the title character of Billy Madison when he answers a question about the Industrial Revolution as represented in literature with a rambling, incoherent Metaphorgotten about the title character in The Puppy Who Lost His Way, a book his first grade teacher read to the class. Although the audience cheers and applauds, the principal grades him thusly:
Principal: Mr. Madison, what you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
- Sky High (2005): You can tell that Medulla really wants to give one of these to Will in his first mad science class as a hero, but if he did he'd have to deal with him in summer school.
- There is a joke about a student complaining to his university lecturer about his grade.
Student: I don't think this paper deserves an F.
Lecturer: Neither do I, but it is the lowest grade the university will allow me to award.
- Inverted in the Big Nate book Big Nate Flips Out. After getting hypnotized into being no longer being a slob, Ms Godfrey does a notebook check on the class, starting with Nate. She's shocked to find that his notebook is now neat, and she rewards this turnaround with an A++.
- In The Black Book and Schwambrania by Lev Kassil, words at one point replace numbers in the school's five-grade system ("bad", "unsatisfactory", "satisfactory", "good", "excellent" instead of a scale from 1 to 5), but there is nothing official on how to deal with minuses and pluses this way. Eventually one of the characters gets "completely bad with two minuses" as his term grade and lampshades that it's something one can't even spot with a naked eye.
- At the end of the picture book Bronto Eats Meat, by Peter Maloney and Felicia Zekauskas, the protagonist of the story writes a school report about Bronto and is given an F- because his report is said to be unrealistic.
- In Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, Ms. Ribble tells George and Harold she's lowering their grades to Fs and Gs.
George: Oh, NO! Not Fs and Gs! ...Hey, what's a G?
Ms. Ribble: It's the only grade lower than an F!
Harold: There's no such grade as a G.
Ms. Ribble: There is now, bub!
- Harry Potter: Students taking their OWLs can receive grades of O, E, A, P, D, and T (Outstanding, Exceeds Expectations, Acceptable, Poor, Dreadful, and Troll). When Harry first hears of the T grade, he thinks Fred and/or George might be pulling his leg (i.e., trolling him), but there it is listed among the others on the form. Even Hermione, who normally seems to know all about such things, seems initially surprised by the existence of this grade.
- In Interesting Times, one of the faculty members mentions that Rincewind is so inept at magic he once achieved negative marks in Basic Firestarting. When Rincewind dies, the average spellcasting ability of the entire human race will increase.
- In Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, Rimmer usually gets F for Fail on the officer exam, but on two occasions he got X for Unclassifiable; the first time he just collapsed from amphetamine usage, but the second time sheer panic led to him denying his own existence so he wrote "I am a fish" five hundred times. The exam we see involves him leaving an inky handprint on the paper and then fainting, but no-one ever gets a chance to grade it.
- A bully in Tough Magic tries to insult the main character by suggesting that he got double 'F's.
- In the fourth Wayside School book, Mrs. Jewls gives Joy an F on an math quiz because she can't do her sixes or sevens. She's initially persuaded to change it to a B when Joy blames the Cloud of Doom for changing her answers, but after the class is being really annoying she changes the grade again to an F minus.
- Boy Meets World's Mr. Feeny once threatened to give a student a G for turning in a paper late.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine features a variation, in which it's not so much the grade that's unusual but the 'subject' being failed; Detective Amy Santiago once bitterly notes that the only F grade she ever received was because she somehow managed to fail recess. This also overlaps with The B Grade, in that Amy was normally an over-achieving Teacher's Pet, which may go some way towards explaining the F grade:
Amy: [bitter mimickry] Teachers need a break too, Amy!
- Jeff and Pierce's acted-out Spanish presentation earns a grade of F (Pierce) and F- (Jeff).
- Zack Perlman, a rich slacker they're trying to recruit in "Economics of Marine Biology", has an SAT score of 0. The lowest possible SAT score is 200 (for some reason), and even that is only possible by getting every single question wrong on a multiple choice test. While it's possible to get 200 points minimum, the first section of the SAT will deduct 200 points if you get all 800 questions wrong. Alternatively, he didn't even sign his name on the paper, let alone attempt it.
- A Different World: When Dwayne and Whitley begin dating, Dwayne's grades slip and he gets a C on an assignment. When he complains about this to Ron, his response is, "If you're making C's, Whitley has got to be making Q's!"
- In the series finale of Everybody Hates Chris, Chris gets a grade Q on his test.
Chris: Q? What's a Q?
