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A Guide to Grading Exams - VERY FUNNY

A Guide to Grading Exams - VERY FUNNY

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Published by Eli Niller
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Published by: Eli Niller on Feb 10, 2007
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A Guide to Grading Examshttp://www.rvc.cc.il.us/faclink/pruckman/humor/grading.htm1 of 42/9/07 5:40 PM
A Guide to Grading Exams
by Daniel J. Solove
Associate Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law SchoolPosted atConcurringOpinions.Com
December 14, 2006
It's that time of year again. Students have taken their finals, and now it is time to gradethem. It is something professors have been looking forward to all semester. Exactness ingrading is a well-honed skill, taking considerable expertise and years of practice to master.The purpose of this post is to serve as a guide to young professors about how to perfecttheir grading skills and as a way for students to learn the mysterious science of how theirgrades are determined.Grading begins with the stack of exams, shown in Figure 1 below.The next step is to use the most precise grading method possible. There never is 100%accuracy in grading essay exams, as subjective elements can never be eradicated from theprocess. Numerous methods have been proposed throughout history, but there is onemethod that has clearly been proven superior to the others. See Figure 2 below.
 
A Guide to Grading Examshttp://www.rvc.cc.il.us/faclink/pruckman/humor/grading.htm2 of 42/9/07 5:40 PM
The key to this method is a good toss. Without a good toss, it is difficult to get a goodspread for the grading curve. It is also important to get the toss correct on the first try.Exams can get crumpled if tossed too much. They begin to look as though the professoractually read them, and this is definitely to be avoided. Additional tosses are alsoinefficient and expend needless time and energy. Note the toss in Figure 3 below. This isan example of a toss of considerable skill -- obviously the result of years of practice.Note in Figure 3 above that the exams are evenly spread out, enabling application of thecurve. Here, however, is where the experts diverge. Some contend that the curve ought tobe applied as in Figure 4 below, with the exams at the bottom of the staircase to receive alower grade than the ones higher up on the staircase.According to this theory, quality is understood as a function of being toward the top, andthus the best exams clearly are to be found in this position. Others, however, propose analternative theory (Figure 5 below).
 
A Guide to Grading Examshttp://www.rvc.cc.il.us/faclink/pruckman/humor/grading.htm3 of 42/9/07 5:40 PM
They contend that that the exams at the bottom deserve higher grades than the ones at thetop. While many professors still practice the top-higher-grade approach, the leadingauthorities subscribe to the bottom-higher-grade theory, despite its counterintuitiveappearance. The rationale for this view is that the exams that fall lower on the staircasehave more heft and have traveled farther. The greater distance traveled indicates greaterknowledge of the subject matter. The bottom higher-grade approach is clearly the mostlogical and best-justified approach.Even with the grade curve lines established, grading is far from completed. Several examsteeter between levels. The key is to measure the extent of what is referred to as "examprotrusion." Exams that have small portions extending below the grade line should receivea minus; exams with protrusions above the grade lines receive a plus.But what about exams that are right in the middle of a line. In Figure 6 below, this examteeters between the A and B line. Should it receive and A- or a B+?This is a difficult question, but I believe it is clearly an A-. The exam is already bendingtoward the next stair, and in the bottom-higher-grade approach, it is leaning toward the A-.Therefore, this student deserves the A- since momentum is clearly in that direction.Finally, there are some finer points about grading that only true masters have understood.

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