How often did you get a poor grade in a class despite knowing the material well?


by Simfish
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Simfish
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Dec20-10, 04:53 PM
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It just happened to me. And it's immensely frustrating. Not to mention the difficulty of convincing professors that I understand the material well (certainly well enough to get more than a 3.5 in it) despite getting below a 3.0 on the course. Yes, I made mistakes. My first few weeks were tumultuous. I turned in 3 assignments late (this isn't something that I often do, but I just screwed up for whatever reason - it honestly puzzles me how I could have screwed up so badly, but it motivates me not to do it again). I quickly caught up with the material later on, but it was too late to reverse the first few weeks. And it's a senior-level class too, making it hard to "avenge" it with a higher grade in a later course.
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Phyisab****
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Dec20-10, 04:59 PM
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More than once. This is the main reason I hate school and sometimes it completely infuriates me. I have found that when I work one on one with a supervisor, they are very impressed with my skills and work ethic. But no amount of studying makes me a perfect 4.0 student, and apparently I studied more than most people, judging by this forum. Thankfully, I graduated today!

Edit: Sorry I thought you meant on a test, not in the course. I think I only got one B-.
symbolipoint
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Dec20-10, 10:39 PM
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Never Happened... A few times, the opposite happened, or I occasionally received a grade higher than I expected. If one knows the material, one will not earn a grade lower than how well one learned it; and performance depends on how well one has learned. Anyone who gets a grade lower than deserved, probably had a very tough teacher, or very tough in grading. If he gives all students equal treatment, then other students would get lower grades too.

axiomatic7777
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Dec20-10, 11:18 PM
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How often did you get a poor grade in a class despite knowing the material well?


Not really. I did once got an A- instead of an A that I expected based on how well I know the materials (in fact I knew well enough to get an A+ in the second semester of the same course). Other than that, I almost always get what I expected, and in a few occasions was pleasantly surprised with a (slightly) high grade than I expected.
Chaostamer
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Dec20-10, 11:39 PM
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Quote Quote by symbolipoint View Post
Never Happened... A few times, the opposite happened, or I occasionally received a grade higher than I expected. If one knows the material, one will not earn a grade lower than how well one learned it; and performance depends on how well one has learned. Anyone who gets a grade lower than deserved, probably had a very tough teacher, or very tough in grading. If he gives all students equal treatment, then other students would get lower grades too.
That's not always true. One could know 95% of the material. Certainly, that's "A-level" comprehension. However, one question on a five-question exam could come from that 5%, thereby making the highest possible grade an 80% (assuming absolutely no comprehension of that 5%), an inaccurate indication of material understood. Similarly, one could know the material thoroughly, but make mistakes in simpler math that add up. In a course with only a few grades, a couple mistakes like that could be the difference between an 'A' and a 'B'. It's certainly happened to me before...
mathwonk
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Dec20-10, 11:40 PM
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I hope and believe I have never given a student a grade that reflects less than the student's knowledge of the course. Most of the time it is the opposite, my grades have been far too generous, and yet this is not the feeling of my unsuccessful students. I give three grades, one for homework, one for tests and one for a final exam. Then I average them, 60% for the best 3 of 4 tests, dropping one low test, 15% for hw, dropping a couple of low ones, and 25% for the final exam. Then if the final exam grade exceeds that average I just give them the final exam grade. This is to give the student the benefit of having learned the material late. I only care what they leave knowing, not when they learned it. Still I have a lot of low grades, and many students believe they have been mistreated.

I believe that high schools in my state have almost completely abdicated the job of teaching reasoning, replacing it with trivial computation, so that when students reach college they have a huge adjustment to make from calculaTING TO THINKING.


Now I admit there are cases where the professor is an a** h*** and screws the student unfairly. My roommate in college freshman year received a D- in calc 1 in spite of receiving a B+ on the final because the prof was p***ed that he did not attend class, because he already knew the material. I myself have never ever known a case like this in the intervening 50 years.

99.9% of the time the student who says he knows the material but got a low grade anyway, is totally deceiving himself and has no chance of succcess until he gets a clue.
mathwonk
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Dec20-10, 11:46 PM
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As to myself, I got a D- in 2nd semester calc (well deserved) , a D in abstract algebra 1st semester (entirely deserved), and flunked out of school sophomore year (perfectly fair). I never complained about those grades as they were quite fair. Instead I worked for a year in a factory, went back to school, paid my own way, and began to earn better grades. Eventually I became a mathematician. Take your lumps, they are meant to teach you something. If you think you deserve a better grade than you got, most of the time it means you do not even have a clue what you are expected to know,. Go talk to the prof.
General_Sax
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Dec20-10, 11:47 PM
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^^^ happens to everyone that I've ever met.
Chunkysalsa
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Dec20-10, 11:47 PM
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Not really, I'm a good test taker. I don't get too nervous or stressed out and I'm good at answering questions I dont know.