- In Good Times, J.J. is telling a friend that his late father once offered him a reward if he could bring his grade average UP to an F. He then quipped that his report card had contained two M's and a K minus.
- Subverted in an episode of Growing Pains when Mike is telling his parents what grade he got on a test. He begins with "I..." and Ben blurts out, "An 'I'?! That's worse than an F!" (it turns out it was a more typical grade (a C or a D).)
- In Kenan & Kel, In a thousand to the future, A+ is the worst grade ever given, which Kenan got.
- In Leave It to Beaver, Lumpy is surprised to be told he has an F after he has been schmoozing with the teacher's daughter in an effort to gain favor.
Lumpy: An F, sir?
Teacher: An F. It's the lowest they allow me to give.
- QI: In the "Nonsense" episode, Sandi Toksvig mentions how her school had three grades for swimming: A, B, and C. She was an F.
- Saved by the Bell:
- In one episode, Kelly gets an F from a teacher and asks him if she really deserved that. His response is "No, but they don't allow us to give M's."
- Played straight in an episode where Zack tried to cheat on a history exam and convince the rest of the gang that he had the answers. In the end, Slater proudly displays that he had the lowest score in the class: an "F-" for scamming.
- On Smart Guy, TJ tutors a basketball player. After taking the test, the student claims he got a G, which he says is worse than an F, but it turns out it was actually a C-. The exact same thing happens on Sister, Sister, the series about Tahj Mowry's older twin sisters.
- In one episode of That's So Raven, Eddie raps at a bully, "Your grades are so low, you get straight Zs!"
- In the Tenacious D skit, "Friendship Test", Jack Black tells Kyle that he passed the titular test only barely, granting him the grade of F+.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic:
- In "Genius in France", the singer claims to have gotten a negative SAT score.
- In "I Lost on Jeopardy", Don Pardo taunts Al that he is such a complete loser that he doesn't even get "a lousy copy of our home game," the traditional consolation prize for losing contestants on Jeopardy!, and that he has brought shame and humiliation on his family name for generations to come.
- The Dinosaurs episode "Network Genius" featured a variation on this trope. Earl was put in charge of deciding which shows a network would show. His choices made the population so dumb that his son Robbie once brought home a report card with several Fs and an M. It turns out that the M grade isn't an indication of how badly Robbie is doing in school, but is actually there because the teacher forgot the alphabet while grading.
- Strange Hill High:
- In "End of Terminator", when NIMROD starts malfunctioning, he gives Tanner a 'G' on his math test. Tanner protests that 'G' isn't even a real grade, but is ignored.
- In "The 101% Solution", Tanner gets -1% on his math exam, despite Templeton telling him this grade is a mathematical impossibility.
- ISIC from Battle Born will sometimes give his opponent a "combat grade" of "F minus minus minus minus minus minus minus minus minus minus minus" upon scoring a kill.
- In Confidential Mission, shooting civilians and using continues subtract from your score. As shown in the Attract Mode tutorial, it is possible to have a negative score; if achieved, your score turns red.
- In Crazy Taxi, finishing with no money gets a "grade" of No License. The next lowest grade is "E".
- Cross Edge has battle rank evaluations that go in descending order from S, to A, B, C, D, E and F, and keep going to G, H, I...
- In the Fallout: New Vegas DLC pack Old World Blues, this is what Richie Marcus's (Dr. Borous' High School bully) grades are listed as in the replica high school.
- In Ignac, the eponymous main character gets this grade in math, which makes his parents lock him up in the house.
- Killing Floor: Female characters can taunt the zeds with an "F-".
- In Luigi's Mansion, the lowest grade is H (meaning the mansion is replaced with a little tent), although you have to try to do that badly. There are even a few Let's Plays of the game with the goal of finishing with an H. The same is true of the first generation of 5-key beatmania games.
- In the flash game N, your score for each episode of 5 levels is how much time you had left at the end. You start at 90 seconds and can gain more time by collecting gold. The game also records your best individual level scores, which are the times you'd have left at the end of them if you'd started at 90 seconds - and allows you to play back your best runs. So if you have more than 90 seconds to start a level, you can get a negative score for the level. If this happens, your score shows up as "---.---" and you won't be able to replay yourself completing that level. (You still can for the whole episode.)
- Most 3D Sonic the Hedgehog games have the "E" rank which is basically saying you did really horribly. It's most evident in Sonic Unleashed where getting an E-rank causes the grade to go tumbling off and has Sonic falling down and asking to try again. Even the music knows how epically you failed!
