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Grades & Politics

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by PapaBearJr, Jun 21, 2008.

  1. PapaBearJr


    Jun 21, 2008
    Here’s my situation. My school uses the class average & standard deviation (SD) to determine “grades.” Grades are given out according to how many SDs away from the mean. For most of the individual subject areas, I am usually near or within 1 SD of the average. Most of the SDs are usually 2 digits (like 10 or 11), but the overall average has a 1 digit SD (like 8,9 or 6). How can double digit SDs average out to a single digit SD? (even with weighted subjects) My overall grade has been borderline twice (we have 3 units for the entire year). I’m talking 1 percentage point borderline both times. I have a feeling the school is changing the overall SD, so that passing is always 70%. When maybe passing should be 68 or 67%.

    I don’t have a problem with passing being 70%. That sounds entirely fair to me. But, that is not what they told the class. They told the class that 1 SD away is the highest grade, more than 1 SD away is another & 2 or more SD away is another. Isn’t changing the SD when the class numbers don’t meet their expectations (which the class was never told) the same as altering lab data for an experiment?

    I was expecting politics in medicine, but not starting the first year & definitely not something as major as possibly altering data.

    Please let me know your thoughts.
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  3. Blesbok

    Blesbok 7+ Year Member

    Sep 27, 2007
  4. njbmd

    njbmd Guest Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 30, 2001
    Gone Walkabout!

    In terms of grading or anything else that has to do with one of your classes, your best source of information is the professor who is in charge of that class. My guess is that if the grading scale had worked to your advantage, you would not have placed a thread on a public website.

    The professional thing (and it's often the most difficult thing) is to have a meeting with the course coordinator and get your grades explained. There is likely nothing "political" about this. You think that they are "altering data" but is there any possibility that you may be mistaken? Wouldn't it be better to know exactly what the situation is? I am kind of playing "Devils Advocate" here but my point is that you likely have a means to get your questions fully answered.

    After the course coordinator, the next person to speak with is the chair of the department and after that, the dean. There is always a means of discussion about these things and a "chain" of command to get your questions and needs addressed. You may want to use this.

    Anything that anyone on this board has, is sheer speculation since they are likely not involved in your grading process.
  5. bcat85

    bcat85 10+ Year Member

    Nov 5, 2007
    Perhaps students are scoring at different points of the curve on each test. So, if I get a 78, a 84, and a 72, my average is 78. If my friend scores a 96, a 78, and a 62, her average is also a 78, but there is a huge variation among our individual test scores. Perhaps the averages are closer together then the individual tests, and thus the standard deviation is lower for them.
  6. The Angriest Bird

    The Angriest Bird 10+ Year Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    Well, I definitely feel sorry for you because it sounds like a pretty stupid grading system.

    But, how the grading system works doesn't really matter in medical school, because ONLY TWO THINGS MATTER:

    1. You pass (more important than anything else)

    2. Your class rank (even in many P/F systems)
  7. Exactly! Taking the "mean" of a bunch of standard deviations isn't how you come up with an overall standard deviation - it all depends on the distributions of the various exams.

    It sounds like when you average everyone's test scores, the standard deviation is smaller because overall people tend to cluster together around the mean.

    Great explanation, bcat85.
  8. DwyaneWade

    DwyaneWade Reiging *** Cynic 10+ Year Member

    May 7, 2006
    Absolutely right!

    To the OP, politics will exist throughout your life, but in this case it seems you are being a tad paranoid.
  9. PapaBearJr


    Jun 21, 2008
    I should have been more clear in what I was hoping to hear. I wasn't looking for help regarding the details of my specific situation. I guess I am looking for help in coping with repeating year 1.

    I did follow the chain of command. They refused to show me the calculations. They refuse to tell the student body how the individual subjects are weighted. For this last unit & when totalled, I increased by over 30%. I know that won't equate to a 30% increase in my overall grade, but it should have boosted it more than 1%. When I was trying to figure why it didn't go up more, 2 staff told me the school doesn't want us to "just pass." Those comments combined with the little overall increase despite large individual increase & refusal to show me how my grade was calculated, something's just not right.

    I have looked up the LCME standards & the school standards for evaluation. The LCME standards say schools have to various ways of evaluating for the different aspects of medicine. The school doesn't have in writing (that I could find) the average & SD information that they told the class. They have the grades that are needed to advance to year 2, summer remediation, or whatever year remediation.

    I'm just going to have to live with repeating year 1. I will be a much better doctor for having done so.
  10. PapaBearJr


    Jun 21, 2008
    Thanks for the grading system comment. It made me smile for the first time about the whole thing. It ticks me off beyond belief that I missed summer school by 1% & advancing to second year by 2%. My increased individual scores in the last unit didn't count for anything. Why did I even try?
  11. PapaBearJr


    Jun 21, 2008
    The paranoia was definitely a possiblity, until I heard from a former year 1 repeater that the cut offs were 70% for each unit, regardless of what the average & SD really were.

    I really don't have a problem with the 70%. I have no problem with repeating the year because I didn't make that cut. I just want them to be honest about it. I would not be repeating if they had calculated the SD the way they were supposed to.

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