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Courses Physics Course Grades?

  1. Feb 20, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I am a Junior at KU, and taking a Mechanics course in Physics. I'm a Math major going for a B.S. and taking this course for my applied math requirement.

    The book used is Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems 5th Ed. by Thornton.

    We just got our first exam results back and the class median was a 8.5/25. I got a 9, or a 36%, on the test.

    While taking the test, I knew I was going to fail which is the first test score I've received in college below a C. Is this something standard in upper level Physics courses? I've never seen such a low average before.

    Luckily, I do have an 83% avg in HW, where the median is a 75%.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2012 #2

    Dr Transport

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    Depends on the school, where I go my undergrad degree, the averages were as low as you have indicated and we didn't say a word. Where I got my PhD, the undergrads would have been up in arms screaming and hollaring....
  4. Feb 20, 2012 #3
    I don't think that low is quite normal. But an average between 50%-65% seems pretty normal.
  5. Feb 20, 2012 #4
    I think it depends greatly on the instructor, the school, and the students. The instructor could be hard; the school could be selective; and the students in your class could be pretty dumb (no offense). All three could be the case, one could be the case, or a combination could be the case.

    When I was taking my intro physics classes, the tests would routinely come back in the forties and fifties. I believe this is done to let the truly gifted students stand out from the crowd.
  6. Feb 21, 2012 #5
    Only 2 people in my class(7 students,3rd year) are getting an "outstanding"(9/10) grade in higher level physics courses. Less than half of the class generally pass the first final exam convocation, so most people end up passing on the 2nd try but rarely with an outstanding grade.

    In my 2 sophomore mechanics courses (which followed Landau's & Goldstein's texts) only 1 person got an outstanding grade, the rest just got a bare pass or had to retake them. Nobody has gotten outstanding grades in sophomore and junior electromagnetism courses. As it stands only 3 people are passing every course "on schedule" at my faculty.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2012
  7. Feb 21, 2012 #6
    It is unusual at some schools, not at others. I've had upper division physics classes where the class average test scores were around 80 (thermodynamics) and ones where the average test scores were around 40 (electrodynamics). And some outlier tests were even lower or higher than that. It is rare (but not unheard of) to see professors fail droves of students because of that, though - there is usually a curve.
  8. Feb 21, 2012 #7
    At our school, to counteract this, our grades are on a curved scale:


    In E&M 1, I had the highest grade, at 86, followed by an 81 (12 person class)
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