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College Curves

Registered User Posts: 706 Member
edited June 2007
Hey, this may be a stupid question but how exactly do college curves work? I was trying to explain it to my younger cousin today when I realized that I didn't really get how it worked either. Are there different types of curves, and how much do they lend to the difficulty of a class?

I hear about all of these really bad curves at schools like Berkeley and other schools so I was just wondering. All of your input is greatly appreciated.
Post edited by Kenshinsan on

Replies to: College Curves

• Registered User Posts: 3,731 Senior Member
Varies from prof to prof. Most HSers get curves and scales mixed up. Curve is entirely based on the class average, and can't be "ruined" by any one person. Scale sets the highest score as an A or 100% and can be messed up by one person scoring significantly higher than every one else - like the one time I scored a 55/50 on an intro sociology exam. That had a scale, even with the extra credit, and theoretically - according to the syllabus, my score should have been move down to a 50/50, which would have meant that everyone else's grade would have been moved down 5 points as well. A curve on the other hand is based off of standard deviations. Many college classes with a "curve" dont' have a real statistical curve b/c that would mean extra work for the prof, and so they usually look for natural breaks in the distribution of scores to set up there A's vs A-'s vs B's.

All that said, many schools do caution profs about handing out too many A's and so they must set the course difficulty at a high enough level where A's must be earned...of course there are still profs who don't do this. I had a 20th century fiction prof who gave quizzes which were usually worth 15 points, and I definetly had times where my 5/15 was worth a B+. That was an awesome class.
• Registered User Posts: 5,821 Senior Member
Professors in the humanities rarely curve or scale. Those in the sciences and quantitative disciplines may -- although, as Bigredmed says, it varies from prof to prof, and test to test. There's no one way it "works."
• Registered User Posts: 1,285 Senior Member
I agree with bigred. It all depends on the teacher. At pitt, our math curve was already set by the dept. it was like 100-90 is A/A-, 89-80 is B/B-, 79-50 is a C/C- etc

In my bio class, the teacher curved each test down/up to a 75% average.
Basically, if everyone does bad, teachers will generally curve up to a certain avg.

I dont know any profs that do a full curve (ie 10% get A, 30% B, etc). Although thre are some that have departmental rules, like 20-30% students should get a A or B, etc
• Registered User Posts: 72 Junior Member
I don't think I've ever had a professor that scaled down the curve before...they would just make the next exam that much harder. On average I would say that most of my classes have had the average set at 75%, while I've had some classes where a true bell curve was used, and another where no curved was used and ultimately no one received over a B+ in the class.
This discussion has been closed.