Why are students graded on a bell curve? 0
Average students with standard expectations of themselves thrive in classes marked using a bell curve. However, high achievers who aspire for more can find this grading method infuriating. Why does the curved grading system exist and how does one get ahead of the curve?
To put it simply, curved grading exists because not all instructors are made equal and educational institutions need a system to distinguish the best of the best from the rest.
At some point in every academic career, there is an instructor with sub-par teaching abilities. In order not to punish students who already paid to be subjected to this unkindness, the curved grading system mitigates their losses by assuming that classes taught by terrific and terrible teachers are equally excellent. Even though students may learn less under the tutelage of a terrible teacher, the classes receive the same distribution of grades.
Is this an accurate measure of education or intelligence? Arguably, no. But since it will happen to every student at some point, it’s accepted and we move on.
Even if teachers want to give ‘A’ grades to everyone, they couldn’t without weakening the value of that grade. It’s an academic supply and demand of sorts. If ‘A’ grades are plentiful (high supply), they won’t be as sought after (low demand). However, if ‘A’ grades are difficult to achieve (low supply), they suddenly carry more weight (high demand).
So how can students navigate this academic economy with its injustices and limited supply of ‘A’ grades?
Students looking only to pass their classes with minimal effort can find comfort in knowing that every course graded on a bell curve will give them the highest probability of success. Even if the majority of a class fails the final exam, most will still pass the course.
Those seeking only high grades and not necessarily an education can enroll in classes where students are either not marked on a curve, or are generally lazy. In the latter case, students who do put in effort are generously rewarded.
But of course, students who value an education above all else can rest assured knowing that even if a class is graded on a curve, exceptions are almost always made for exceptional students.