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Grading on a Curve

Andromeda_Z
Posts: 4,151
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1/18/2012 8:06:38 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
What is the advantage to this? It's the first week of class, and I just found out my Chemistry class will do this. I don't like it. If I earn an A, then that's the grade I want. If I earn a C, then that's the grade I deserve. Why should it matter what the rest of the class scores on the exams? My grades are mine, and grading like this wants me to torch the other students' notebooks. Of course I won't do that, but my point is that it does nothing but turn the students against one another because it's all a competition. It's not necessarily the people who know the material the best that get the A's, which is how I think it should be. I don't see the benefits of such a system. Can anyone explain them to me?
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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1/18/2012 11:30:57 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
The advantage is that if the instructor makes an error in designing the test and it turns out to be more difficult then expected, then the top student won't get a "C." That's mainly a problem when the course is new or is heavily revised.

I had a prof who took pride in designing tests so that the average score was 50, and no one got either 100 or 0. He said that kept the best students from getting cocky and the worst ones from getting totally discouraged.
Andromeda_Z
Posts: 4,151
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1/18/2012 11:44:19 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 1/18/2012 11:30:57 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
The advantage is that if the instructor makes an error in designing the test and it turns out to be more difficult then expected, then the top student won't get a "C."

I guess I can see that. She also offers tons of extra credit, though, which I would think would balance out any difficult tests. Then again, I haven't taken any of the tests yet, so I have no idea how difficult they will be.
That's mainly a problem when the course is new or is heavily revised.

This course is definitely not new, though I can't say whether it's revised or not.

I had a prof who took pride in designing tests so that the average score was 50, and no one got either 100 or 0. He said that kept the best students from getting cocky and the worst ones from getting totally discouraged.

I'm starting to get the idea that my problem is that I'm too used to other grading systems. My initial reaction to this is that the class only has a 50 average, and I couldn't understand why would he give so many of the students failing grades like that. Problem is, that's not him failing the whole class, that's him giving an exam that is a suitable difficulty level. I still don't like that my grade is at least partially dependent on the grades of the rest of the class, but such is life and this isn't quite as ridiculous as I first thought. Thank you for the explanation.
mongeese
Posts: 5,387
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1/19/2012 12:05:06 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
In Pre-AP Computer Science, our teacher would take the average test score, and then increase everyone's test score until that average becomes an eighty. This worked decently, as it standardized all the tests, but eventually, the CS teachers decided to switch to a square root curve instead, which helps those at the bottom while doing little for those at the top, which was disappointing to me.

Teachers do sometimes give out tests that are way harder than they thought they would be, and in those cases, curving all the grades definitely helps.
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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1/19/2012 1:04:33 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 1/18/2012 11:44:19 PM, Andromeda_Z wrote:
I'm starting to get the idea that my problem is that I'm too used to other grading systems. My initial reaction to this is that the class only has a 50 average, and I couldn't understand why would he give so many of the students failing grades like that. Problem is, that's not him failing the whole class, that's him giving an exam that is a suitable difficulty level. I still don't like that my grade is at least partially dependent on the grades of the rest of the class, but such is life and this isn't quite as ridiculous as I first thought. Thank you for the explanation.

He graded on a curve, so that actually only a small percentage failed. If I recall correctly, a barely passing grade ("D") was about 20. It is a different way of thinking.
baggins
Posts: 855
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1/19/2012 12:32:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Unless it is a very small class - grades rarely depend on performance other students. The law average ensures the performance of the rest of class remains 'average'. The only deciding factor is own performance.
The Holy Quran 29:19-20

See they not how Allah originates creation, then repeats it: truly that is easy for Allah.

Say: "Travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation; so will Allah produce a later creation: for Allah has power over all things.