# Class average 56%, 34% of the people got 40% or lower, what does this mean?

• mr_coffee
In summary, some students in this proof-based class have failed because they do not understand the material. The professor is trying to help these students, but they are not progressing. If the students do not improve, the professor will not give them a passing grade.
mr_coffee
Hello everyone.

I was wondering if this is normal to have class averages this low. This professor seems like he's out to fail everyone. We just got back our mid-term and the class average was a 56%, and 34% of the students 77 of them got a 40% or lower on the exam. I managed to pull off a 66%. I need to get a C or better in this course to pass, its descrete mathematics or some call it number theory.

I know the course material, I do the homeworks and score high on them even compared to the class, my homework average was an 83% which doesn't sound great but he told us if you have an 80% or higher on homework you have a "solid" average.

In all my other courses I've ever taken I've received an A or somtimes a B, now its a totally different situation where I'm just getting by...Sophmore year to Jr. year was a huge change.

Did anyone else hit these kind of courses that your just going to slide by or did you end up being suprised by your course grade at the end? He told us even if the average score is a 56%, if the class keeps getting around this, he won't make 56%, a C. So I can't just hope for the curve.

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If there are many people in the class and if most of these people have never done such an intensive proof-based class, then I'd say this is not so surprising. My first exposure to proof-based class was Analysis I and class average was 39% for the midterm.

Also, class average was ~45 after the final and so he boosted everyone's grade a little such that the average became D+.

Btw, if your school works like mine, if class average is 40% and you have the highest grade with 70%, that's still A+ or A for you.

Quasar that's the problem, some people got 100% on the exam! ahh! how could they hah

oh!

They must have taken a harder proof-based class b4 (like real analysis)

Yeah the averages where really odd,
100-90 14% of the class
80's 4%
70's 17%
60's 17%
50-40 16%
less than 40 34%

With this distrbution, am I pretty much stuck with my 66%?

I's say so.. :(

But there's still the final. And are there credits for HW?

quit whining and learn the material. the cruel truth is your high school cheated you and now you are in college. if 14% got A's the rest of you need to find out why you are so far behind them.those of us teaching college arte faced with a painful reality today;

graduating high school students in the US know absolutely nothing for the most part, not even how to study or work hard, not even those with AP calculus credit. so what do we do"

1) teach honest courses and give honest grades, and most people fail,

or 2) keep lowering the standards of our courses to reach the level of entering students so a fixed number of students can pass.

unfortunately the second choice makes our students happy only until they try to get the jobs that internationaL STUDENTS ARE COMPETING WITH THEM FOR.

i have often thought about quitting my job at university and returning to high school to try to fix the problem, but high schools do not want high standards either. everybody wants easy work, easy grades, and no low scores.

it is not unusual today for over 50% to fail a test that is actually much easier than a comparable test from 10 years ago. almost every year we lower The content of even our phd syllabus at university and still the students perform worse regularly.

the grade spread in my calc class this year on one test was from 10% to 100%. how can anyone get a 10? and there qere extra points avilable. on a recent test i actually gave 20 extra points, and some people still got less than 60 out of 120. so they failed even though i graded it only out of 100.

many students do not even show up on fridays. some who do sleep through class.

do you go to office hours with questiopns? do you do extra homework problems? when i wasa student ia ctually obtained and read, not only the book for our coiusr but auxilioary books on the topic. sometimes i sat through the class for the learning experience when i waqs not atking it. some top students would sit through a class all year the year before taking it to prepare for taking it for credit.

even after i had passed a class i sometimes sat in on it the next year to elarn it better, or graded it to learn it better. you don't need a C, you need to elarn to study.

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mr_coffee said:
Yeah the averages where really odd,
100-90 14% of the class
80's 4%
70's 17%
60's 17%
50-40 16%
less than 40 34%

With this distrbution, am I pretty much stuck with my 66%?

well, if 35% of the class got above a 70 then the prof may decide not to curve. :(

mathwonk, I work quite hard for my grades and high school did not cheat me.

I have a 3.9 GPA goign into my jr. year, so if I could make it through calc 1-3, diff EQ, matrices, stats, physics mechanics, E&M, and quantum physics and waves as well as all the other BS courses...I don't see how my high school cheated me.

I also didn't just now realized "oh crap I gota work, I'm in college." Thanks for the pep talk though.