- In the flash game Stick Avalanche 2, you can get grades of F-, F-- and F---.
- Avan Hardins of Valkyria Chronicles II is considered an Idiot Hero. He once got a -10 on an exam because he got no answers correct and then lost points for penmanship.
- In World of Final Fantasy, Tama discovers an easy way to travel back and forth between the world of the Lilikins and the Jiants (where Lann and Reynn come from), which Lann decides to call the "Super Port-a-Party". Tama hates the name, and gives him an "F" for effort. Lann thinks the name is so bad that it deserves an even lower grade, so she gives him an "H".
- In Zork: Grand Inquisitor, if you read the grade report on the bulletin board in G.U.E. Tech, you'll see that the titular Grand Inquisitor got a Z- in magic due to his Magic Deficit Disorder.
- In the Flash animation Final Fantasy A+, adventuring students fight a boss of some sort for their final exams, with grades awarded by how many Hitpoints they had left at the end (all students have a maximum of 100). By the final boss fight, the hero is down to zero hitpoints, but keeps going. As he continues to take damage his grade drops from "F" to "FF". Though by the time he finally wins it's revealed that it actually stands for "Final Fighter A+".
- Homestar Runner:
- The Trope Namer is the Strong Bad Email "for kids", in which Strong Bad assigns the children in his studio audience the eponymous grade. In the same email, Strong Bad somehow gets a score of -45/150 on Peasant's Quest before checking the email.
- In the SBEmail "hygiene", Strong Bad as Gene gets a G-, but this is apparently okay because he's "soooo charming".
- The characters in Smash Bros. Lawl are ranked in tiers from SS to F in the official Facebook page, with the only exception being Best Hercules, who is so bad he has his own tier: Best Tier which is the lowest tier.
- Discussed and defied in Elliot Goes To School, when Jimbo asks Mr. Higglesworth, who had been pelting the students with F's up until that point, to "spice it up with a little G's." Mr. Higglesworth replies by giving him an F.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! in a Shout-Out to Peanuts, Jean is seen grading papers, and one by "Patty" has a Z minus. The paper next to it gets a C plus plus.
- This is how She Is Still Cute Today started. Classmates pester Cang Shu to name her romantic partner when she doesn't, so she just calls out "Qi Lin," a person she has no knowledge of up to that point and only recalls her name due to this Qi Lin getting a 4/150 (2.67%) on the math part of their high school entrance exam—a score that, according to Cang, is far lower than filling a C on all the multiple-choice questions.
- Shown here as used in Chaos Fighters with Rank Inflation.
- There's a T-shirt that reads "F+ student". You can see it here.
- Atop the Fourth Wall:
- In Linkara's review of Newmen #1, he references an F Triple Minus.
- In his review of Amazons Attack!, this comes up at the end of the series, when Athena (or rather, Granny Goodness masquerading as Athena) announces that all of the events of the series was a Secret Test of Character, at which they failed, prompting this from Linkara...
Linkara: (writing in a piece of paper) F... quadruple... minus.
- Something Awful used to review really bad movies and computer games, giving them negative 1-10 points in categories like graphics, plot, gameplay, and so forth.
- There is a Spacebattles thread called Force Chart of Niceness Conquest which ranks fictional and real societies in terms from least to most oppressive. However, it is on an extremely finely graded scale, so that an A represents nothing less than a theoretical, absolute Utopia, D is the ranking held by the freest and most prosperous countries to have ever existed in real life, and M represents the conditions of Auschwitz or the gulags. The scale goes all the way down to Z, which is basically an eternal, inescapable Hell.note
- TV Trash: Chris's final grade for "Family Gay's" attempt at a gay rights aesop? Quintuple F-Minus!
- The Athletic always reports on trades with grades. One day after a writer answered to a reader query on what an F would be with something that "has no discernible logic" (while a D at least had "logic you completely disagree with"), came one negotation that the writer stated to fill this quota on the buyer's half, earning a J grade (a co-writer gave an F-, and both gave the seller an A+, showing neither could believe what they just witnessed).
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius:
- In the episode "Sheen's Brain", Sheen gets FOUR minuses on a test. One of the things he wrote down was that Ultra Lord (a fictional superhero that Sheen is fanatically obsessed with) was the first president of the United States.
Jimmy and Carl: Quadruple F MINUS?!
