A Curve That Works
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 01:03
It is difficult to evaluate the merit of a grading curve in undergraduate institutions. While certainly a useful way of preventing grade inflation, it brings up larger issues of the nature of grading and what aspects of a student’s performance should be weighed most.
Should students be assessed on the personal value of their achievements or how much more they have achieved than their fellow students? Depending on the academic program under consideration, the answer varies. In the case of the undergraduate program in the McDonough School of Business, however, a strict grading curve is appropriate.
Implemented in 2009, the policy dictates that the average GPA of students earned in a core class cannot exceed a 3.3. The MSB is the only one of Georgetown’s four undergraduate schools with an established, across-the-board grading curve. However, it is also the school that is most vocational in nature, and given that a majority of students decide to specialize in a select few majors — accounting and finance — and the intensity of the well-established and systemized recruitment process for upperclassmen, it makes sense to have a system that emphasizes differences between students and their rank.
The curve may not always be fair, as it operates on the incorrect assumption that all core classes are of a similar level of difficulty. And due to the small differences between the median and high achievers, small mistakes make big differences in grades. Nonetheless, it is the best way to help students stand out to potential employers. It is a reason business employers often cite for continuing to recruit so heavily at Georgetown. They respect the level of achievement demanded by the curve and know that the students they choose truly are the best and the brightest.