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There's really a course called 'matrices' ??

Yes Quasar there is, its a 3 credit course actually. I thought all schools offered this course for engineering/math students.

do you go to office hours with questiopns? do you do extra homework problems? when i wasa student ia ctually obtained and read, not only the book for our coiusr but auxilioary books on the topic. sometimes i sat through the class for the learning experience when i waqs not atking it. some top students would sit through a class all year the year before taking it to prepare for taking it for credit.

Yes I do all of these things but your not allowed to sit in on a class. I've tried it and due to class size and space restrictions they won't allow it.

I don't see how high school classes would prepare you for proofs by strong induction or any advanced topic in descrete math. The reason some of these students would have gotten such a high score on the exam is because they are math majors with supporting courses that Computer Science majors don't take. The professor even told us this because we asked why the grades were so low and yet some so high.

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ok nevermind, what do i know? but it seems you are the one with the problem? but of course you think the fault with your professor who wants to fail everyone. brilliant solution, of course it is not your fault.

how interesting that the most clueless people here all seem to have high gpa or are on deans list. is it possible you are also being cheated by the low standards of your courses in college?the give away is whenever anyone says: gosh, a lot of people in my course are failing, is this normal, or is my prof out to fail everyone? then that person is in a state of denial.

these are the same peopkle who ask the prof "what was the average on this test?" instead of asking "how can i do better?"

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I guess 'matrices' really could be just a name for linear algebra since any n dimensional vector space is isomorphic to R^n and linear maps in R^n are just multiplication by matrices. So it's all about matrices in the end. Cool. :P

I never claimed it was the fault of the professor. I simply asked, "Did anyone else hit these kind of courses that your just going to slide by or did you end up being suprised by your course grade at the end?"

I don't see where I ever blamed the professor. All I was looking for was others in my situation who thought they were doing terriable but in the end didn't do so bad.

Oh yeah i forgot they call it Linear Algebra as well hah my bad.

my apologies. i had a long week and i unloaded on you.

its alright, I have days like those as well :)

Ohh God, I hate it when people blame the teacher. Though I'm still in high school, I don't blame the teacher. But many of my peers do. I kinda rely on the teacher to be some inspiration and motivation. I could also be a better student and study more and a lot harder than I do (eg right now i should be concentrating on studying but I'm not).

In all honesty, and especially at this level, I think it makes sense to have a class average this low. It's ridiculous to expect everyone in the class to score in the 80-100 range, because that just defeats the purpose of having a 0-100 scale. So rather than separating the bad grades (~40) from the even worse grades (~20) and cramming all of the good grades into the 80-100 range, why not employ a more even gradation so as to separate the good students from the remarkable students? The difficulty of the test should be such that only the very best student(s) can score near-perfect.

In organic chemistry 1 we only had 2 tests and the grades were not curved at all. The first test average was 43% with a high score of 74% and 34 people took the test. The average on the final exam was 73% with a high score of 86% and 16 people took the test. Not a single student got an A in that class.

you can also see the problem with the 80-100 scale in college admissions, why is the competition getting tougher? because there's less of a gradient in the regular transcripts. C used to mean average student, now it means bad student, so all of the scores get crammed into the 80-100 range or even the 90-100 range and the admissions boards can't make out who's really good and who is good.

mr_coffee said:
mathwonk, I work quite hard for my grades and high school did not cheat me.

I have a 3.9 GPA goign into my jr. year, so if I could make it through calc 1-3, diff EQ, matrices, stats, physics mechanics, E&M, and quantum physics and waves as well as all the other BS courses...I don't see how my high school cheated me.

I also didn't just now realized "oh crap I gota work, I'm in college." Thanks for the pep talk though.
It's not uncommon to suddenly get hit with courses like this in your junior year. Really, you should have been getting gradually harder classes in your sophomore year as well, but sometimes people also just don't take their classes in the order that is recommended for various reasons, usually scheduling conflicts. Classes are supposed to get harder as you go along. Once you're past all the "general" courses of your freshman and sophomore years, and start getting into the detailed courses for your major, the level of difficulty increases quite rapidly.

Have you evaluated your study habits? 14% of the class getting in the 90-100% range is fairly high, so that suggests the exam was not impossible or that the material was not inconsistent with what was taught in the class, and further suggests that the professor did teach the material.

