Absolute grading or Relative grading?

Posted: March 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

Aahh long time no new posts… Let me be serious this time. The reason why i am writing this post is because of a guy who buzzed cursing all nine pointers and relative grading. This guy feels relative grading is stupid and impractical. He gave me an opportunity to explain my views on Absolute Grading and Relative Grading. I thank that guy.

The methodology for grading students has been a hot topic among academicians. Frankly speaking there has been less debate about it on mainstream media. If they have, then it’s my fault. We all know different universities have their own grading system. VTU follows “percentage” system, which is more or less absolute grading. IITs follow CPI or CGPA. My university follows relative grading or CGPA. So lets get an insight into both Absolute and Relative grading.

Absolute grading:

This is how absolute grading works. >75% you get an A. 60-75 it’s B. 50-60, it’s C and so on. What makes absolute grading different from relative grading is the difficulty of the question paper and how lenient have the papers been corrected. If all the students screw the exam, they end up getting a D or even F and may have to repeat the course. The onus is more on the teachers to set a balanced paper. They might be compelled to set straightforward questions. Sometime directly from text/reference books. Hence expect text book stuff on answer sheets. Most of the US universities follow this grading system. Where this system works efficiently? Best suited for univs like VTU. There are hell lot of colleges under VTU and it’s frigging difficult to grade students relatively. Again its my opinion.

Relative grading:

I need not rant about it. Relative grading is dynamic, no fixed passing marks. Gives the faculty more flexibility, but also more responsibility in deciding how to grade, how to consider the continuous assessment scores of the students. The highest score in the class/department is considered as a baseline. Rest of them are graded taking the ratio of their respective score to highest score.

Now beauty of this is, it hides your score. Say you get 35 in Math and you are the highest you get an A. It is always better to tell your parents that you got A, rather than telling you got 35 and say “just pass amma”, like in the case of absolute grading. Let me remind you one again. Relative grading is a continuous assessment of your performance. Your sessional scores are as important as your end sem scores. And hey even your GATE, CAT scores are in percentile. What about GRE? ETS also gives your percentile score by randomly choosing 3000 students (i guess this doesn’t matter much).

Now problem with relative grading is inconsistency. It all depends on the faculty, on how they interpret the performance. This is the reason why students often find relative grading stupid. Let me explain with another example. Say the ratio of your score to highest score is 8.99. Now you may get A- (9) or B+(8.5), depends on teacher. Coming to continuous assessment, will the faculty consider best of three quizzes?, or assignments? Again cant say. The student’s score should reflect his performance and also his understanding of the subject. The teacher should take care of such stuff. It’s hell lot complicated than we think it is.

Is it the time for change in grading system? Can statisticians come up with a consistent model?

Alas, i don’t have much time to write more; please do post your views. Maybe i will complete this post later, i guess.


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