Grade Distribution Reexamined

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CHAPEL HILL, NC–Sitting at a cubicle in the Undergraduate Library with her recently returned midterm and course syllabus, sophomore biology major Courtney Scheller logged into and examined her Biology 202 professor’s grade distribution for the first time since she registered for courses over the summer.

“Okay, my average for the three midterms is an 83.4,” thought Scheller after hastily punching test scores into her graphing calculator, “and each one is worth 100 points. The course is out of 550 points, so that means if I aced the final, I would have an 87.9 overall. Fuck.”

“They definitely curve the final grades though,┬áright?” Scheller asked herself. “Yeah, [Teaching Assistant] Felix [Peng] definitely said they do. And the test averages have been like 65s. Fuck, why didn’t I write them down? So maybe I could get curved up to an A. Maybe.”

“The top 12% of the class gets A’s,” she continued, squinting at the distribution at her computer screen, “and the next 28% get B’s. I’ve got to be in the top 40% of the class, right? Yeah, come on, think of the people in that class. Think of those fucks. Think of that one kid. So many people don’t even come to lectures. I’m doing better than them.”

“Goddamn it, I need an A though,” Scheller thought as she propped an elbow on her desk and ran a hand through her hair, “I can get an A. I can get an A if I study really hard for the final. I’ll study really fucking hard for the final. And they’ll bump me up if I’m close. Felix likes me. I’ve gone to recitation and asked questions.”

“The people who are going to get A’s are the ones who sleep with the textbook,” she realized. “Fucking study beavers. Shitty ass pre-med kids. Fuck.”

“Why didn’t I take it with Bloom?” Scheller thought as she looked at the distribution of the Biology 202 section above hers. “19% A’s and 32% B’s. I should have moved my schedule around. Carrie and Jonathan are in that section, and it’s easy. Fuck them.”

“I’ll go to office hours,” she decided, “I’ll go to office hours so the professor remembers me. And I’ll study really fucking hard for the final. Okay, I can do it. Okay.”

Scheller is expected to reexamine the grade distribution approximately six more times before her final exam, twice between taking the test and receiving her grade, and once after that.