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Grading Information

Why is There a B Median?

The grading system is fairly simple for core courses. Again, this is for core courses. The median person in the class is going to get a “B”. So, for class with 51 people, list the grades from highest to lowest. #26 on the ranking will get a “B”. Students above that person will get a “B” or better. They won”t necessarily get better than “B”; they might get a “B”, “B+”, “A-”, or whatever. Students below that person will get a “B” or lower. The only thing that is fixed is the grade of the middle person in the ranking.

Remember that this “forced B median” does not apply to electives.

Why do we do this? A couple of inter-related reasons:

  1. To guard against grade inflation so grades stay comparable from one year to the next
  2. We want to make sure an “A” means something. An “A” is supposed to signify that you both did well relative to the rest of the class and mastered the material.

You are going to find that working hard in a class no longer means that you are going to get an “A”. Don’t read me wrong: if you don’t work hard, you probably won’t get an “A”. However, just working hard is not enough. You have to be smart, perform well on assignments and tests, express yourself well in class, participate in your group assignments --- all sorts of things have to go well for you to get an “A”. So this means that, yes, it is possible, and actually probable, that you will work hard in some classes and not get an “A”. There are lots of smart people in the BSchool just like there will be when you are working for a living. Some will do better than you sometimes and other times you will do better than them. All that you can ask of yourself is to do the best you can. Apply yourself, take advantage of this opportunity. The sooner you learn these things, the better off you will be.

What are exams like? Well, they’re all over the board. Some multiple choice, some true/false, a few essays, and a few problems to solve. You’ll be asked to recall facts and frameworks and apply these to new situations. Nothing really surprising here. Also, different classes assign grades according to different mixes---but one thing is for sure, very rarely will exam grades be the sole determinant of your overall grade. So skipping classes and trying to master everything right before the exam is not a winning strategy. Even if you do well in the exams, that is not enough. In fact, in some classes the spread in point distibution is relatively larger for things other than exams---student grades are more tightly clustered around the mean for exam grades than they are for class participation, homework, and group project grades. So it’s definitely worth it to show up for class, be well prepared, contribute to class discussions, and put effort into assignments and group projects.