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On grade curving: Leave it be

By SooBean Kim, January 30 2020—

After the final posting of the fall semester grades went up, I had a friend cry to me about how an evil professor had curved their grade down from an A- to a C. I did not have the heart to tell them that that was not the case. The C was their reality, the complete summary of their efforts. Grade curving seems to be seen as either a saving grace or an unjust wrong. As a university student, one thing is crystal clear — grades are fundamentally based on merit. To those who live on the sixth floor of TFDL, being graded on a curve may seem like a slap in the face. This is due to the misconceptions and misinformation that has been spread throughout generations of students about the curve. 

The grading curve was not designed to be a participation trophy for slacking students to get top-notch grades. Grade curving in university is a practice designed generally to protect a median of letter grades, meaning that the majority of the class would get B’s or C’s and smaller percentages would receive A’s, D’s, and F’s. It is more commonly used for specific exams or assignments but is known to also apply to final grades in rare circumstances. Ultimately our professors are the ones who decide what kind of method is used, if at all. At the University of Calgary, grade curving is neither a policy nor a common practice. When it is used, the difference is hardly life-changing. No professor would simply raise an F to an A just because of a few hard exam questions. Most increases are situated with partial letter grades. 

U of C has no official policy for or against the curving of grades. It is however stated under the school’s policies regarding the 2019–2020 Grading System and Transcripts, that if a change to the grading scale were to occur it would not be on the side of lowering grades. This fights against grade deflation and protects students. Grade curving gives professors — especially in new or developing courses — the flexibility to adjust and revise material or exam prototypes without harming the student’s efforts and GPA. In other words, it is used for our benefit and for the bettering of our education. 

But what about grade inflation? If a student studies hard and receives an A when their peers received much lower marks, why should everyone be bumped up? Being graded on a curve does not happen often enough or inflict enough change to challenge a hardworking student’s merit. Personally, one of my greatest sources of panic as a student is the daunting ping of the orange-dotted D2L notification. There is nothing sweeter than the grateful sigh of relief after the realization that my grade has been curved. There are many more pressing issues with our school that heavily outweigh the potential if not minimal issues of grade curving. To those who feel the need to complain at all, I would like to point them in the direction of the tuition hike or the city-wide budget cuts. As for the grading curve, I would say thank you and move on.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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