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Grading on the curve - The controversy around it


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This subject is pretty weird for me but I believe that many university students know what the grading curve is.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grading_on_a_curve

 

To my knowledge grading on the curve is that professors will literally lower or raise peoples grades so that the class average meets a specific class percentage. 

 

So lets say multiple people got 50%, 80% and 90%, if the class average needs to be 75%. it is most likely that the 50% grades will be moved up, the 90% will be moved down, and the 80% will stay the same. You could literally have 90% in a subject but get it lowered to 75% because of grading on the curve. Which would be unbelievable since you worked so hard to get that mark

 

It might be wrong about the description above.

 

 

Do you think that Grading on the curve is a good way to grade students? Do you think that a new way of grading is needed?

 

 

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if grading on the curve is as you suggested, where people's scores are lowered, then that's just ridiculous

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Grading on the curve is when they reaverage the percentages around the highest score. If the highest score was an 80%, 80% becomes a 100%, and all other scores are bumped up to be a percent out of 80 instead of 100, which raises all grades. That's how my last math teacher told us she did it, and some high school teachers told me. Lowering people's grades to fit a curve doesn't make sense at all.

 

 

^This

 

This is how my uni does it for some of the insane subjects and it's there essentially so there arn't so many fails and they can scale up marks at think for some subjects they will only do it only if the raw mark for the class avg was below 50 then they will scale up everyone's mark to bump the the class average to 50 (I got to UNSW). Imo I'm happy it's there those who study still get great marks and those who are in the lower end of the curve arn't doomed to fail, especially for stupid subjects where one small mistake means you literally will get a 0 for an entire section.

 

For everyone who is like "omfg how can the class avg get less that 50%?! lolol loserrssss deserve to fail", get your head out of your ass because university is nothing like highschool especially the intensive maths/science/engineering courses where everything you have learn in highschool is literally covered in the first 2 hours.

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In the calc class i just took, he upped everyones grades so the average was around 75%.  worked for me, boosted my grade well over 100 most of the time, due to half the class not understanding the material. 

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Grading on the curve is when they reaverage the percentages around the highest score. If the highest score was an 80%, 80% becomes a 100%

 

No, that is not grading on a curve. Grading on a curve refers to redistributing the scores in the class into the shape of a bell curve. Determine the average and standard deviation of all the scores in the class. Set your average at whatever grade / percent you desire and then determine how many A's, B's, C's, etc you want to assign based on a person's z-score - how many standard deviations they are above and below the mean.

 

A lot of people consider this to be a "good" thing. Let's say you get a 60% on a test on which the class average was 50%. If the class average is set to a B and if the standard deviation is ~10, then a score of 60% is one standard deviation above the mean and in the top 16% of scores in the class. If the instructor decides that 20% of the class gets A's, then a score of 60% will get an A.

 

BUT, this works both ways. I was graded on a curve on a test where the average score was 92%. SD was 8. The average was set to a B. This means if you got a 92%, you would get a B in the class. If you got an 84% and were in the bottom 16% of scores, you would get a C.

 

Grading on a curve just means a fixed number of people in the class will be assigned an "A," "B," or "C." An instructor decides based on the distribution what percent of the class gets each grade. You can see it as a good thing in that certain people in the class are guaranteed an A but a bad thing as certain people in the class are guaranteed a C.

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No, that is not grading on a curve. Grading on a curve refers to redistributing the scores in the class into the shape of a bell curve. Determine the average and standard deviation of all the scores in the class. Set your average at whatever grade / percent you desire and then determine how many A's, B's, C's, etc you want to assign based on a person's z-score - how many standard deviations they are above and below the mean.

 

A lot of people consider this to be a "good" thing. Let's say you get a 60% on a test on which the class average was 50%. If the class average is set to a B or ~80% and if the standard deviation is ~10, then a score of 60% is one standard deviation above the mean and in the top 16% of scores in the class. If the instructor decides that 20% of the class gets A's, then a score of 60% will get an A.

 

BUT, this works both ways. I was graded on a curve on a test where the average score was 92%. SD was 8. The average was set to a B. This means if you got a 92%, you would get a B in the class. If you got an 84% and were in the bottom 16% of scores, you would get a C.

 

Grading on a curve just means a fixed number of people in the class will be assigned an "A," "B," or "C." An instructor decides based on the distribution what percent of the class gets each grade.

 

Thx for clarifying it. 

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Thx for clarifying it. 

