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Strong Bad: We're going to play "Where's The Cheat?" Can you say "a The Cheat"?

Kids: (half-coherent) The Cheat! (One kid says "Christopher Columbus.")

Strong Bad: Not good enough, F Minus Minus.
Homestar Runner, sbemail "for kids"

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 (How bad was it?) 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 Minus Minus.

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 say "stupid" is to slap a minus on the F and let the rest take care of itself.

This trope is for negative grades that go off the scale, from a simple F- all the way down to Z-. A staple of school comedies that don't take themselves particularly seriously. An inversion of Rank Inflation. Contrast The "B" Grade. When it's a reviewer doing this, it's Broke the Rating Scale (Type 1).

Examples of F Minus Minus include:


Film

  • Happens to Billy Madison when he answers a question about the industrial revolution with a rambling, incoherent Metaphorgotten about a lost puppy. 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.

Folklore

  • There is an Urban Legend 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.

Literature

  • 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 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.
  • 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 not realistic.

Live Action TV

  • Jeff and Pierce's acted-out Spanish presentation on Community earns a grade of F (Pierce) and F- (Jeff).
  • 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-.
  • In one episode of That's So Raven, Eddie raps at a bully, "Your grades are so low, you get straight Zs!"
  • X-Play refused to rate Big Rigs Over the Road Racing because their scale doesn't go below 1.
    • They later gave E.T. a 0 based on its disastrous effect on the industry.
    • Review website Netjak changed their code so they could give Big Rigs a 0. The old lowest score of 1 wouldn't do its lack of quality justice.
    • Pokemon Channel was given a 1 out of 5, but they later said it should've been left unscored since it too wasn't technically a game.
  • The State advertised the fact that the New York Times gave them a negative two stars.
  • Boy Meets World's Mr. Feeny once threatened to give a student a G for turning in a paper late.
  • In one episode of Saved by the Bell, 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 you an N."


Music

  • 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+.


New Media

  • In Linkara's review of Newmen #1, he references an F Triple Minus.
  • Spill has the unofficial "F**K YOU!" rating, which is worse than the official "Some Ole Bulls**t" rating. The two most notable out of all their audio and video reviews that "earned" that rating: Disaster Movie (the first to receive it) and Vampires Suck (the latter which had the "honor" of having the first uncensored video review, as well as the shortest; though the original audio review elaborated on it).
  • Dread Central reviewer Scott Foy's "FUCK THIS MOVIE" rating. It's especially significant since Foy doesn't use profanity often so when one of his reviews contains the phrase (and now rating) "Fuck this movie" it means that the film in question is really bad.


Newspaper Comics

  • In one Peanuts 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 there is 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 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.
  • From German comic Haiopeis:

 Fish university clerk: You got 2 of 2158 points in your last entry test.

Shark: Great, that's the highest I've ever gotten! When can I start to stupidy?

Fish clerk: Why study? That was our entry test for the cleaning staff.

  • In one Calvin and Hobbes 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 refused to tell her, leading her to accuse him of getting a frowny face sticker. Calvin promptly denies it, then comments to himself that he never knew they even made barfing face stickers.
    • Another arc shows Calvin having not completed his school-assigned insect collection and desperately trying to make do with a squashed fly and a drowned earthworm. Susie opines that if he labels them scientifically, he might get an F+... then promptly dismisses the notion that Calvin could ever get an F+.
      • Oddly enough, he ends up getting only a "D-minus-minus" on it... and this is after he manages to get himself in even more trouble, mind you.
  • 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...


Video Games

  • In the flash game Stick Avalanche 2, you can get grades of F-, F-- and F---.
  • In Luigis 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.
  • 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 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. A few others on this page got Z's, but not one got a Z minus!
  • 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.
  • 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 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.)
  • 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.


Web Animation

  • The Trope Namer is the Homestar Runner sbemail "for kids", in which Strong Bad assigns the children in his studio audience the eponymous grade.
    • He also gets a score of -45/150 on the computer game he was playing before checking the email.
    • In "hygiene", Strong Bad as Gene gets a G-, but it is apparently okay because he's "soooo attractive".
  • Played with 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 Hit Points 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+".


Web Comics


Web Original


Western Animation

  • 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!...'

 Wernstrom: I give your invention the worst grade imaginable: an A-minus-minus!

  "Hey! There's a D in here!"

  Jimmy and Carl: Quadruple F MINUS?!

  • The Emperors New School episode "Kuzclone" has the eponymous clone flunk Kuzco's tests so badly he gets a G-.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: When Mojo Jojo starts teaching a linguistics class, he hears everyone and tells everyone that based on what he's already heard he would give them an F, then he goes in a rant where he says he would give them all a Z if the scale when down that low (he also asks why they skip E).
  • Discussed in The Weekenders.
  • Beetlejuice gets a G, Q, and Z when he's forced to go back to school.
  • Otto of Rocket Power gets in trouble with his dad for earning a "check minus minus" in Classroom Citizenship.
  • On The Jetsons, Elroy gets his report card switched with a student who gets an H.
  • 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 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.
  • In an episode of Kids Next Door, Numbuh One recieves 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 Whatever Happened to Robot Jones, everyone 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".