Its kinda funny that if I study a little bit I do worse than if I don't study at all. So its go big or don't go at all for me.
General_Sax
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Dec20-10, 11:49 PM
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Quote Quote by mathwonk View Post
I hope and believe I have never given a student a grade that reflects less than the student's knowledge of the course. Most of the time it is the opposite, my grades have been far too generous, and yet this is not the feeling of my unsuccessful students. I give three grades, one for homework, one for tests and one for a final exam. Then I average them, 60% for the best 3 of 4 tests, dropping one low test, 15% for hw, dropping a couple of low ones, and 25% for the final exam. Then if the final exam grade exceeds that average I just give them the final exam grade. This is to give the student the benefit of having learned the material late. I only care what they leave knowing, not when they learned it. Still I have a lot of low grades, and many students believe they have been mistreated.


I want you as a prof.
mathwonk
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Dec21-10, 12:27 AM
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thank you. it took me years though to learn that. your profs also are learning. i apologize for my tough love comments to those who were insulted by them. I was being a bit defensive.
ych22
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#12
Dec21-10, 03:12 AM
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Well awarding marks and grading fairly are not easy things to do. Moreover, I had an additional difficulty as a TA because I had quite a number of friends in two of my classes...
eliya
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Dec21-10, 06:11 AM
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I don't think you can get a poor grade despite of knowing the material well. If you knew the material you wouldn't get a poor grade.
Tedjn
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Dec21-10, 07:45 AM
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Here are two cases when I feel I received lower test scores than my understanding indicates:
  1. On my algorithms final exam, I sunk all my time into proving a problem was NP-complete and never managed it.
  2. On my philosophy exam, I was unable to answer any multiple choice question that started with "As the lecturer presented," because I did not attend class.
In the first case, I was frustrated but only at myself for not thinking of the right reduction method in time. In the second case, I was frustrated because the exam didn't really test knowledge of the subject. These indicate two main ways how this can occur: on an exam that needs a lot of critical thinking and on an exam that was poorly made.

In my opinion, if I know everything except that darn obscure question worth 25% the professor decided to ask, then it was my fault. Sure I will be slightly angry and disappointed but nothing to argue over. And if I skipped that last minute studying to get some extra sleep, that was a decision I can live with, since I knew and accepted the possible consequences.
DrummingAtom
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Dec21-10, 08:30 AM
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Quote Quote by mathwonk View Post
snip...

99.9% of the time the student who says he knows the material but got a low grade anyway, is totally deceiving himself and has no chance of succcess until he gets a clue.
I completely agree with this statement. My experience of this has been this last semester in my Physics class. I felt I knew the material very well, and my grades were reflecting this. The class average was very low in comparison to mine and this gave me even more of a boost. Then the final came and the professor really challenged us to show him we know this stuff. Needless to say, I didn't do well at all on the final because I "thought" I knew it. Even talking with friends I felt I had a good insight with the material. But I just needed a rude awakening that I really didn't know the material.

Maybe the OP is one of the 0.01% mathwonk is describing, but I know I am one of the 99.9% and I've learned my lesson very early. For the coming semesters I'll need to dig deeper throughout my studying/problem sets to expose some weaknesses in my understanding.
f95toli
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Dec21-10, 09:47 AM
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Quote Quote by eliya View Post
I don't think you can get a poor grade despite of knowing the material well. If you knew the material you wouldn't get a poor grade.
Sure you can, there are plenty of people who simply are bad at taking tests; simply because they get so nervous or excited whenever they have an exam that they can't function properly.
I had that problem myself during my first year at university and saw it quite frequently later when I was mentoring undergraduates. The good news is that it is something you can learn how to cope with.
I was never very good at written exams but always did well whenever the course grades where mainly based on hand-in assignments and projects; I am still not very good at solving problems when I have a deadline, my brain works best when I have time to think about problems without feeling stressed.
deRham
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Dec21-10, 01:26 PM
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Yeah, exams introduce the factors of being well written or not + ability to work well under very immediate pressure. Sometimes people work well with more extended, less immedite pressure.
Ryker
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Dec21-10, 01:59 PM
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Quote Quote by f95toli View Post
Sure you can, there are plenty of people who simply are bad at taking tests; simply because they get so nervous or excited whenever they have an exam that they can't function properly.
I had that problem myself during my first year at university and saw it quite frequently later when I was mentoring undergraduates. The good news is that it is something you can learn how to cope with.
I was never very good at written exams but always did well whenever the course grades where mainly based on hand-in assignments and projects; I am still not very good at solving problems when I have a deadline, my brain works best when I have time to think about problems without feeling stressed.
Hmm, well, see, but what is the point of grading? Do you give grades for how well someone can perform under the most favourable conditions or how well someone can perform under conditions he will be subjected to in "real life"? And don't worry, I'm not trying to get on your back, because I think I just bombed the Calculus final, even though I did really well thus far (on the midterms, homeworks etc.), as well, but really, looking at it objectively, what good does it do if you can supposedly do well when conditions are perfect, but not when they are just "normal"? Almost like that proverbial tree that no one hears falling conundrum.

I don't know, are you really better at, say, Quantum Mechanics, if you could, theoretically given 300 years, unravel the misteries of the world, than a person who couldn't do that, but can solve hard immediate problems faster and more successfully than you?


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