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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Grading system is a plus

Kathleen Kennedy | The Daily Cougar

Kathleen Kennedy/The Daily Cougar

Imagine working hard all semester for that coveted A only to fall short with an 89 and a 3.0 grade-point average that a regular B would get. Lucky for us, we have a plus/minus grading system in which that B+ will be rewarded as such.

The plus/minus grading system is predominant across the state, and UH has been operating under this system for more than three decades. However, students have raised concerns about the system over the years.

One concern of students is the inability to make an A+, no matter how high the final grade.

Students also dislike the fact that minuses are given a lesser GPA in the plus/minus system than under a standard system. Nevertheless, students are rewarded more accurately in the plus/minus system rather than just being grouped in an all-encompassing category.

In an Oct. 26, 2000 report by Chad Mohler of Truman State University in Kirksville, Miss., he examined the advantages and disadvantages of an incremental grading system.

“Advantages of the plus/minus grading system (include a) more accurate reflection of differing levels of student achievement in class and more informative feedback to students on the quality of their work,” Mohler said. “Students in the middle of a letter grade range will find themselves with greater motivation to do end-of-the-semester work.”

With a normal grading system, it is much more difficult to achieve an end-of-the semester boost in grade, so students are more apt to give up.

Mohler also said that this system gives “A-level students” a competitive edge in graduate school admissions. His logic follows that a 4.0 from a school where an A- is a 3.667 GPA is more valuable than a 4.0 from a school where an A- does not exist. After all, under the standard system, a 4.0 could be awarded to a student who had made all 90s and 91s.

The disadvantages cited by Mohler are a slight decrease in overall GPAs and the greater possibility of clerical error in recording grades. Mohler cites the Wake Forest and NC State studies in which the GPAs decreased on average between .04 and .08 from what they would have been under a normal grading system. This is a very small difference in the grand scheme of things.

In a Nov. 13, 2007 article for Illinois State University’s Vidette Online, assistant vice president of Enrollment Management and Academic Services Jonathan Rosenthal sees things differently, in that the plus/minus system provides no significant benefit.

“Studies indicate that overall GPA across four years of college doesn’t change much at all, indicating that pluses balance out minuses over time,” Rosenthal said. “Plus/minus grading doesn’t really allow a finer ranking of student at time of graduation.”

Other universities in the state provide some interesting alternatives to the straight plus/minus grading system. Texas Tech University operates a plus/minus grading system; however, pluses and minuses are not taken into account when it comes to awarding grade points — an A+ awards the same as an A or A-. The usage of plusses and minuses is merely superficial. Baylor University uses only B+ and C+, awarding students who try hard, but can’t quite reach the next grade, while having no minuses doesn’t punish anyone. Still, neither alternative is a fair or accurate representation of one’s work.

Whereas some students may bemoan minuses, this grading system offers an extra challenge to hard working students who may wish to put in the extra effort required to earn pluses, thereby boosting their grade. With all things considered, the plus/minus grading system racks up more pluses than minuses.

Sarah Backer is a business sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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