After the end of our exam week, most of us university students breathe a collective sigh of relief - we survived! Thereafter, some of us go on to take up internships, part-time work and relax our mind by going on a vacation. After the short period of temporary relief, reality starts sinking in as results day start to draw near.

Yay(?)


While it might seem hilarious that we see some of our peers praying to the “Bellcurve God”, and many have come up with myth or theories on how to beat the bell curve.

Here at seniorsays, we will share with you some insights based on various interviews, research and discussion.

In the first section let us share with you insights by NUS provost (Chief Academic Officer) on “understanding how NUS applies the Bell Curve”. “NUS adopts a ‘recommended grade distribution’”, an example of the moderation can be seen image shown below.

Example A: Test/Exams might be too easy resulting in high cut-off marks for each grade
Example B: Test/Exams might be moderate resulting in moderate cut-off marks for each grade
Example C: Test/Exams might be too difficult resulting in low cut-off marks for each grade

In his blog post, the provost also mentioned, that “recommended grade distribution” are not always being applied blindly and might differ on several scenarios, such as:

  • Classes with a small sample size; In this scenario the professor can apply their own discretion as the distribution of grades might not be normally distributed.
  • When your professor has strong reasons to deviate from “recommended grade distribution” (e.g. especially strong/weak cohort)
  • When your average Cumulative Average Points (CAP) profile of each student in the class is too “High” or “Low” (e.g. when everyone in your class is a scholar with high cap, the average CAP will be skewed higher).

Grading and Moderation

Differentiation is necessary for Honours classification, and these are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Most if not all major universities have variants of degree classes or GPA scores.  And because of the need for differentiation, many institutions from North America to Asia, use the bell curve as a mechanism to moderate marks.

Process of Grade Finalization

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IN NUS, First, the grade profiles for individual modules are examined and compared at the Department level, and then across Departments at the Faculty level. All grades are carefully scrutinized by Department and Faculty Boards of Examiners before they are submitted to the Board of Undergraduate Studies and the Board of Graduate Studies for approval. Further checks are conducted at the University level by the Board of Undergraduate Studies and Board of Graduate Studies to ensure that there is consistency of assessment across faculties/Schools.

Meanwhile in another discussion on quora:

Does NTU use bell curve grading for courses with low number of students registered? If not, what method of grading is exactly used?

A reply from a senior lecturer at NTU is “there’s no official bellcurve process after the marking of exams script that I know of.” and “I think what is an important concerned here is if your marks gets pushed down in the ‘bell curve’ process. In our exam board meetings, I have never in my 20 odd years at NTU seen a situation where the exam board said the marks were too high and to bring it down.”

Meanwhile a student in the same discussion mentioned that in his class of 10 students, their grades on (lab report + oral examinations) was graded on a curve.

Furthermore, many students also mentioned that they believe that there are several factors being involved in the “Bell-Curve” process. In one discussion a student mentioned that in one of his module he attempted 60 marks worth of questions and has gotten a B+ and for the other he believed that he got at least 90+ marks but didn’t managed to get a A+.

To Summarize:

  • YOUR professor’s opinion of YOU Does Matters! So make sure to get on the good side of your professor.
  • If you are unsure DO ASK your professor if this module is graded with a bell curve.
  • If you are in a class where the average GPA is high, and you have a similar GPA as most of your classmate, there’s a good chance you will get a good grade for the module.
  • Choose the correct module (Balancing between workload and interest).

    Source:

https://blog.nus.edu.sg/provost/2012/01/20/the-bell-curve/comment-page-2/

https://www.quora.com/Does-NTU-use-bell-curve-grading-for-courses-with-low-number-of-students-registered-If-not-what-method-of-grading-is-exactly-used

After reading this post, its entirely up to you whether to believe in the different theories that is mentioned in this article. Are there any burning questions you have about the bell curve? Feel free to comment down below on what do you think.

Seniorsays.sg is community initiative to help NTU students Make Better University Decisions with Senior Reviews, Study Notes, Latest Happenings and Everything on Campus.