If your other classes have always seemed easy, and you've been able to keep up with the material without much effort, you may have managed to get by without developing the types of study habits you're going to need for the higher level courses. At that level, you're being trained in classes that are highly relevant to your intended profession, so it would be doing a disservice to the profession to let students slip through with incomplete knowledge by grading on a curve, so you shouldn't expect to be graded on a curve. Instead, focus on improving on the next exam to pull up your grade.

And, really, that grade distribution isn't all that bad. If I saw results like that on an exam I gave, I'd probably say 90-100% was an A (unless those in that 80-90% range were really all in the high 80s, and then I might bump them into the A range too). Then there's a natural cut point, where you'd say maybe a 75%-89% would be a B, 60-74% a C, everyone in that 40-50% range gets a D (was there nobody in the 50-60% range?), and below 40% fails. The gaps may be explained by the relative numbers of certain types of problems, that the best students would be able to answer, and others just wouldn't, or would only get very few points on those.

And, mathwonk is right, if there are 50% of the student in the course getting less than 50% on an exam, while there are students who can get in the 90-100% range (if everyone was getting below a 50%, I'd suspect a problem with the teaching or exam questions, but clearly the exam was do-able), then it's very likely your prior courses did you the disservice of not adequately preparing you for your advanced coursework (unless you've done yourself a disservice by taking courses out of the recommended sequence). When that high of a percentage of students is failing, they have either been handed passing grades in prior classes without adequately learning the prerequisite material for this class, or were not given sufficient exposure to the types of problems/questions/approaches to the discipline that are needed to succeed in the upper level classes.

If you can identify some of the students who did well on the exam, it would be a good idea to ask them how they studied the material, if they'd be willing to study with you to help you learn with them, or even what prerequisites they took to find out if you've missed a class in the sequence that's helping them do well in this one (if that's the case, a missed prerequisite, then you might be better dropping the class and waiting until you've taken the pre-req before trying again...no point spinning your wheels if you just haven't had a course you need prior to this one).

quasar987 said:
I guess 'matrices' really could be just a name for linear algebra since any n dimensional vector space is isomorphic to R^n and linear maps in R^n are just multiplication by matrices. So it's all about matrices in the end. Cool. :P

that would be finite dimensional real vector spaces, then? So not proper linear algebra.

t!m said:
In all honesty, and especially at this level, I think it makes sense to have a class average this low. It's ridiculous to expect everyone in the class to score in the 80-100 range, because that just defeats the purpose of having a 0-100 scale. So rather than separating the bad grades (~40) from the even worse grades (~20) and cramming all of the good grades into the 80-100 range, why not employ a more even gradation so as to separate the good students from the remarkable students? The difficulty of the test should be such that only the very best student(s) can score near-perfect.

I have known profs who specifically stated that this was the purpose of a test. The desire was to separate the A's from the B's. Who cares about the D's and F's.

Such a grade distribution is not all that uncommon, looks like you have your work cut out for you.

I recall when I took an electrical engineering course on semiconductor devices back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the professor was, for the lack of a better term, insane. He would regularly give exams where the average was 12% or so. No normal distributions here, just exponential ones...

Over all, I think I had 36% in his course. But he graded on a curve, so despite my demonstrated lack of understanding of what he considered important, I ended up with a rather high A, and very little understanding of semiconductor devices.

Yes, I feel cheated and blame the professor.

The math that schools teach, elementary to high school, only seems to prepare one to take calculus. There is hardly any emphasis on discrete and proof-oriented math. I have been a victim of this myself and have had to make up for it.

Does anybody agree that ratio of stupid to smart students in college is getting smaller? I mean this guy in my algorithms analysis class actually asked "Is log2(3) always less than 2?" LOL. BWT, I'm sick of people associating grades with knowledge. At least from the high school level.

I agree with you about the math part. My high school didn't offer any ap courses but prepared me for calc very well I think.

What else can you associate knowledge with if its not grades? a high gpa usually means you know the material unless you cheated or just can't handle the stress of an exam.

But during an interview if you can't perform on an exam I'm guessing it would be the same for an interview. Or where you just referring to high school grades?

mr_coffee said:
I agree with you about the math part. My high school didn't offer any ap courses but prepared me for calc very well I think.

What else can you associate knowledge with if its not grades? a high gpa usually means you know the material unless you cheated or just can't handle the stress of an exam.

