What Exactly is Grade Deflation (and Why Do Colleges Do This)?

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Grades are not just mere numbers. It is an academic compensation for hard work and diligence. Hence, students strive to ace all the examinations and turn in papers on time in hopes of reaching the semestral cut.

However, some courses weed out the number of students who can get the highest remark, A+, in pursuit of extracting the cream of the class through a school policy called grade deflation. What exactly is grade deflation? Why do colleges make this policy?

To answer your question: there are numerous reasons why universities implement this rule despite massive backlash from student groups. It generally allows professors to ascertain the numerical standing of students who perform well among the rest. It also creates internal competition among learners, which is beneficial in encouraging everyone to study well.

Keep your focus on this article to learn more about grade deflation meaning and schools with grade deflation.

What Does Grade Deflation Mean?What Does Grade Deflation Mean?

Since this is relatively a unique method to many, people often ask: what is grade deflation? Is grade deflation good or bad? Grounding the term by definition, grade deflation is a fluid term for a school policy that implements scientific numerical criteria on the number of students who can receive specific grades.

The layman’s term for grade deflation would be a downward curve to even out a bell curve distribution. It means a professor can only give a certain amount of A/A+ grades in the class as per university protocols. For example, a professor of 100 students can only credit 15  students who can get above 85% remark, which usually occurs in STEM courses like biology, chemistry, etc.

Grade deflation happens when colleges make it deliberately difficult for students to pass a subject when everybody seems to get an A to produce quality graduates of specific programs. However, it is not always the case. It depends on the mandate of university policies. Professors cannot randomly mechanize this rule base on personal discretion.

When you think about it, the approach is a double-edged sword that either creates a boon or a bane. On one spectrum, it encourages students to excel in their class and makes a high grade much more meaningful. The other spectrum dictates that you would perhaps regret it when you are on the downside because you would have gotten better results in grade inflation.

Academic institutions have traversed the trend of grade deflation over the years to revert the systemic loophole of the current educational model, which provides much emphasis on the outcome rather than the actual process. In the status quo, students can receive the highest mark in the class but struggle to retain knowledge due to this broken system.

No one wants to fail a subject, of course. It would be stiff that students no longer enjoy learning the subject, thus contradicting its purpose of encouraging students to work and study well. The rule creates a toxic environment of unhealthy competition among everyone, as student groups argue.

How Does the Grade Deflation System Work?

How Does the Grade Deflation System Work?

The grade deflation system primarily attempts to re-evaluate graded outputs to weed out students who receive similarly high remarks and identify those who most excel in the class. Most students usually fall under the C category, with fewer can receive B and D, and extremely scarce in the A and F category.

When almost the entire class gets a good mark, professors impose the grade deflation system to even out the highest performing students and have an equal distribution of each category.

The maximum grade a student can attain in a traditional grading system is 100, no matter who and how many gain it. In a grade deflated class, your professor can make a quota of how many can get it if it reaches the ceiling point; let’s say only five students should be on the highest rank.

Instead of having a significant number of highest passers, you will be filtered out by a substantial margin. You will see students passing almost all of the examinations but receiving a B mark because of this policy that implicates the battle of the fittest.

Grade deflation system may select the best of the best, but it undeniably invalidates the hard-earned standing of those who unfortunately missed the margin. Perhaps this motivates or disappoints a student, depending on which side you belong to.

Why Do Colleges Have Grade Deflation?

Why Do Colleges Have Grade Deflation?

The reasons why colleges apply this rule are unique to each university. Some courses are simply required to follow this framework to gird you for your future profession. Some also aim to encourage students to study well and persevere in their chosen career path.

Universities aim to produce competent graduates in different fields of specialization. Professors follow the standards the administration sets, so they are not the people to blame.

Colleges have grade deflation because they want to improve their standings in national examinations and equip students with comprehensive qualities once they finish a course. The current education setup centers on how students should reach the pinnacle but never orients them on the process.