Other


Real Life

  • In England and Wales, in addition to the normal set of grades, it's possible to receive a 'U' (unclassified) at both GCSE and A-level. This can mean you didn't score highly enough to be offered a certificate. While GCSEs have eight grades in total, they are actually a subversion -- you can only actually attain five of the grades, depending on which paper you choose to sit. The 'higher' paper allows you to get grades A* to D, while the 'foundation' paper covers grades C to G. If you don't do well enough to get the minimum grade attainable on either paper you get a 'U'. If you don't even bother to sit through the exam then you get an X.
  • In Ireland, you can also be "awarded" an NG, which stands for Natural Genius No Grade, meaning that you performed so badly that you don't even deserve an F.
  • Most US universities allow a grade of "I", meaning "incomplete." However, this is usually just a temporary placeholder, indicating the student has a certain amount of time to make up for missed work. If that is not done then the grade converts to an F.
    • Ditto "W" for "withdrew." It counts as an "F" in the GPA until you take the class again.
      • Except that in some (most?) schools it counts as a neutral grade, i.e. no effect on GPA, no penalty other than wasting part of your tuition for that term. Otherwise it'd just be the same as a normal "F"!
      • If you really screw up badly before or after midterms, some professors will encourage you to withdraw from the class since you stand no chance of getting enough high grades to make the final grade of the class a passing grade. A W is always better than having an F.
    • "X" meant "No Basis for Grade". This happened when the professor forgot the reason a student registered for a class and awarded this grade, requiring intervention from the campus omsbuds.
    • Most standardized tests with a grading system will have some kind of "ungraded" designation, like the "hyphen" on the AP exams, which is what you get if, for instance, you leave the multiple-choice section blank and draw a rocket ship on the essay paper.
  • In Hong Kong, there is also a "U" (or "UNCL", as known as Unclassified) grade which is considered worse than an "F". You'll get this grade if you write/draw anything irrelevant to the exam, or turning in a blank paper.
  • There is, in some Canadian Universities, the FD. Fail with Dishonesty. You plagiarized or cheated in one way or another, and you get this S.O.B on your record.
    • At the University of Waterloo, it was once possible (before 2001) to get a literal "F-minus" grade for anything 34% and below. Now they just use percentage grades for everything.
  • In post-USSR Russia, grades are in numbers, with 5 being the highest, and 2 being the lowest. Getting a 1 requires something beyond just not attempting to read whatever is being tested. In Imperial Russia, however, it was officially used, and some very miffed teachers even used 0, but that required something above and beyond the call of stupidity.
    • There's also Not Graded grade, which is commonly used to give the students a Last Second Chance.
  • In some NYC colleges, students can get a WU. Unofficial Withdrawal. This only happens if you get excessive amounts of absent marks in a class without any excuse. This is worse than an F since an F shows you at least attended your classes somewhat while a WU can screw you over in registration for classes and is a pain in the ass to take care of.
  • In the International Baccalaureate, careful reading of the marking criteria reveals that in most assessment tasks you can get 5/25 simply by writing your name at the top of the page. Regardless, some people manage zeros.
    • To expand: simply writing your name and nothing else on the exam or essay will earn you a 1, and from there you can only go up. The only ways to get a 0 is to either leave the paper entirely blank (no name, nothing), or to write it in the wrong language altogether.
    • Alternately, A-grades and 7's are borderline myths, this trope inverted.
  • While "F" is often the lowest final grade an individual can receive for a course, for individual assignments where letter grades are equivalent to points that ultimately lead to the final grades many teachers are known for going below the standard "F" which usually is around 60 or 65 points out of 100. On something like a multiple choice test, going by the proportion correct makes sense, but on (for example) papers, there may be a conversion table for non-F letter grades, while F covers a broad range from "bad paper" to "turned in a blank paper, or obscene drawings, or..."
  • In the Caribbean countries that are under the CARICOM (Caribbean Community), there are two major final exams for differing grade levels in secondary schools, namely the 11th grade and the 12th (or 13th) grade (known as sixth form). The examinations are officially named as the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) respectively. While the grade levels range from I-V, with I being the highest and V being the lowest, there is a U grade which stands for "ungraded", meaning that the examination was ungraded for a particular reason, usually due to the non-completion of the internal school-based assessment done within the final year, which is always a slight percentage of the final grade, ranging from 20% to 60%.
  • In Poland school grades range from 1 (the worst) to 6 (the best), but at least some institutions use 0 for "ungraded". In college it's from 2 to 5 (oddly, 1 is not an option) and while halves are allowed, you can't get a 2.5 (no pluses or minuses involved), so basically there are 6 possible grades anyway.
  • Academic dishonesty nets you two F's and an expulsion in most American colleges.
  • Some elementary schools use(d) this scale: E, S+, S, S- and N (Excellent, Satisfactory +, Satisfactory, Satisfactory -, Needs Improvement).
    • In Ontario, elementary schools (and recently even high schools) use E, G, S, N (Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement) not for grades, but for a section called "Learning Skills".
  • In Mexico, the highest grade you can legally is 10 (or 100% using percentiles instead) while a 5 (50%) is considered a reprobatory grade, but some schools can grade below five to one, and sometimes to negative grades.
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