The Randomness of Grades: What is an ‘A’ Student?

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We all have a sense of what an ‘A’ Student is.

They are the ones who have earned our top marks, of course. But comparing our own personal ‘A’s with that of other faculty quickly becomes problematic.

All those complaints about ‘grade inflation’ are effectively us complaining that other people don’t have our high standards – as if OUR standards were, well standard.

But, are they?

Let’s have another look at my super simplified content <=> exam graphic.

Let’s suppose a student gets 75% of the questions right. That’s often considered to be a ‘B’.

This is what a ‘B’ looks like:

We’ll call this Student 1

If we think of each of the squares as representing a single MC question, then the patterns could tell us something if our questions were not randomized. Even without that, consider these other ‘B’s:

Student 2

Student 3

Student 4

Student 5

ALL of these students got exactly 75% of the questions right. Is it fair to say they ALL have the same level of competence?

I’d say no.


What if the exam ISN’T perfectly balanced. What if, for example, we placed a heavier emphasis on the latter topics of the course?

Come back tomorrow to see how things might change.

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The Randomness of Grades: What is an ‘A’ Student? — 2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Grades: The Random Factor, Problem 2 | The Becker Blog

  2. Pingback: Please don’t let “Gamblification” become a thing in learning! | The Becker Blog

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