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  1. #21
    Senior Member Little_Sticks's Avatar
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    I know in engineering you won't ever find that many people As in a lot of classes. Bs are much more common. I think something like a 3.0 is quite common for some engineering disciplines.

    Grades serve an abstract purpose of weighing people against each other, but I doubt it's any more accurate than trying to use football statistics to bet on football games; although if someone can be bothered to keep a 4.0, especially in a hard major, I guess that does show some kind of dedication. But school is tedious and boring and a lot of successful people dropped out because of that. I just don't know. I don't think much about it; if I learn something interesting and don't get too many Cs filling up my GPA, it doesn't really bother me. But maybe apathy is my way to justify that I'm not as capable in some ways as I'd like - who knows.

    Ideally, there would be no grades, just a requirement that you either pass or fail, but people seem to require it to decide who is better at doing certain things, even if the differences can be really small and change drastically depending on simple motivation or other transient variables. Like for example, if I know the material well in a class, but don't feel that motivated to quickly and meticulously make sure I don't make any calculation errors on a test or write an equation wrong that I understood, then I won't get an A, but I mastered the material.

    It's even more annoying when you complete a homework assignment and then get it wrong on the test because you made a simple mistake or had a brain-fart and then it's like...aren't we here to learn? and didn't I already show that I learned this? And yeah, you can rationalize it that it means I'm less capable in some way than someone who didn't make a mistake, but it gets ridiculous when it's more about forcing comparison just for the sake of comparing worth and value. But that's what money does and people don't seem to have a problem with that, so I don't know.

    But I don't think there's anything wrong with a lot of people getting As. It's about the requirement and if that's how they are compared, then so be it. Distributing grades is like nitpicking details about people just so we can claim differences in ability, no matter how small or transient that ability might be.

  2. #22
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    Re comparisons: I know this is such an ass-holish thing to do but there was a girl (I am guessing ESXJ) who was trying to put me in "my place" and assert her superiority over me and she was telling me about a philosophy class that was very hard for her that she dropped it so I am taking it right now to see how I well I would do in it. Secretly, I revel in the fact that it is one of the easiest A's ever earned for me and plus, I am pretty sure the prof is INTP (I elicited some expressions from him).

  3. #23
    Feline Member kelric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGuffin View Post
    Some classes are definitely easier than others. I would take classes in other people's majors (like poli sci) for fun and a much easier grade. No one outside the engineering school ever seemed to take my chem or engineering classes for the same reasons.
    Yes -- I saw the same thing. At my school, there were even special science introductory classes for the science majors (as the generic "first semester" science classes weren't considered rigorous enough by the science departments). As an engineering/biology major, I took chemistry 112/113 for the first year, for instance, while the "general science requirement" chemistry class was chemistry 100 -- which didn't even count if you were an any sort of science/engineering/math major. Of course, almost nobody took Chem 100, as there were easier "science" classes out there. I think my sister took a geology class, in which she stopped going after about 65% of the semester, as she already had an A locked up .

    I did take an introductory anthropology course my last year for fun, which I enjoyed. It was interesting stuff, completely different than what I was used to studying, and... well, it wasn't that stressful after 3 years of science/lab classes. Different majors definitely did have a different workload.
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  4. #24
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    Hang on. You guys are talking about grades in general terms as if it is all comparable but really there are two different types of testing:

    1. regurgitate the material clearly
    2. use interpretive/analytical/expressive/creative skills to form your own argument or demonstrate your ideas

    If many high grades are given in the first case it's not such a big problem because if a student works hard to learn the material very well, they deserve to be rewarded - that is, as long as the students are taught a reasonable amount of information and are sufficiently challenged by it (ie. it's not pathetically easy to learn). I suppose the second aspect can be debatable, if the tests/exams are made too easy but if the students are learning what is necessary to understand that subject well, it's not really an issue. I don't think , though, that, As shouldn't be given out for anything less than say a 75-80% mark, unless the material is extremely challenging.

    The second type is much more problematic because of the subjective nature of the marking and because in some ways it demands more of the student. The point is to show your strength in critical thinking or creativity and your ability to demonstrate and carry that out clearly. And you will find that even extremely brilliant people can struggle with that in one way or another. Someone might have highly insightful or innovative ideas but are terrible at executing them or explaining them (or vice-versa) but you need to be good at both to deserve a good grade - the grades must reflect the higher expectations on students. If everyone with a half-baked idea/argument can get an A then it is not at all reflective of genuine skill.