Sheen: How was I supposed to know that Ultra Lord wasn't the father of our country? That's what it says on the Ultra Lord website!
Jimmy: Wait, didn't you write the Ultra Lord website?
Sheen: Your point? [Jimmy stares at him blankly] Oh.
- Inverted in one episode where Jimmy received an "A++".
- In the episode "Sheen's Brain", Sheen gets FOUR minuses on a test. One of the things he wrote down was that Ultra Lord (a fictional superhero that Sheen is fanatically obsessed with) was the first president of the United States.
- In one episode, Buster worried about getting an "F" on an assignment he did wrong and Arthur quipped that he could even get a "G" or an "H."
- The episode "Team Trouble" inverts this a bit. Arthur, Buster, and Francine, upon realizing their group assignment on Ancient Rome has several kinks to work out, all have an Imagine Spot: Arthur imagines an F, Buster imagines multiple Fs, and Francine imagines an F+. Which is a Brick Joke from earlier in the episode, when Arthur and Buster imagined getting A's, and Francine an A+.
- Beetlejuice: The episode "Back to School Ghoul" has Beetlejuice get a G in History, a Q in Sci-Fi and a Z- in both Math and Behavior when he's forced to go back to school.
- In an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbuh One receives a double F minus for a report. In a later episode, Numbuh Five gets a double F minus for claiming a dog ate her homework (which actually happened), and then warned by the teacher that it is possible to get a triple F minus in her class.
- In the Dave the Barbarian episode "Rite of Pillage", Dave receives grades of F and F- on first two tests, Battle Cry and Laying Waste respectively. After failing his third test, Plundering, his examiner becomes furious at his performance.
Pillage Master: Oh there must be something lower than F-. (furiously scribbles "Z" over and over again on Dave's report card) Z!!! Z!!! Z! Z! Z! Z! Z!...
- Doug: In the episode "Doug's Bum Rap", Doug imagines himself getting the lowest score of -60 on his English test, earning him a spot on the infamous Hall of Losers as the "Stupidest Boy in the World".
- The DuckTales (1987) episode "Bubba's Big Brainstorm" begins with Bubba Duck returning home with a report card that is all Z's.
- The Emperor's New School episode "Kuzclone" has the eponymous clone flunk Kuzco's tests so badly he gets a G-.
- The Fairly OddParents: Timmy Turner has a history of getting these, while Crocker gives F as one of his catchphrases. In fact, Crocker is shown to have a super huge "F" stamp reserved especially for Timmy, which he has referred to as "Super F" more than once. However, it's unknown how much of it is actually Timmy's fault vs Crocker giving him bad grades because he hates him.
- Fangbone!: In "The Duck of Always", Bill has a nightmare where he gets an F minus in 'World Saving'.
- Parodied as well as The B Grade in Futurama:
Wernstrom: I give your invention the worst grade imaginable: an A-minus-minus!
- Gawayn: When Elspeth has to go to magic school to get her diploma, the Duke sabotages her exams; causing her to get an F, then an F minus, then an F minus minus.
- Inverted and exaggerated in one episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, where Mandy gets an A and several plusses that cover the entire page of her math test.
- On The Jetsons, Elroy gets his report card switched with a student who gets an H.
- Johnny Test has the episode "Extra Credit Johnny" where Johnny fails so much that he gets a Z-, and then goes further, getting a ZZ-.
- Kim Possible has a Seinfeldian Conversation about Ron getting an F- and claiming it's a bit extreme.
- In Moville Mysteries, the school jock always gets the same grade: X, so awful it can't be graduated. His parents always praise the grade as it was an A because he's such a good athlete that talent hunters always are chasing after him with million-dollar contracts.
- On an episode of Muppet Babies (1984) where the characters were pretending to go to school, Piggy ends up giving Gonzo a "W" on his report card. Although it more than likely stood for "weird" and Gonzo was very pleased with his marks.
- The Powerpuff Girls (1998): When Mojo Jojo starts teaching a linguistics class, he hears everyone and tells them that based on what he's already heard he isn't impressed.
Mojo: In the grading system, I would've assigned you all with an F! Which if I had control of the grading system, I would make it the lowest grade a Z, since that is the final letter in the alphabet which starts with an A, and ends with Z. But instead, the letter given to those who do most poorly is an F! Seeing as it goes, A, B, C, D, F, with inexplicable skipping of E.
- Otto of Rocket Power gets in trouble with his dad for earning a "check minus minus" in Classroom Citizenship.
