# Grading on a Curve Pros and Cons

What does it mean to curve grades? The pros and cons of such a system are evaluated in this article.

EduZenith Staff

**The Concept**

The entire idea behind this kind of grading system is to boost the performance of the lagging students in a class. The advantage of those students who have worked hard for good grades should also be there. Now, how will you do that? The answer to this question is a very novel idea in grading on a curve system. It is a method of assigning grades, in which a predetermined frequency distribution on a grading scale are yielded. Simply put, the disadvantage of the disadvantaged is reduced while hard workers get their due.

The grading proceeds in three different steps.

*Step #1*: The numerical scores of the tests are obtained. If the order of these scores represent the skill of the student, then the actual numerical score is unimportant.

*Step #2*: These numerical scores are converted into percentile scores relative to highest scorer.

*Step #3*: The percentile scores are then converted into grades.

As simple as these three steps may sound, there is a twist to this. When the teachers are converting percentiles into grades, they do so according on a 'percentile scale'. The width on this scale indicates the desired relative frequency distribution of the grades. This concept can be understood better with an example.

Consider that students in a class are graded into three categories, say X,Y & Z. The top achievers of the class have to be an exclusive group. So reserve X to the top 10% achievers. Let the next 20% be given Y, and the rest be in Z. The frequency distribution of the number of students in all three categories can be determined or tuned in advance.

**Pros and Cons**

*The Benefits*

__Relative Performance__: The grades are assigned according to the relative performance of other students, so the difficulty of the subject itself is masked. This gives a sense of confidence to the student to tackle any subject.__Difficulty in Comparison__: The percentile scores are calculated according to highest score achieved in the class. This may not be very high. So the comparison with the numerically high scorers of other systems becomes impossible. In my opinion, this is leveling the playing field for every student.__Easier to Go to College__: More often than not, the relative score is generally higher than the actual numerical score. This way it becomes easy to get into college.

*The Drawbacks*

__Grade Margins__: Grading on a curve increases the problem of those students who are near to the margin between the two grades. It may happen that a student is getting grade B in the normal grading system, but is getting grade C in the curve grading system. This is a big problem.__Study Groups__: Better performance by the study groups may show that the curve grading (the actual curve) is peaking, but individually, this may not be the case. The student may end up performing below par.__Dealing with Different Grading System__: A student who is habituated with grading on a curve system in schools, is in for a rude shock when he encounters a different system (this may happen when he enters the college or a graduate school). Typically low performing students who are used to getting better grades may not adjust to the new system quickly.