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Courses Does a W on a transcript look bad?

  1. Feb 7, 2017 #1
    I am currently taking 5 classes, all 3rd year physics. Would it look bad on my transcript if I dropped one? The class average on the midterm was 7% and the prof said that the next midterm would be harder, many people got 0% on it. It is a mandatory class (Electromagnetism). Another prof is teaching the class next semester so I was thinking about retaking it then. My GPA is currently quite good (3.8 on 4.3 scale), but I have one other W from 2nd year. Do grad schools care about dropped classes if you have a good GPA?
     
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  3. Feb 7, 2017 #2

    FactChecker

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    No. But don't make it a habit.
     
  4. Feb 7, 2017 #3

    Mark44

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    That's an extremely low average for a midterm. It puts into question the abilities of the students, as well as the professor's skills at teaching. Maybe all of the students should drop the class...
    What was the high score on this exam?
     
  5. Feb 7, 2017 #4
    He said he wouldn't test certain things, but he tested them anyways. Also it was only 2 questions, if you didnt get the final answer 100% correct, you got 0 points. And one person got 55%, next highest 30%.
     
  6. Feb 8, 2017 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    What you describe is mathematically impossible. (Given reasonable constraints like linear addition of scores, a top score of 100%, etc.)
     
  7. Feb 8, 2017 #6

    symbolipoint

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    Possibly yes, if the professor allows some partial credit, and only two questions on the test. This professor might be allowing for partial credit but is very stingy in issuing any.
     
  8. Feb 8, 2017 #7

    Vanadium 50

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  9. Feb 8, 2017 #8

    symbolipoint

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    kregg34, maybe you omitted some other details of the professor's grading? Some specified way to show the work? Failure to follow specified instructions? Some problem-solving formatting requirements?

    Just an opinion, but having only two W's seems not so bad. Plan your semester schedules more carefully, and if necessary, drop a course before the deadline.
     
  10. Feb 8, 2017 #9
    The second question had multiple parts.
     
  11. Feb 8, 2017 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    A W is better than an F. It's worse than an A. It's better if it's for a subject you are clearly exploring and worse if it's a core class for your major.
     
  12. Feb 9, 2017 #11

    Student100

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    W's aren't inherently bad, it's the story they tell that's important. If you're withdrawing every term, that's bad (are you lazy, bored, professor shopping, over estimating your abilities to handle reasonable course loads, etc?). If you have to withdraw from all your classes in one term due to work or an emergency (that can be 4~6 W's in some cases!), that's less bad (did their parents die, have to travel for work, etc)

    It's also important when you're withdrawing. As a freshman/sophomore it's more reasonable to see a few W's as you "figure things out." In your junior/senior year it's no longer reasonable to see withdraws every term.

    This is all just my speculation, and how I'd try to reason things out if I were in the business of looking at transcripts.

    But by all means, if you're going to fail the course take the W. Talk to the professor, see if this is somehow normal and he curves at the end of the course. A W will look a whole lot better than an F. When I was younger and dumber I withdrew from a few courses to avoid a B. :frown:
     
  13. Feb 9, 2017 #12
    I cannot imagine a decent university class in any subject where the midterm scores are abysmal and the teacher does not address the class publicly about such an obvious concern. Also possible that if it were a small class, he might choose to address students individually. To leave it essentially unaddressed? That, to me, would be a warning sign of a bad teacher, independent of whether the students are up to the level of the material; and if so, "Get out now, fast."

    Of course, we don't have all the information here, so can't judge whether there may be mitigating factors. @kregg34, did the teacher initiate discussion of midterm results not just as a dry announcement, but as a shared concern requiring proactive response - whether publicly in class, or privately w/ individuals, e.g. w/ you?
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  14. Feb 9, 2017 #13
    The professor should be more worried than you are. The entire class averaging ~30% or less shows a severe failing on his part. Even if it was just that he forgot to set the correct prerequisites for the course, he has essentially caused general confusion and time wastage for a lot of people. With so many people scoring badly, the blame quite obviously does not rest on the individuals themselves.

    Anyway that W isn't all bad, since it could be an F...

    I've just failed an exam in a subject I'm generally quite capable in (obviously not "full marks" capable - but capable) because 3 out of 5 questions were based on the one area I was cripplingly weak on. Meanwhile, vast swathes of the course were not questioned at all in the exam. Absolutely fuming to be honest. What kind of exam only examines a fraction of the info that was taught? The same goes for a lot of my courses actually. It seems to be a recurring theme on British STEM courses - too much info for one exam to cover. Sort of defeats the point of exams.

    Sorry, needed a rant!
     
  15. Feb 9, 2017 #14

    Student100

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    Curves are pretty much standard, even in a "decent university class." These scores aren't at all uncommon.


    It doesnt mean any such thing. It means the class scored a 30% on what they were tested on. The professor may curve at the end of the course.

    OP should voice concerns to professor and see what their options are.
     
  16. Feb 9, 2017 #15
    I suppose, but it doesn't seem likely. What's the point in setting an exam with questions that students clearly aren't able to answer yet? Seems a complete and utter waste of time to me.
     
  17. Feb 9, 2017 #16

    Mark44

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    I agree with @sa1988, at least to some extent. One possibility of the entire class scoring an average of ~30% is that the teacher is ineffective. There are other possible causes, of course.

    I can just about guarantee that if an instructor is not tenured, there will be people asking him or her why the class scored so low.
     
  18. Feb 9, 2017 #17
    You're only adding to my point when you say the prof "may" curve at the end of the course. May? May not? Are students supposed to guess?

    The OP's posts indicates a high degree of confusion on his part as to what is going on. Maybe we're lacking some necessary info, or maybe this is a misperception on the OP's part. But if he's right, there is a problem, because how a course will be graded is part of the expectations that a teacher (a good teacher) communicates to his/her students at the very start of a course. I know this because I've taught in a university setting (NYU) where this was part of the standard.
     
  19. Feb 9, 2017 #18

    Student100

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    You're supposed to ask?
     
  20. Feb 9, 2017 #19
    I'm going to assume you're serious here, rather than making a joke of some sort.

    Should students be kept completely in the dark about grading unless they ask? Answer, no. I don't think so, and neither did the writing department at NYU that I worked for. I was an adjunct, so lowest on the totem pole; but I had to meet the same standards as profs & assistant profs in preparing materials and communicating with students. Every semester I drew up a syllabus; and every semester I communicated, as mandated by the department (which I fully agreed with), both the minimum requirements for getting a passing grade (e.g. percentage of classes attended), and my own standards for how I was going to grade the class. This information was also in my syllabus.

    Students shouldn't have to ask how their participation & work will be graded any more than they should have to ask what the syllabus is. Any half-way decent teacher wants students to know what the expectations are, because aside from being fair, it makes it far easier to teach. So everyone gets a copy of the syllabus; everyone gets told how grading will be handled and why. They get told a lot of other helpful things too.

    I'm in favor of good teaching practices. Your profile says you're an "Education Advisor", but I haven't gotten a sense so far of what you actually believe regarding teaching - including what you see as good practice for grading. Maybe you can briefly describe what you feel are the appropriate responsibilities for teacher as well as student? I'm also curious, if you're an education advisor, if that means you have taught, or if you look at it only from the student side?
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  21. Feb 9, 2017 #20

    e.bar.goum

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    As someone who has looked at transcripts (in an academic context for grad students. YYMV for industry) that's pretty much my attitude. The effect of W's depend on the course, number of W's and their timing.
     
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