    My classes at university almost entirely consisted of the second type and I felt the teachers were tough but fair. English was particularly difficult to get an A in. I did used to get annoyed with how friends who got As easily in classes which covered more discrete information (ie the first type) but I accepted that this was the way of things.

    However, I'm not American so I can't say whether college is easier there, than what I experienced.
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  5. #25
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    They published the averages for my classes in undergrad and it was usually in the 60s. I think they also publish the % who get A/B/etc....I don't remember any class where half the class got an A. Closer to 20-30% from what I remember.
    Yeah, I should add that this was in biology. I can't really speak to what it was in the arts. Unlike most people I didn't actually find that I got higher marks in the psych/sociology classes I took than I did in my hard science classes - about the same really. In some cases I actually did worse when the expectations for essays etc were unclear (whereas biology is very straightforward marking-wise!). On the other hand, I studied substantially less for the fluff courses, so maybe that's why.
    -end of thread-

  6. #26
    Aquaria mrcockburn's Avatar
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    This isn't the case at my school.

    Most classes, perhaps 5% get A grades. The majority is C or D. I've had classes where the entire class got D's or F's. If even 10% of the people get A's, it's considered an EASY class and people are breaking down the doors to enroll with that professor.

    Then again, I'm an Accounting major, so that's probably part of it. Humanities majors might have it easier.

    Hell, in my classes, getting a B is something to be ecstatic over. Yet only the stoic, mute Chinese kids score that high.
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  7. #27
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    I used to teach public speaking and media history in grad school, and my averages in each respectively were B- and C. Part of the problem with public speaking was that we were required by the program to grade mostly based on concrete criteria (did they have an outline, did they use the required amount of devices/tropes, did they use proper argument structure, was it within time, etc.,) So what ended up happening was that I had no way of justifying that the more creative/rhetorically skillful/talented/excellent speakers deserved higher grades than the ones who had merely carried out orders. I'd have a whole slew of depressingly below average speakers who had met all of the concrete criteria; if I gave A's to these kids, the average would be jacked up, but if I didn't, only two or three kids would get an A (and I'd eventually be made to change some grades because the little bastards would tell on me to my supervising professor, or to the chair.) It was a lose-lose situation for me in that subject, and I've since come to view grading in creative or performance subjects as actively detrimental to learning.

    Luckily the media history class was more straightforward. Here I had a nice piece of paper with which to present the student in the event that he/she questioned my grade assignment, and on that paper were all of the very specific problems outlined nicely in red ink that indicated just how poorly they were able to accomplish an expected activity.

    I think that subject matters which lend themselves more readily to the concretization of school structure are more likely (with all else equal) to naturally produce an proper distribution of grades.
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  8. #28
    Emerging Tallulah's Avatar
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    Some random thoughts from both sides of the podium:

    --I don't believe in the philosophy that some teachers have of "only a certain number of students make an A in my class." I was an excellent student, but once I heard a teacher utter that phrase, I'd drop their class. I want them grading my work according to its own merit, not the fact that he's decided he has three other students whose work he prefers to mine, and they get the As. In that situation, a B is not acceptable to me. If I don't think I have a legitimate and fair chance to earn my A, I will not retain my seat in your class. The A quota is a teacher ego thing, IMO, and that is not my business. My GPA was too important to take a risk like that, and my sense of fair play was offended.

    --I believe that all students have the ABILITY to earn an A in my class, and if they did, I would have no problem giving it to them. It's never happened, though. Some lose interest/momentum halfway through; some just never make enough progress to write an A-level paper; some do fine on their papers, and then blow off the other assignments.

