Undergraduate

How Letter Grades Are Assigned in Math 152

The purpose of this document is to describe how final letter grades are assigned based on each student's exams and graded assignments.

There is a common myth that finishing any course with 90% of the available points entitles a student to an A, 80% entitles the student to a B, etc. We refer to this as a myth because it is false! In Math 152 (as in many of the large calculus courses at Rutgers), there is absolutely no connection between getting a certain percentage of the points and getting a certain letter grade. Instead, the Math Department requires that grades be assigned based on a particular method, which is described below:

After the final exam is graded, the Math Department determines what score on the final exam is an A, what score is a B+, what score is a B, all the way down through all of the grades. This determination is based both on how well students have mastered the required material and on the difficulty of the exam. Each instructor is then directed to count how many students in their section received final exam grades of A, B+, B, etc. These numbers determine the total numbers of A’s, B+’s, B’s, etc., that the instructor gives to their course. A student’s letter grade on the final exam is not necessarily their letter grade in the course.

In order to assign grades to particular students, each instructor sorts all of the students, from highest to lowest, based on the students’ weighted averages of their exams and graded assignments. The instructor then starts at the top of the list, counts off the number of each grade allocated to the class, and assigns the grades in descending order. For example, suppose that 10 students get A’s on the final exam, and 5 students get B+’s. Then the students with the 10 highest overall weighted averages for the course will get A’s, and the students with the next 5 weighted averages will get B+’s. The instructor proceeds down the list, assigning the allocated number of B’s, C+’s, C’s, D’s, and F’s, until each student has a grade. Thus a student’s course grade is sometimes not the same as their final exam grade.

The reason this system is fair is that everyone enrolled in Math 152 across the university takes an equivalent version of the same final exam, so counting how many of each grade was earned on the final exam by a particular section is an accurate way of measuring how well that section learned the material. This way, a grade of A in Math 152 corresponds to the same level of knowledge of calculus, regardless of which professor/workshop/time-of-day/campus the student had for the course.

Please note that this method of assigning grades means that it is incorrect to think, "I have a 90% average so I have an A", or "I did better than the class average on the exams so I must be passing the course." Letter grades are determined by the method described above, and only by that method.