Grade Deflation: It Finally Makes Sense

After dozens of end of the semester depressing phone calls to the parents lamenting our grades and crying in vain, ‘It’s because of grade deflation, Mom.’ reported in their “A” The Hard Way, 2010:’s Sweet Sixteen of Tough Graders” that Boston University is the third toughest grader on the east coast. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scored first place, but I mean, RPI students live in the middle of nowhere and also suffer from a worse gender ratio than BU, at 70% male to 30% female. Second on the list is Princeton, but in an effort to reverse grade inflation, they initiated a grade deflation plan in the last few years. Let’s be serious, Harvard students basically just have to be Harvard students to get their A’s.

However, BU’s grade deflation efforts have been pervasive for years; a 2006 NYTimes article reports that the BU administration pressures professors to make their students’ grades to conform to a curve. On the first day of my biochemistry class this semester, my professor said that in past years the university told him that too many people in his class received A’s, and that the averages for our class, would be lower. On that crisp September day, that dose of irreconcilable frustration was not well met by my peers. Two years ago, the Biology department fell under probation for failing 40% of the BI203 class. It was an open book class.

I’m not going on this rant to try to justify my less-than-perfect GPA, to complain about how I have to study more than other east coast college students. I just think that people should know: parents, students, grad schools.

You know, my mother never believes me when I try to explain that professors in the past have told me that I’ve had an A- in their classes, but for some reason when I click on my Student Link profile, I only see…

About Andrea Abi-Karam

Andrea Abi-Karam (CAS '11) is the editor-in-chief of the Quad. She is a neurobiology major and an English minor. She does rat surgery and edits the magazine.

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3 Comments on “Grade Deflation: It Finally Makes Sense”

  1. Grade deflation is not making an exam super hard so that the average is 50% and then curving the exam to an 80% (B-) average. The idea of professors writing exams this difficult (notably in pre-med courses) is certainly a questionable testing practice. If you were teaching material comparable to what is being tested, people would not be getting 50% on the exam. Those classes like Orgo are designed to “weed out” students which is another story for another time, and one that I am not qualified to delve into.

    If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the Sweet 16 grade of hardest grading and the recent blow-up in popularity of this topic, please see the rest of my article here:

  2. Ah, I was actually in that BI203 class! I remember having tests where the average was ~40. I thought it was pretty ridiculous, considering that if I student picked answers at random they would have gotten a 20.

    To the “mayh3m” writer: I saw your tweet the other day to the Union twitter and please don’t think we ignored you. If you happen to see this soon, please shoot me an e-mail. I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I’d like to talk with you.

  3. “Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scored first place, but I mean, RPI students live in the middle of nowhere and also suffer from a worse gender ratio than BU, at 70% male to 30% female.”

    Just wondering… What is it about these comments (facts?) discounts the fact that they were ranked the school with the most pervasive grade deflation in the region? I don’t see how being in a less urban area or gender ratio are related to grade deflation…

    This is a school where students are immersed in math and science courses. Believe me there are few if any courses even offered that promise an “easy A” to boost GPA’s. Our courses are generally all stuff and no fluff. The gender ratio works for me as a female.

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