But during an interview if you can't perform on an exam I'm guessing it would be the same for an interview. Or where you just referring to high school grades?

Well, some people are just terrible test takers. Some procrastinate too much and fiddle around with their own little interests. I'll I'm saying is that just because someone has a high gpa, doesn't mean that they know their stuff. It does mean that they know how to work with the system.

I remember we had my worse teacher in trigonometry
I studied last night that time but i got a 3.1 or a 5.0 (meaning 3.1 is alredy failng which is 5.0)
In fact most of the students got a zero...
That incident made me go crazy

But this is when i learned the value of proactivity... I am always thinking about how to learn from my mistakes...
Every time i failed tests i go woops... and learn from the mistakes

Until i finally know the value of hardwork
In the finals i took all of my 3 hours time to answer my exams and luckily in my final grade ... from 5.0 to a 1.5... (exception is that my algebra decreased from 1.4 - 1.7)

I am proud of myself that time I mean its impossible from 5.0 - 1.5? Maybe a bad prof makes a not-so-clear-grades?...

i admire you people... i know I am still a freshmen incoming 2nd semester but i don't know what's its going to be like taking up majors... but ill try my very best to endure it!

Thats true, I know a kid who is an insanely good programmer but he fails the exams or comes close to it but gets 100%'s on all the assignments and gets them done in an hour or two.

Once you get your first internship no one really cares about your grades anymore, they just wonder how you did on your last internship. Same once you get a job, they could careless how you did in college just how you did in your last job.

Mathwonk,

You must realize that today college students are in a different situation than in the past, tuition is up, the economy is down, not everyone has the luxury of having their tuition, room and board paid for allowing them total concentration on their studies. My mom is a waitress, my dad a truck driver, they can't afford to put me through school. I serverd 4 years in the Marines to get a portion of my tuition paid for but its not enough. I still work 30 hours a week and take full time engineering classes.

If you can look a my test score and decide that I am just a lazy American then you might want to re-think your philosophy. Sure there are plenty of lazy people who just don't care but not a majority IMO.

I go to school from 9-5 then work from 6-11, then I study from 12-whenever on most days. I can't even imagine having the time to sit in a class that I am not taking to get a head start.

The next time you get a new class, ask them to raise their hand if they work more than 25 hours a week, you just might have to stop whining yourself and be thankful that you had it so good when your were an undergrad.

Semper Fi

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All I can say is I wouldn't even try that schedule.

A lot of students do have it harder these days than it used to be. I saw something on CNN that said in 1980 a summer job could pay for 2/3 of your fall tuition, and now that's a joke, thank you stagnant minimum wage. College is relatively harder too, because now public schools just teach you how to take a test, not how to problem solve or write. And there is a lot of cheating in the smaller town schools, at least here in Texas. So when most students get to college they're in shock. Just in the 4 years I've been teaching labs, there's been a depressing decline in math and writing skills. When I poll the students as to how many have had trig/precal, it used to be half the class would raise their hand. Now I'm lucky if it's more than one.
At the same time, there's prolific laziness. My students who work 30 hours a week tend to get better grades then the others, because of the incredible self discipline. One of the astronomy lab requirements is of course to go to the observatory a couple times. In someone else's lab a freshman football player was whining about not having time to go out there, and before the labee could respond, an older working mom told him that if she could find time, he could find time.

My school raised tuition 14% last year, my raise at work was 4%...go figure. What will it cost in 20 years? Its too scary to think about.

My optoelectronics test had a class average of 40%, with a class high of 73%. Honestly, I can't blame the professor because, in my opinion, the test was reasonable. There were no curve balls or anything thrown at us. 3 out of the 4 were straight out of the assigned hw...or quite similar problems, maybe with a minor twist. One problem was conceptual, and the prof went over the concept in class.

He said that improvements in grades will play a part in the final grading, so that helps.

If that is all true than I think that he should not curve your grades. If your class scores an avg of 40% on a test that 3/4 of the problems were straight out of the HW, the students are just not trying.

I think that most people are talking about tests that have very little in common with the HW and the scores are low. It dosent bother me that much as long as the grades are curved, let's see what the super smart kids can do.

But your example falls out of that range, I would not curve that if I was your prof. and I would question what kind of a University accepts students that would do that bad on an easy test.

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