College students strive to maintain high GPAs by pushing themselves to earn A’s. Some students are even paranoid enough to belief that one B can change their whole transcript, maybe even their future. But how hard do students really work for these grades? Is getting “straight A’s” that much of an accomplishment in 2011?
An article in Inside Higher Ed (“Easy A”) suggests that the current grading system in the US may be just smoke and mirrors, because when everyone gets A’s the letter grade loses its value.
In a recent study published by Stuart Rojstaczer, a retired professor at Duke University, and Christopher Healy, an associate professor at Furman University, historical data was collected from 200 four-year universities, and contemporary data from 135 universities, that highlighted problems with grade inflation in America.
Rojstaczer and Healy’s study found that 43% of all grades in four-year colleges are A’s, while D’s and F’s are scarce.
When too many A’s are given out by institutions of higher education, graduate school admissions committees start to no longer trust grades. Rojstaczer and Healy explain, “The evolution of grading has made it difficult to distinguish between excellent and good performance.” As a result, admissions committees have come to rely more on standardized tests than transcripts.
The study exposes how universities have been spreading a myth that all their students excel flawlessly. But no school is that perfect. This study reminds applicants to graduate schools that acceptance into top tier programs requires high marks on standardized tests and notable personal statements, not just a transcript full of A’s.
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