In the grade scheme of things
It’s that time of year again. Projects are being completed, exams are being studied for, all-nighters are being pulled, and stress levels are through the roof.
To add to all the anxiety and chaos, many students are beginning to notice that their grades are lower than last year. This begs the question, are students losing brain cells by the minute?
The answer is a big fat N-O — well for most students anyways.
The fact is, while percentages are staying the same, their letter grade equivalency has dropped. For example, a student that got an 80 per cent last year may have been looking at an A-; this year they’re staring at a B for that same percentage grade.
Some courses have seen percentage requirements as high as 99-100 in order to receive the highly coveted A+.
This isn’t the case with all programs and courses, but many have seen the shift.
“The institutional grade scale in the calendar matches letter grades with GPAs, but does not include percentage equivalencies,” said Robin Fisher, Mount Royal’s provost and VP academic.
Fisher says this leaves room for departments and individual instructors to “apply percentages differently.”
Marie Barnes, VP academic for the SAMRC says that programs with higher admission requirements will most likely have higher equivalences to strive for. This keeps the programs competitive, Barnes says, adding that students will often notice letter grades drop in per cent in their second and third years.
Many students however are finding it very frustrating to meet such a high level of standards.
“If someone has all classes that have lower grading systems than yours, then they get higher GPAs which could lead to better scholarships, jobs etc.,” said Amie Lukens, a bachelor of arts student.
Fisher agrees that the system isn’t always fair.
“I am inclined to think that the situation is not in the best interest of students and so we should look into including percentages on the scale as well,” he said.
Another problem surrounding grades is the inconsistency between programs and even particular courses.
“I think that’s when it becomes a problem, when they take different classes from a different faculty,” said Barnes.
She adds, “It confuses students because they’re used to getting an 80 [the equivalent of an A-] and that’s a different mark than they get in another option.”
This has been a problem for Lukens who has courses from different faculties. She finds that she’s getting very similar percentages in all her classes but the letter grades are different.
“If a B is 73 per cent and an A is 90 per cent, then it should be the same way in every class. It should be standard throughout every department in the college,” she said.
Some have argued that it doesn’t really matter if you get an A compared to a B in the real world, but the reality is that jobs are fairly hard to come by these days during the economic downturn and anything to put a freshly graduated student above all other applicants will be an asset.
It still isn’t the end of the world if you get that B+ instead of that A-, but it can be frustrating when your teacher — from Day 1 — tells you to just do your best because that A+ you’ve been eyeing is near impossible.
But hang in there kids. Classes will soon be done and you’ll be one step closer to not having to think about grades and enjoying the summer — minus your two jobs, family commitments, summer classes, and oh, don’t forget you told Aunt Marge you’d watch her dog while she was away. Sigh.