 

Just to be clear, some teachers don't understand what grading on a curve means. In high school and even college, they would call it grading on a curve, but really they are just shifting all of the class scores over like Angel mentioned above. But that is not actually grading on a curve.

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I'm not a fan of it, it seems weird/unfair to me that (using polar's example) a 92% would get you a B.  grade scaling by adding a fixed amount of points or adjusting what letter grade goes with what range of scores or something like that is better

 

I don't think I've had a teacher who does grading on a curve though

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This is how my uni does it for some of the insane subjects and it's there essentially so there arn't so many fails and they can scale up marks at think for some subjects they will only do it only if the raw mark for the class avg was below 50 then they will scale up everyone's mark to bump the the class average to 50 (I got to UNSW). Imo I'm happy it's there those who study still get great marks and those who are in the lower end of the curve arn't doomed to fail, especially for stupid subjects where one small mistake means you literally will get a 0 for an entire section.

I had the opposite: a uni class of which were were quite sure only one (if any) would have had a passing grade if the teacher didn't perform some magic with the points. (I know because I got a very good grade dispite only answering - litterly - half of the questions ... which was more then most of the others)

 

For everyone who is like "omfg how can the class avg get less that 50%?! lolol loserrssss deserve to fail", get your head out of your ass because university is nothing like highschool especially the intensive maths/science/engineering courses where everything you have learn in highschool is literally covered in the first 2 hours.

For everyone who is like "omfg how can the class avg get less that 50%?! lolol loserrssss deserve to fail", get your head out of your ass because university is nothing like highschool especially the intensive maths/science/engineering courses where everything you have learn in highschool is literally covered in the first 2 hours.

Quoted for truth²

 

(appendum: and that's if you're lucky - and they just don't assume that everyone knwos this stuff by heart)

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*Classroom "socialism" 

 

For real though, professors will boost grades based on what will most likely look better for them. If more students are passing, they'll probably keep the grades as is. If more kids are failing, they're going to "even out" grades to be closer to passing. This is a lot more common as you get higher up into more advanced classes. Polar explained it much more in depth than I'd ever be willing to go into.

I'm for this because failing classes these days sucks. It tanks your GPA, ruins the majority of your academic career, and costs a fortune to take the pass again. Plus that low GPA probably brings down your total financial aid package. All in all, it makes life so much harder. Ive been the kid who has failed and had to retake, and Ive also been the kid who passed because I stuck it though and managed to pass with the bare minimum because the class average was too low.

I'm also against this because students should be able to do what is asked of them. I understand some professors are awful / dont match with your learning style, I totally understand that. But when you sign up for the class, you better be prepared to put multiple out-of-class time into it. If youre taking 4-5 classes, you should know that youre going to spend most of your semester working on school. If youre fucking around and jerking off, you shouldnt be helped by a curve to pass. There are actually people leaving college who got off on a curve and now have no knowledge and no skills. Take the workload you can handle, dont overwhelm yourself. 

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But when you sign up for the class, you better be prepared to put multiple out-of-class time into it. If youre taking 4-5 classes, you should know that youre going to spend most of your semester working on school. If youre fucking around and jerking off, you shouldnt be helped by a curve to pass. There are actually people leaving college who got off on a curve and now have no knowledge and no skills.

 

Except ... that has nothing to do with grading on the curve. In fact, it's exactly the opposite.

 

A normal test pits your ability to handle a workload directly against the workload - irgnoring the fact if the workload is actually managable (a lot of people pass), or not (almost nobody passes )

 

When you're grading the curve

  • If you can't handle the workload (be it intelligence or laisyness), while the workload is managable (a.k.a. the other students can do it), you will get a bad grade
  • If you can't handle the workload, but the workload isn't managable (a.k.a. the other students can't do it either), your grade will be increased.
  • If you can handle the workload, but the workload is easily managable, your grade will be decreased.

People who got 'pushed off' the curve (getting a failing mdofied grade, while a passing unmodified grade) - are simply people who did worse then their peers. People who get included in the curve - are people who did better then their peers.

 

 

*Classroom "socialism"

 

Intersting. I would think classroom socialism would be a system that works toward everyone to getting the same grade.

Oppositely, grading a curve is a mechanism to transform when everyone gets a simelar grade (all goods / all bads) to a spread.

The class room idiot doesn't get a free ride because the test happen to be easy. Unless he starts surpassing his peers, he'll always get a failing grade.

