Handling Your Curved Courses

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Posted on February 11th, 2011

Most students coming to college out of high school may have never taken a course that was graded on a curve before, so it can be hard to figure out just what is necessary to excel and learn from these sorts of courses. Curved grading attempts to normalize the grades of a course so that the average grade in a course is a C, right where it should be according to the standard Bell Curve. This is often necessary in courses with extremely hard exams where few students get passing grades, and rarely if ever in easier courses where it might result in higher grades being curved down. If you've never been in a course with curved grades before, here are some things you'll need to know to help you navigate these kinds of courses.

Sometimes your bad grade isn't as bad as you think. If your pre-curve grade was a 70% you might be a bit bummed but if the class average is only a 50% then you're doing a great job with your studies, much better than that 70% might let on. When the grades are curved, your grade will be near the top in the class, so don't freak out if you get a low pre-curved grade.

You still need to study hard. Curved grades aren't an excuse to put in less time studying or try any less hard in your courses. It shouldn't matter at all, actually. You should still work to get the best grade possible and the curve will just be the icing on the cake of whatever grade you earn through hard work.

Curving may not always be to your benefit. If your class scored abnormally high on an exam that was planned to be curved, then a curve will lower your grade, not help it. Don't make the mistake of thinking curved grades are always good. Most professors will opt not to curve a grade if most students perform well, but always keep in mind that curves aren't always the ticket to a better grade.

Not all professors are willing or feel its necessary to curve grades for a class, but over the course of your studies you're bound to encounter one or two classes where you will have a a curved grade, however slight. Be prepared for what this will mean for your grades and to keep you from freaking out if you see a test covered in red ink.

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