What is the concept of Curving in Grades in USA Schools? How does it work?

In Campus Life in US by Kumar1 Comment

I was in my very first class in MS, my professor was explaining the syllabus, course policies and other stuff, at the end he said “ There is no curving of grades in this class ”. I did not wanted to sound dumb in front of the class, so I did not ask any question…Some of you who come from international background may not be aware of the concept of “curving of grade or just Curving”. Let me share my thoughts on grading on curve.

What is Curving of Grades or just Grading on a Curve ?

I promise, I will not go into technical stuff like statistical jargon. I will just explain from a layman’s perspective.  In general, when professors grade your exam or your exam papers are corrected, your marks or grade is exactly what you score. As an example, suppose you take a multiple choice question exam of 100 questions and each question one point, you get 60 correct, you get a grade of 60. That’s it, this is exactly how your conventional grading works…But, imagine, the exam was really tough and no one in the class got over 60 points… If the professor is not happy with the class average or if students ask for more points, the professor can do something call curving of grades.  What it means is, he can use his own formula to raise everyone’s score in the exam by certain points. The formula or how many points to give to each student is entirely dependent on professor’s discretion and choice.  For example, the professor might want to do it like the highest scorer in the exam is automatically given 96. So, if the class highest was 60 before curving , after curving class highest score is raised by 36 points to get 96…everyone’s grades are adjusted accordingly. It is nothing but normalization of grades…  Also, curving of grades is done at various instances, some professors like to do it at the end of semester, some prefer to do it for midterms and projects…it is entirely up to the professor’s choice.  Grading on curve is common in some undergraduate entry-level courses, 100 level courses,  because the students are of mixed group.

Some issues with  Curving of Grades :

If the class has an extraordinary student and he gets a 98, but rest of class performs poorly and all of them get a grade under 60, the curving gets bad…it is not good for rest of the class…so, students who score less points or marks usually hate the high achievers.  Some professors do not encourage this because, it becomes difficult to compare groups of students as the grades are normalized.

Any other thoughts on Grading on a curve ? Good or Bad experiences ?

Image Credit : http://www.brewu.com/comics/grade_curve.gif

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