« Quote For The Day | Main | Ten Ways To Curve Exam Grades »



As a student, one of my professors gave us tests that were not passable based on the literature and lecture material. Some of the questions were so off-base that no one in the class could imagine where the professor could have gotten the question from. The highest scores would be 40 or 50 out of 100. Then, he'd curve.

To me, it always seemed silly. Why test us over material we shouldn't know, just to curve? Or, if this information is important (more likely), why wasn't it covered in class or in the literature? Why wasn't it mentioned?

Curving every test seems illogical, to me.

Dr. Delaney Kirk

Katherine: You confirm what I thought the students were thinking. It's OK to challenge students, but the exam should be doable. I would think knowing that no one will be able to pass would demotivate the students from even trying. Thanks for commenting.

Alec Hosterman

No, I do not curve grades on exams, assignments, or for the course. I believe that every student starts out at the same place and thus, has the same opportunity as the next person to reach an A. I'm not there to make it look good for me or them; I'm there to help them understand material they may not know, may not understand, or haven't come in contact with before, thus I feel everyone should be on a level playing field (so to speak). Does this mean that I'm out for people to fail, or for only to give out a certain number of As, Bs, etc.? No, definitely not. In fact I tell my students "you have to make a concerted effort to fail my course." Education isn't about getting an A in everything you do. It's about growing intellectually, professionally, and personally. Not doing perfectly on everything is sometimes a better teacher than the traditional "sage on a stage."

Stephan DeLong

I have a peer who uses an idea he calls "test point recovery," where he makes his tests extremely hard, and then allows students to rework the problems after the test is handed back and turn in their corrections. If these are correct, he gives them half their points back; so a person who scores 20 on an exam could "recover" to a score of 60.

My point of view is that this is inappropriate, because the scope of the material on the test is, by design, much more difficult than the student can be expected to complete within the time frame of the test. In effect, one never knows what the students CAN do within the testing window, which is (allegedly!) what the test is designed to measure.

The comments to this entry are closed.