- The Simpsons:
- In "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner", Homer becomes a food critic and invokes the trope by giving Marge's pork chops his lowest rating ever, "seven thumbs up!"
- In "Kamp Krusty," Bart getting a full hand of F- grades on his final report card is actually our first hint that the episode started with a Dream Intro. In reality he more realistically gets all Ds.
- While this does not literally occur in "Bart Gets a Z," the initial draft of the script had Zack Vaughn, a Cool Teacher hired to replace Edna Krabappel, literally handing out Z grades to the entire class during the drunken meltdown that gets him fired. Although this particular moment was written out of the scene, the title (a Call-Back to Season 2's "Bart Gets an F") stayed.
- A very early episode of South Park has the boys turning in a report on the Vietnam War based on an incredibly inaccurate depiction given to them by Stan's Uncle Jimbo. Mr. Garrison gives them an F-, and Stan openly wonders if he can do that.
- Uncle Grandpa inverts this trope by helping one student actually eat his own homework, giving him an A+++++-+ for also saving his students.
- In Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones?, most people in the class got an F, some getting an F-, one getting an F+, and the title character—the only passing person in the class—getting a C-, and proceeding to go out of his way to negotiate with the scantron to get a better grade because it was "below average".
- In the Canadian animated series Yvon of the Yukon, one episode saw the titular character do so badly in an exam that he gets a G. He's so haunted by it that he becomes determined to get an F...except he starts doing so well in everything that he only gets A grades.
- England and Wales:
- Before 2017 (when the system was revamped to use numbers instead of letters), GCSE used letter grades from A* to A down to G or even H, meaning that F was indeed not the worst score possible — even though the lowest passing grade was a C. It also had "N" for "Near Miss", "U" for "Ungraded" or "Unclassified" (so bad it can't even be graded, also exists at A-level), and "X" (basically zero). Paul Merton frequently references the U he received in GCSE metalwork in his comedy and TV appearances; in the audio commentary to The Very Best of Have I Got News for You from 2002, he tells Ian Hislop that he'd have done better if he hadn't shown up for the exam at all.
- "O" showed up in the old A-level system, which is an O-level pass without scoring highly enough to even get an "E" grade. This would be a remarkable achievement in itself, especially if you tried to improve the grade and slid back into an "F" or "U".
- Multiple-choice exams at university can come with a negative score — the idea is to discourage students from simply guessing, so they give you -1 mark for an incorrect answer and 0 for just leaving it blank. This way, if you genuinely don't know, you have to admit it. Of course, a score of -100% is possible, but you'd have to be trying to get there.
- In Ireland, you can be "awarded" an NG, which stands variously for "No Grade" or "Not Gradable" (with schoolyard parlance giving the meaning as "No Good"), meaning that you performed so badly that you don't even deserve an F.
- Most US universities (and many high schools as well) will have a set of grades beyond the usual A, B, C, D, and F:
- "I" for "Incomplete" is usually a temporary placeholder, indicating that something weird happened and the student hasn't finished the work. Either the student finishes it and gets a real grade, or they don't and the grade converts to an F.
- "W" is for "Withdrawal", meaning you withdrew from the class before finishing — but it often means that you were doing so poorly that the professor encouraged you to withdraw, so it seems like an F. The advantage of a W is that it usually doesn't have any effect on the GPA (so if you get one, you can try the class again).
- "WI" is for "Withdraw — Instructor", where an instructor is aware of an extenuating circumstance that prevents the student from finishing and encourages the student to withdraw (essentially an indicator on the transcript saying "didn't finish but it's not their fault"), but some benevolent professors will offer even this option to students who don't have a hope of passing. "WI" is usually better than a regular "W", especially as regards financial aid eligibility.
- "WU" is for "Withdraw — Unofficial" (seen in some colleges in New York City), where they assume you withdrew because you missed a ton of classes without an excuse. This is usually worse than a regular "W", especially because it leaves you in kind of a registration limbo for future classes.
- "X" is for "No Basis for Grade", meaning you didn't even do anything that could be evaluated. This usually requires intervention from the campus ombudspeople. Standardized tests will often have an equivalent, like the "hyphen" on the AP exams (which you might get if you left the multiple-choice blank and drew a rocket ship on the essay paper).
- "XF" or "FF" is a special failing designation used at some universities to show that you failed as a punishment for violating academic integrity, through cheating or plagiarism. This is quite a bit worse than just failing because you don't know the material. Interestingly, this designation was the students' idea — they didn't want failing for being dumb to be mistaken for failing for being dishonest.