 

 

I would actually call it classroom capitalism (compeditive market)

 

it doesn't matter you can make a pair of pants (normally prized $100) at $80 bucks, if everyone else can make it at < $50. Yes, you succeed at making it cheaper (equivalent to a passing normal grade), but in the compeditive market, you actually fail, as everyone else does it better. (equivalent to a your grade gretting decreased becasue you're on the poor side of the curve)

 

or oppositely, it doesn't matter that a pari of pants could $100. if you're the cheapest one at $120 - you lead the marked (dispited 'failing' to get it cheaper then $100)

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For real though, professors will boost grades based on what will most likely look better for them. If more students are passing, they'll probably keep the grades as is. If more kids are failing, they're going to "even out" grades to be closer to passing. This is a lot more common as you get higher up into more advanced classes.

I'm also against this because students should be able to do what is asked of them. I understand some professors are awful / dont match with your learning style, I totally understand that. But when you sign up for the class, you better be prepared to put multiple out-of-class time into it. If youre taking 4-5 classes, you should know that youre going to spend most of your semester working on school. If youre fucking around and jerking off, you shouldnt be helped by a curve to pass. There are actually people leaving college who got off on a curve and now have no knowledge and no skills. Take the workload you can handle, dont overwhelm yourself. 

 

But that's making a horrible assumption that the lecturer/professor actually cares about the students, a large majority of professors dont give a damn and teaching is literally a "side job" for the cash. Most professors get paid...etc for their research not for their teaching which leads to many courses having a horrible structure which pushes for students to fail unless they have help from previous years. In general first year subjects are well structured and taught, 2nd years it starts to show how out of place things are and 3rd year+ it legitimately is a shitfest where the more cbf professors will teach straight from a textbook, which is beyond horrible because practically all textbooks arn't made for students they were made for people who have been in their field for a long time and need some quick consulting.

 

Then that also brings into how things are marked for example I had to take a material and energy balance/dynamics of process control course 2 years ago and the marking of it was quite insane. You literally walk out of the exam with 100%, a pass or a fail because of the dumb marking criteria where any mistake in your 3hr exam means your simulation fails and you get a 0 for the section or the subjects which have a double pass (pass every exam during semester and you need to pass the finals). A student who has studied consistently and knows the work course at a decent level but still fails because of the marking or course structure isnt very fair to me.

 

Tbh everyone walks out of uni with no actual knowledge/skills, even employers know this since 90% of the stuff is learnt on the job only exception to this would be some sort of software/coding job. 

 

If a professor needs to use a curve to scale up his classes so that the average isnt below 50% that isnt a reflection of students being bad, it's a reflection of how shit the professor is and they really need to re-evaluate how he teachers or how hard his exams are for example one of the professors at my uni asks his PhD students to do his exams before he uses them to gauge how hard his exams are and if there needs to be more time...etc this is because the guy is an absolute genius who can do like 10 differentiations in his head and do simulations in his head (LIKE WTF?!)

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But that's making a horrible assumption that the lecturer/professor actually cares about the students, a large majority of professors dont give a damn and teaching is literally a "side job" for the cash. Most professors get paid...etc for their research not for their teaching which leads to many courses having a horrible structure which pushes for students to fail unless they have help from previous years.

Care, or can (as you indicate yourself in the next quote)

If a professor needs to use a curve to scale up his classes so that the average isnt below 50% that isnt a reflection of students being bad, it's a reflection of how shit the professor is and they really need to re-evaluate how he teachers or how hard his exams are for example one of the professors at my uni asks his PhD students to do his exams before he uses them to gauge how hard his exams are and if there needs to be more time...etc this is because the guy is an absolute genius who can do like 10 differentiations in his head and do simulations in his head (LIKE WTF?!)

Yup. I've had one of those myself. The guy had invented his own set of maths.
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Except ... that has nothing to do with grading on the curve. In fact, it's exactly the opposite.

 

A normal test pits your ability to handle a workload directly against the workload - irgnoring the fact if the workload is actually managable (a lot of people pass), or not (almost nobody passes )

 

When you're grading the curve

  • If you can't handle the workload (be it intelligence or laisyness), while the workload is managable (a.k.a. the other students can do it), you will get a bad grade
  • If you can't handle the workload, but the workload isn't managable (a.k.a. the other students can't do it either), your grade will be increased.
  • If you can handle the workload, but the workload is easily managable, your grade will be decreased.

People who got 'pushed off' the curve (getting a failing mdofied grade, while a passing unmodified grade) - are simply people who did worse then their peers. People who get included in the curve - are people who did better then their peers.