Another reason is that the program is preparatory for higher education degrees. Usually, STEM courses adopt this method to nurture students for bigger goals that are more challenging and demanding in many aspects.

When almost everyone in the class seems to receive the same mark or acquires excellent ratings, professors need to implement the rule to select who deserves the recognition scientifically. It is much better than randomly choosing a learner without any practical basis.

Which Schools Have Grade Deflation?

Which Schools Have Grade Deflation?

Schools with grade deflation are notorious for complex subjects, which is not entirely true because each university has an individual grading system, which you should consider when applying for admission. If you are wondering which schools follow this method, keep reading this article.

Several years ago, Princeton University was one of the schools with grade inflation but later abolished it due to its ineffectiveness and detrimental consequences.

Because the university only awarded ⅓ A and another ⅓ B in every class, they lost a couple of students to Harvard University, where half of the students could get A remarks.

Additionally, Boston University reportedly practices this system only in selected “weeding” programs like chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering. It is lenient with bringing grades up when most students do not make it to the cut.

Other universities that impose this framework are Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, and Harvey Mudd. It is usually assessed during the first years.

For example, US Berkeley limited students in STEM classes who can get A grades to 15-20%. Also, Harvey Mudd and MIT only provided pass and no-pass grades during the whole first year.

It is important to note that lower grading records do not equate to grade deflation. Universities have different approaches to grading systems; thus, considering only one angle is impractical.

Choose a university that offers one of the best services for your field of interest. You will likely regret your decision when you look at universities based on their grading system.

Whether or not the university you are applying to has grade deflation, you still need to comply according to your capabilities. Use this as a motivation to earn more outstanding scores so that you will retain your degree program.

Is Grade Deflation Good or Bad?

Is Grade Deflation Good or Bad?

Is grade deflation good or bad? The short answer for this is yes and no. It depends on which angle you are looking at it.

Grade inflation can be a boon or a bane because it does not purely offer negative or positive results. On a brighter note, grade deflation encourages you to burn all you can to attain a good outcome. You need to work extra hard because everyone in your class does not want to deflate their grades from the top.

Additionally, having an A in a grade-deflated class is much more remarkable, knowing that you deserve it among everyone. Therefore, you constantly strive for better results because you either want to go up ranks or remain in your standing.

On the other side, it is detrimental to some aspects of education. It would be highly challenging for students to achieve the best possible result, given the circumstance of narrowing grades down if everyone earns excellent grades.

Therefore, it will just breed a toxic mentality. Everyone does not want to fail, so some may opt for dishonest means that are unfair to those who genuinely want to earn a positive mark.

It also invalidates your effort because you are vulnerable to low grades despite scoring high enough. You cannot expect a clear sky because you might be included in the category if you do not reach the standards of becoming a part of the elite class percentage.

Lastly, it negates its purpose of encouraging everyone to work all their might. Supposedly, it is the vaccine against a broken education system focused on results. In reality, students even strive to get grades rather than the value of learning and expertise.

Wrapping Things Up: What Exactly is Grade Deflation (and Why Do Colleges Do This)?

Numerical values may not dictate your future, but it is worthwhile to make positive gains. It is a sign of diligence and responsibility. Hence, deflating a grade could be unfair to anyone’s end.

Again, exactly is grade deflation, and why is it a threat?

In simple words, grade deflation is the counterpart of inflation. It is when grades are reduced according to specific percentages. You can either be a part or not of those who will get an A in a subject.

Imagine working hard, but your grade does not compensate for the effort you exert? It is unrewarding when you get good marks during exams but is faced with a result you do not deserve.

However, you cannot just easily deny the fact that the grading system is always the reason. The grading system should not be the first factor to look at when applying to a university. Always choose the institute that provides competent education.

Now, start listing down the university you aim to spend your tertiary education in. Make learning a positive habit so you stand out in any scenario–-be it grade inflation or deflation.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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