    --My grading goes as follows: For their first essay, I keep the requirements to a minimum, while they learn the structure and my grading style. For this assignment I grade very leniently, and most of them get As on the first paper. But I also give them a lot of personal feedback and I expect them to learn from it and incorporate it into the next paper. I also, meanwhile, am giving them more and more instruction on style, grammar, and organization. As we learn, they have to incorporate it. Some grow quite a bit as a result of this process, and earn As. Others don't put the effort in and their grades decline from that point. Still others get cocky, failing to remember that the first grade was the easiest I'll ever grade them, and slack off. As the semester goes on, I grade the paper holistically, and it has to be an all-around good paper to merit a good grade. By the end of the semester, I have As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs. To earn the A, you have to not only write good papers, but also participate in in-class exercises, journal exercises, and peer reviews. I do want each student to feel encouraged and capable of acquiring an A according to their efforts.
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  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGuffin View Post
    Some classes are definitely easier than others. I would take classes in other people's majors (like poli sci) for fun and a much easier grade. No one outside the engineering school ever seemed to take my chem or engineering classes for the same reasons.
    Quote Originally Posted by kelric View Post
    I did take an introductory anthropology course my last year for fun, which I enjoyed. It was interesting stuff, completely different than what I was used to studying, and... well, it wasn't that stressful after 3 years of science/lab classes. Different majors definitely did have a different workload.
    These experiences echo my own. The expectations, workload and overall difficulty of classes vary wildly from faculty to faculty. I also took introductory anthropology in my last year of university; I found it interesting, it was a nice break from the much more stressful engineering classes I was taking, and in the end I came away with a B+ after spending probably no more than a few hours over the course of the entire semester reading or studying. If I had the luxury of more free time I'm quite confident I could have easily gotten an A.


    I think grades are inflated in certain disciplines, particularly ones that produce a great number of grad students. One of my classmate's girlfriends was majoring in religious studies while he and I studied mechanical engineering. We were happy to get a B or better; she was disappointed if she got anything less than an A and devastated if she had a B+ or worse. Her class's collective GPA was around 3.8; I didn't know anyone in any engineering discipline who had a GPA above 3.7 (A-).

    Where her studies and ours differed most was the way in which it was graded. She wrote essays almost exclusively. We wrote reports and solved (math/physics) problems. Her grading was at the mercy of the professor's interpretation of her writing. Our grading was based on our scientific and mathematical methodology. Southern Kross explains it better:

    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Kross View Post
    Hang on. You guys are talking about grades in general terms as if it is all comparable but really there are two different types of testing:

    1. regurgitate the material clearly
    2. use interpretive/analytical/expressive/creative skills to form your own argument or demonstrate your ideas

    ...

    My classes at university almost entirely consisted of the second type and I felt the teachers were tough but fair. English was particularly difficult to get an A in. I did used to get annoyed with how friends who got As easily in classes which covered more discrete information (ie the first type) but I accepted that this was the way of things.
    On the other hand I found the classes I took which used the latter type of grading were noticeably easier, grade-wise. 'A's were handed out like candy on Halloween. These were (in my experience) mostly social sciences and arts courses. A 'B' in a philosophy or sociology course was much, much easier to obtain than in, say, calculus, chemistry, physics or a latter-year engineering course.

    Does this mean a sociology class was in and of itself inherently easier? To a certain extent I think so. I found my classes in sociology and anthropology took up much less of my time and I still had (in my opinion) half-decent grades (I can't remember now, but I think I got Bs in both). To get a B in, oh... "Acoustic, Optics and Radiation", "Differential Equations" or "Kinematics and Dynamics of Machines and Mechanisms" was a significantly more time consuming and stressful experience.

    At a higher level I imagine many of these social science disciplines become quite a lot more difficult and time-consuming (especially the sheer amount of reading and writing required!).

    The difference is, going back to the example of my colleague's girlfriend, she needed a 3.8 GPA or better to get a sniff at grad school. I knew guys who went into grad school to study mechanical engineering whose GPAs were no better than 3.2 or 3.3. The difference between an A and a B+ was enormous for her, whereas the difference between a B+ and an A for me was "I'm pleasantly satisfied" and "HOLY CRAP I GOT AN A?!?! SUCK IT, BITCHES!!"

    So, are grades being inflated? Yes, in certain disciplines, but the perception of what constitutes a 'good' grade and a 'bad' grade is following the same path.


    People spend tens of thousands of dollars on a post-secondary education. Institutions that develop a reputation for being stingy with 'good' grades will soon find themselves sparsely populated because their graduates won't be able to do anything with their degrees.

  10. #30
    Senior Member captain curmudgeon's Avatar
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    I found it surprising that A's were more common in private than public colleges.

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