Trying to connect the dots here on how this is related to what I posted... I know this is a theme with you...

I understand that the grading curve will modify your grade to make-up for the large workload or whatever, but your first bullet point pretty much summed up what you quoted from the start. So I dont know what youre trying to debate me on here... Also not going to comment on the joke I made because, well, it was a joke. 

 

But that's making a horrible assumption that the lecturer/professor actually cares about the students, a large majority of professors dont give a damn and teaching is literally a "side job" for the cash. Most professors get paid...etc for their research not for their teaching which leads to many courses having a horrible structure which pushes for students to fail unless they have help from previous years. In general first year subjects are well structured and taught, 2nd years it starts to show how out of place things are and 3rd year+ it legitimately is a shitfest where the more cbf professors will teach straight from a textbook, which is beyond horrible because practically all textbooks arn't made for students they were made for people who have been in their field for a long time and need some quick consulting.

 

Then that also brings into how things are marked for example I had to take a material and energy balance/dynamics of process control course 2 years ago and the marking of it was quite insane. You literally walk out of the exam with 100%, a pass or a fail because of the dumb marking criteria where any mistake in your 3hr exam means your simulation fails and you get a 0 for the section or the subjects which have a double pass (pass every exam during semester and you need to pass the finals). A student who has studied consistently and knows the work course at a decent level but still fails because of the marking or course structure isnt very fair to me.

 

Tbh everyone walks out of uni with no actual knowledge/skills, even employers know this since 90% of the stuff is learnt on the job only exception to this would be some sort of software/coding job. 

 

If a professor needs to use a curve to scale up his classes so that the average isnt below 50% that isnt a reflection of students being bad, it's a reflection of how shit the professor is and they really need to re-evaluate how he teachers or how hard his exams are for example one of the professors at my uni asks his PhD students to do his exams before he uses them to gauge how hard his exams are and if there needs to be more time...etc this is because the guy is an absolute genius who can do like 10 differentiations in his head and do simulations in his head (LIKE WTF?!)

Adjunct professors are a blessing and a curse lol. I had an adjunct professor just last semester who only sat in class and lectured and put everything online for us to do. All the tests, homework and quizzes, were all online; and funny enough, so were the answers. I didnt learn nearly as much as I would have in a normal class, but I got an A so Im not complaining. But at the same time Ive also had adjunct professors who walk in late, teach off a powerpoint / book religiously, assign homework that makes no sense, and give tests that seem nearly impossible for the average student to understand. 

As for the pass/fail exams, we have something similar where if you get below a 50% on the exam, you fail the class regardless of your grade previously. It's not as bad because you really have to be clueless to get a 50% usually, but it's definitely taken it's fair share of students.

I mentioned this in my post before, but it's true. A lot of employers dont even care for GPAs and academic achievements. They want to see experience these days, from internships or just general work. 

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I think it depends entirely on the class. I've had classes that were incredibly difficult simply because the professor decided to cram as much material as he could into the class. Only 2-3 people were able to get an A, a few got a B, some got a C, and a lot failed even though everyone I knew put a lot of effort into the class. However, the professor was aware that the class was going to be brutal simply because of how much material he crammed in, so he boosted everyone's grade so most of us passed. In that sort of situation I think it's fine. If it's an easy class and you dick around for the whole semester then I don't think a curve should be used to help you.

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 If it's an easy class and you dick around for the whole semester then I don't think a curve should be used to help you.

 

but in that senario, the curve doesn't "help" the laisy student:

 

In the senario you scetch, the student would normally pass (as it's a easy class).

 

However since it's an easy class, his peers too would have passed. But since - opposite to the others - he dicked around, he would probbably done worse then his peers (dispite getting >50% of the questions right). This means that, if graded on the curve, the student you end up failing.

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I think it depends entirely on the class. I've had classes that were incredibly difficult simply because the professor decided to cram as much material as he could into the class. Only 2-3 people were able to get an A, a few got a B, some got a C, and a lot failed even though everyone I knew put a lot of effort into the class. However, the professor was aware that the class was going to be brutal simply because of how much material he crammed in, so he boosted everyone's grade so most of us passed. In that sort of situation I think it's fine. If it's an easy class and you dick around for the whole semester then I don't think a curve should be used to help you.

As far as easy classes go, I'm pretty sure they don't curve as often anyways. At least at my high school, the only classes that get curved are the ones that are "simpler" (i.e. non AP/honors). The AP and honors classes only receive curves on tests, not on their whole semester grade, and they do it sparingly at the same time. 

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