Straight Outta Manipal: Grading System in MIT

I write about the grading system in manipal every single year. This year ain’t gonna be an exception either. You’d be surprised to know how many 4th years still have no clue how their grades were calculated the entire time they were in college. Not like it matters a lot though, the better you study, generally the more grades you get. But knowing how the grading system exactly works can help you a lot, for instance you can now put in a lot less effort than you did before to get the exact same grade, and use that free time for osmething more productive. Why am I posting this before the counselling has even started? Because understanding how competition affects your grades is important. And also because later on, no one gives a shit about this and you’ll end up being one of those 4th years who have no idea how they got the grades that they got. And because I might not get time to write this later on.

There’s two types of grading systems. The first one is absolute. What it means is that the marks to grade correlation is decided even before the marks of the exams are released. Each grade falls inside a certain marks bracket. For instance, get a score between 80 and 100, you get an A+, get between 70 and 80, you get an A. And so on. Anything below a 40, and you fail. The problem with this system though is that say the paper was extremely hard. This could mean that the highest marks any student got in that particular exam was 60, which would be a B. That doesn’t seem fair, does it? Its your university GPA; that is something that’s gonna be compared to grades that other students received in other colleges and whoever makes this comparison has no idea you got such low grades simply because the exams were too tough. On the other hand, let’s say the paper was easy. Not too easy, but still easy enough that everyone scored above 80. That’d mean everyone gets an A+! Once again, doesn’t feel fair, does it?

So now we come to the second, the relative grading system. In this system, there are no grade brackets that are decided before the exam results are out. In fact, there are no grade brackets at all! In such a system, grades are completely relative. Say there are 100 students. A relative grading system could say that the top 10% would get an A+, the next 10% an A and the last 10% fails. A better way is to distribute the marks across a bell curve and draw these grade demarkation lines at every 10% on the X axis. this ensures there are always more students in the median grades, usually C, D and sometimes even B and less students for A and A+ and failing grades. Still, this system is infact even worse than the absolute grading system. Say the paper was very easy and everyone scores above 90. You would still have to fail someone since the bottom 10% always fails. Because of this, while some colleges in India still use the miserable absolute grading system, I do not know of any that uses a pure relative grading system to grade their students.

So this brings us to a new form of a grading system, a hybrid of the relative and absolute grading system. Students in manipal love to call this a relative grading system, which is just plain wrong, but if you do take admission here, just go along with it. But do understand it is not so. In this system, you first define minimum and maximum values for the lower end of a grade bracket even before the results are out, in a similar fashion to the absolute system. Then once the grades are out, within the constraints of these pre determined maximum and minimum values, decide on the brackets. An exaple. The grade A+ has a minimum value of 80 and a maximum of 90. This means if everyone in the batch scores above 90, he/she will get an A+, irrespective of what others in the class got. Similarily, if everyone gets below 80, no one gets an A+ but if only a very few number of people score above 80, all of them will definitely get an A. Something similar happens to the grade for failure, usually F. F has a minimum score of 35 and a maximum of 50. So if everyone scores above 50, no matter how easy the exam was, everyone passes. Similarily, if the paper was really tough, the cut off for F could be just 35 and if you just score above 35 in a difficult year, you’d still pass.

Understanding this is crucial, because if you know the minimum and maximum grade barriers for each grade, know the marks of your peers in your class and can construct a hypotheticla bell curve, you can almost predict the final grade brackets in this absolute-relative grading system even before you start studying for your final exams. If you already have a score of 30, you know you get a B between 40-60 and A is between 60-80 (hypothetical case), you can spend your time focusingon other subjects or doing something else that’s productive, simply because no matter how hard you study, you ain’t gonna cross the 60 mark to get an A and you’ll probably get a 40 even if you don’t put much of an effort into it. Its always about doing things smart, not hard.

I know the rank declaration dates are nearing. Good luck folks! Hope to see a good amount of you’all in Manipal.