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Why you should NOT ask Grades(Percentage) of others in US Universities?

International students are used to asking grades or percentage of other students in their class. The reality is, in countries like India, the results are posted publicly and everyone knows the grades. But, things work different in America. There are laws to protect your privacy and privacy issues are very serious in America. Let me share my thoughts on this.

What typically happens with Grades ? Why people ask about grades ?

Imagine, you have just taken a test and it was very hard, you talked to your friends and they said, “it went ok”…but you say to them, “you are lying, you are smart guy”. Guess what happens, next class professor comes and gives the exam papers, you are so curious that you ask your friend “ what is your grade ?”…Well, let us say he does not tell you the grade. Generally, in countries like India, you would ask the professor and they would tell who got highest , how much did someone get, etc stuff.  The reality is,  in countries like India, there are not many strict education record privacy acts or anything like that. It is unfortunate to say this, students are treated differently based on their performance in exams.  But, things work differently in America.

What the concept of Grades in America ? Why NOT to ask Grades ?

In America, there are Education and privacy acts to protect such practices. In fact, not even parents can know your grades after you are 18. Education record is private. Lets think logically, why such rule?   Human tendency is such that, we judge others based on some characteristics or behavior…If you are education oriented person, if you know someone is not good at studies…you may show bias and look that person down. Also, others may do the same thing for instance, other professors or anyone. To eliminate all these discrimination or bias, in US there is an Education Act to protect and safeguard. For more info read this Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

In US, No one asks others about grades like, What grade did you get ? How much percentage, etc ?  Students are very sensitive about asking grades in US schools. You should never ask their grade.  Also, professors even when they give you the exam papers or homework after grading, they close it and give it to you so that no one sees your grade. It is confidential just between you and professor.  Having said that, international students often ask other international students about grades because of their practice, but please do NOT ask others about their grades unless you know them on a personal level. Many of us(international students) do not know this stuff and ask these questions. Hope you will not ask after reading this. If you are friends with someone, you may politely ask something general like “did you do fine on the test?”.  I think this is the right way. NO one should be judged based on their grades or percentage. The idea is, every student or professor should treat other students with respect without any bias based on grades!

Did you ask any American student about grades? Any thoughts to share?

Image Credits : http://www.legaljuice.com/good%20grade%20better%20grades%20A%2B%20paper%20report.gif


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  1. I feel this ‚privacy act’ is a cover up for corruption and leads to education system demise in US. Kids are not able to compare their knowledge to their peers. The only way to know how well you do as a student is when you take standarized tests, but many priviliged / wealthy kids do not take them. Unfortunately the results of standarized tests are not used by teachers when accepting kids to gifted and talented programs . Enrichment and placement in advanced clsses is often offered instead to kids whose parents are willing to make significant contributions to a school. Kids who really deserve it based upon their knowladge and skills are left behind, or must be in 95 percentile or more to qualify. Unfortunately I also encountered teachers who purposly lowered the grades of some students to disqualify them from advancement into a better class.

    Imagine if same was applied to sports and results were not shared. How would you select the best athletes?

    I live in US but was brought up in a country where we shared our grades. I found the other system more transparent and competitive than in the US.

    • Swanna,
      There are pros and cons to both approaches….
      No need to compare against others, every kid is unique….While, it may help be competitive and strive to excel, it may also put many in unnecessary peer pressure…each has its pros and cons.
      Some of the greatest entrepreneurs failed in school and dropped out. Success has nothing to do with sharing your grades and comparing yourself with others….

  2. Nice article. I can relate to most of the content. I came from Kuwait. Teachers used to tell the grades of each students out loud and other students would ask who made the highest points and sometimes grades are publicly posted on walls. In fact, it might be shocking to many to hear that the the final percentage grade of high school graduates are published in newspapers. This tells me how much the world is diverse in terms of culture. To me, it is not just because there is less privacy awareness in Kuwait (and the middle east, and other less developed countries), but also because the definition of privacy is quite different. When I came to America, I was surprised by how college professors try really hard to protect each student private record. When exams/HW/quizzes/assignment are given out, some professors cover the grade by putting a sticky note. Others would put a page on top and staple it to hide the grade. I always wondered why they do that, but now I know because of the law and how the American people define privacy. The only thing I couldn’t relate to is “In US, No one asks others about grades like, What grade did you get ?” Because I get asked lots of these questions by my peers and many are welling to share their grade. It is probably because of regional differences within the U.S.

  3. well there are a number of ways one can procure knowledge of others’ grades. they can do it through direct inquiry, overhearing, or asking a third party. like sometimes you overhear someone talking about their grades, and you end up remembering it. or you memorize their student id number and look up their grade on the sheet that’s posted on the window.

    like i had a friend who would send me an instant message every ten minutes asking, “know anyone else’s ap scores yet?” around the time when ap scores were released.

    that same friend also pulled out people’s transcripts from their backpacks and glossed over them, essentially memorizing everything on them.

    that same friend would also mention someone else’s grades and sat scores out of the blue without even starting a conversation, he’d be like, “hey did you know so-and-so got a XXXX on the sat?” and then walk away afterwards

  4. What you guys say about asking a professor how he/she has come up to final grades I am give, what if One feels like there is small change in percentage. How is it looked by professor ?

  5. i believe the same was commented upon in the movie ‘3 idiots’, where aamir was explaining to virus, why grades should not be distributed publicly and how it creates a bias. nice article.

  6. hello kumar,

    D Chandramouli is soo right…its amazing to see d array of topics u manage to cover..i mean these are soo common yet a bit off the course kind of topics..which ppl would generally avoid askin others…yet u manage to explain them…and that too in such a convincing manner…hats off of to ur wonderfull blog…its soo informative as well as fun to read….iv subscribed ur blog…so wud tell my frnds…


  7. I personally accept the rule..
    Grade or % is not going to decide the success.

    If the same would implement in India, at least we can eliminate some suicide cases who are attempting to suicide foolishly (not getting the first rank in class or not passed)..

    i m not going to ask directly..
    Good p0st..
    thanks kumar.


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