There is a perfect reason for why this single topic deserves a post of its own. It might come as a surprise to you that a majority of students pass out from Manipal without ever understanding how the grading system really works out here. This is due to a combination of factors – the lack of interest to ever find this out, not recognizing the importance of understanding it and the rampant spread of misinformation. Understanding exactly how the grading system works is pivotal to scoring fantastic grades with the least effort. Let’s dive right into it then!
The grading system is often referred to as a ‘Relative Grading System.’ In all fairness, this is a misnomer, and this naming is what causes most of the confusion. If I were to name it, consistent with its actual function, I would call it the ‘Relative-Absolute Grading System’ – yes, the grading is done on a relative basis within an absolute boundary. A little confusing, isn’t it? Probably why some people just don’t bother understanding it. But you’ll see soon why getting a grasp of this can hugely influence the grades you get.
Before we get into the specifics, let me clearly state that my explanation will not at all be ‘exactly’ what is being followed by the college at the moment, or at any point of time in the past or the future. What it merely does is give you an understanding of how it works. Once you have this understanding, finding out the specifics and inserting it into what I have stated here is pretty straight forward. With that disclaimer put forward, let’s get down to the dirty bits. You would already know a lot of this, but as you keep reading, you’ll see how all of it gets put together neatly and that’s, what’s important to understand.
First up, an engineering course in Manipal is of the duration of 4 years (5, if you are in EEE (get the joke please!!!)). Each year is split into 2 semesters, and in each semester, you will be graded based on your performance in a series of examinations of different kinds that happens throughout the semester. This basically falls into a sort of a continuous evaluation pattern followed up with an end of the semester major examination. The total marks you can earn in a subject in a semester is 100, and this 100 is split into each of these evaluations, with the final end of the semester examination, called the end-sem exams, carrying the major chunk of the marks (unless it’s changed, it should be 50). The rest 50 falls under the continuous evaluation pattern. These marks may be unevenly split into multiple evaluations of different types, including but not limited to open book exams, in class or homework style small assignments, projects, demos, presentations, research, etc. Sometimes, marks awarded here may be more than the total (50) and then scaled down before being added to the end sem marks. In a very few select cases, the end sem marks are also inflated (to 100) and then scaled down to 50. Whatever may be the case, at the end of a semester for each of the subjects you have taken in that semester, you should get a score out of 100.
This score you receive out of 100 will now need to be converted to a grade. Grades go from A1 to A2 and all the way down to E and then F. As you can guess, A1 is the highest grade you can receive in a subject in a semester whereas E is the least grade you can receive in a subject in a semester without failing the subject. An F indicates that you have failed the subject. Now here’s the tricky part – this conversion is not at all straight forward and here is where the ‘Relative-Absolute Grading System’ (as I have named it) comes into play. Once again, let me rephrase before we get into this – none of the values I write here are actuals, you can find them out yourselves once you come to the college (well, seeing it isn’t as easy as you will soon figure out, but anyways, there’s only so much you can do).
How it’s done looks something like this. First of all, you need to plot the marks received by every student out of 100 for a particular subject into a scatter plot. This will inevitably look like a bell curve. Divide this bell curve into sections and attach a grade to each section. So the students falling into the rightmost section (considering the more right we go, the more marks the student got) get A1, students falling in the next section to the left get an A2 and those on the leftmost would get an F. But wait, it can’t be this easy, can it? Of course, it isn’t! And this is where the ‘Absolute’ part of the grading system comes in.
How it’s done looks something like this. First of all, the total score of 100 is divided into an absolute min-max scale. And these absolute min-max scales may or may not be different across subjects. Confused? Let me take an example. If you score above 95, you are guaranteed an A+ no matter what everyone else scored. At the same time, if you score below 80, no matter what the bell curve looks like, you cannot get an A+ even if you are the topper of the subject for your batch. Similarly, if you score above 50, no matter what everyone else scores, you just cannot fail, but if you score below 35, you will fail without question no matter what. If you look at this pattern, you will understand that it is possible for the entire batch to get an A+ in a particular subject or for the whole batch to fail in that subject, or for all students in the batch to skip a specific grade in its entirety!
Each subject you take in a semester has ‘credits’ attached to it. Credits are a number that tells you how much more important (scoring wise) that particular subject is in that semester. Credits serve as the weights in a weighted mean that finally gives you the GPA (Grade Point Average) for the semester. Before you do this, convert the grades to similar numbers called Grade Points. A1 is 10, A2 is 9 and so on. An F is 0. If it is still confusing, this example will clear this out. Let’s say you have 3 subjects in a semester, worth 4, 3 and 2 credits respectively for which you scored A1, B2, and A2. Your GPA for the semester becomes (4×10 + 3×7 + 2×9)/(4+3+2) = 8.78 (rounded to two decimal digits).
Similarly, you attain one GPA per semester. An average of these GPAs is called the CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) which is nothing but the weighted mean of the GPAs of all the semesters in question, where the weights are the total credits associated with the subjects you took in the particular semester. At the end of your 4 years, your CGPA is cumulative of all the 8 semesters you studied for, and this number is going to be the final CGPA that you will use everywhere.
So why is understanding this so important? I mean, you could very well just put your 100%, so you just don’t have to bother about the grading system! Well, that’s not the case. If you have been paying attention, the relative-absolute system always creates this upper and lower bounds to attain a particular grade. If you can find where the limits for your current target grades are and where the next boundary starts, you can determine if it is attainable or if it even is worth it. Remember that a student who gets 80 might get the same grade as someone who gets 90, and the extra effort you put in to do that might be too massive of a sacrifice and sometimes, you are at the beginning of a bracket and the next bracket is too far away and unattainable so you might as well spend that time someplace else. College is all about time management, you have ‘everything’ to do but hardly any time.
Also, if you fail a course, you have a chance to appear for a ‘makeup’ exam, though you will now be ineligible to gain more than a pre-decided ‘max grade.’ Also, if you are slapped with malpractice, attendance shortages, you may not be allowed to even do this. Either way, if you can’t clear it with the makeup exams, you have to retake the course the next year once more.
About the Author: Arvind Sasikumar is an alumnus of Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal. I am a 2018 Computer and Communication Engineering (CCE) graduate from Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal. I passed out with a CGPA of 8.7 at the end of the 4 years, currently work as a Software Engineer for Microsoft (Hyderabad) [Campus placed through 3rd year internship], worked as an IT Auditor at Deutsche Post, Bonn, Germany for 6 months, worked with 4 tech startups during my college years, founded a private limited company, played the guitar and the drums for various rock bands in college and was the President of the Movie Goers Club here. So I can safely say I have experienced a large part of what Manipal has to offer. Also, been around working intensely on fresher groups for the last 3 years.