Grade curving: The ever-changing value of a university ‘A’

Published: 3 February 2012

Amanda Hadid knew that her management program at McGill University was going to be academically rigorous, but she wasn't prepared for how hard it is to get high marks, or how good it finally felt to get a B+ in one course last semester.

Nor was she prepared for how extremely bad it felt to have her best mark bell-curved down to a B. Ouch.

According to Webster's Dictionary, in education, grading on a bell curve is grading a group of examinations first using a numerical point system, then assigning the highest grade an A (assuming the ABCDF grading scale), regardless of its numerical grade (which can be failing). The average grade is assigned a C and the lowest fail (even if the numerical grade is passing). Typically, it is a statistical concept which distributes grades so that 68 per cent of students are average, and the rest are divided up on either side. It is most commonly used when overall marks have been particularly low.

Bell-curving down may not be common in most of academia, but it can happen at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill where the department decided to address the serious issue of grade inflation by establishing a policy forcing all class averages to be maintained between 65 and 74 per cent...

Read full article: The Gazette, February 3, 2012


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