- Some elementary schools (and even a few high schools) have tried to minimize the impact of an "F" with a totally different grading scheme, usually using "U" for "unsatisfactory" or even "N" for "needs improvement". Sure, when they're little kids, sometimes you have to break the bad news gently, but at some point, you're going to have to start telling them that their work just isn't going to cut it.
- "IP" stands for "In Progress". It's a subversion in that it's a placeholder designed for classes that last over multiple semesters rather than an indication of failure. Getting an "IP" in an end-of-semester report card means that the class isn't actually finished yet and that it's continuing into the next semester.
- In Hong Kong, a "U" (or "UNCL", as known as Unclassified) grade is considered worse than an "F". You'll get this grade if you write (or draw) anything irrelevant to the exam, or turning in a blank paper.
- Canada is mostly the same as the U.S., with the additional quirk of the University of Waterloo once using a literal "F-minus" for anything below 35%.
- In New Zealand, grades under the NCEA system at high school are N, A, M, and E (Not Achieved, Achieved, Merit, Excellence), with N being the fail grade and the rest being passing grades. There are also two different "F-minus" grades for failing to do anything: SNA ("Standard Not Attempted") if you show up but don't try to answer the questions, and DNS ("Did Not Sit") if you don't show up (and don't have a good excuse). Both are worse than an N, but SNA at least doesn't appear on your academic record.
- Much of the world uses a number system, with a higher number meaning a better grade. In these places, a zero or a negative number may or may not be technically possible, but is usually done to denote work that's so bad or nonexistent that it doesn't fit within the general grading scheme.
- In post-USSR Russia, 5 is the highest and 2 is the lowest while still being a failing grade. You can unofficially get a 1, but that requires something beyond just not even trying. There's also "Not Graded", commonly used to give the students a Last-Second Chance. It's a relic of the system from Tsarist Russia, when that was basically what teachers officially used "1" for — but they were also known to give a 0 if you really pissed them off.
- Poland goes from 1 to 6, with some institutions using 0 for "ungraded", but there's the option to use it for "ungradeable". In college, it goes from 2 to 5 like the Russian system (but since you can use halves, it amounts to six possible grades anyway).
- Latin America typically goes from 1 to 5 or from 1 to 10, but teachers have been known not only to give 0 for really bad students, but also to subtract from the grade as extra punishment for cheating or misbehaviour. That means you can indeed end up with a negative grade. There's one legend in Venezuela of a notoriously tough professor who "graded" an exam with weird curves on the corners of the page — because the page wasn't big enough to fit the zero the exam deserved.
- France usually goes from 1 to 20 (although in practice it's 1 to 19, because they think it's impossible to get a perfect score), with 0 being used basically if you wrote something completely irrelevant, didn't bother to show up, cheated, or otherwise misbehaved (including bothering other students during the exam). Each subject has three or four exams per school term, meaning if you get a 0 in a whole subject, you're either exceptionally dumb, have exceptional problems, or are trying to fail. There's also a special "absent" designation (varies from place to place) where you don't show up but your absence can be excused for a damn good reason.
- Denmark's lowest score is by default a -3.
- Hungary goes from 1 to 5, and while teachers can award zero for an absolute null effort, a 0 will "officially" be entered into the register as a 1. However, teachers also have considerable freedom in determining end-of-semester and end-of-year grades, so some of those zeroes will indeed be counted as zeroes when those teachers calculate the weighted average.
- Germany goes the opposite way: 1 is the best, and 6 is the worst. Some places add a plus or minus; 6-minus doesn't exist, except in the sense of this trope. The "backwards" way of doing it in Germany is thought to be behind the Urban Legend of Albert Einstein failing math in high school; Einstein did his exams in Switzerland (where higher is better) and got a 6 across the board, which led confused Germans to think he was remarkably Book Dumb.
- Israeli comedian Shalom Asayag once joked that he broke a world record in lowest grade possible, "earning" a -10 on a test. He got a zero for showing up but deciding not to take it, then lost an extra 10 points because his school required that students bring a notebook documenting every test they take, and he forgot to bring it.
- In The Netherlands, once there's nothing more to learn of Dutch spelling and grammar, teachers will start docking points for spelling and grammar errors. The more often you do it, the more points get docked, leading to theoretical possibilities of -16/10 on an exam, which is considered the absolute limit of what is achievable without just failing out of school for being so bad at Dutch.