Almost, but Not Quite

One of my classes this semester was Motivation. Those of you who have known me in real life for years are probably laughing that I felt I needed to learn about it, since I was the one trying to figure out what motivated my employees so that we could all achieve the store goals. It was a great class and yes, I learned a lot more about a topic that some might say I'm a little overenthusiastic about, at least in the work setting.

At the beginning of each semester, I sit down with the syllabus for each course (that I actually read and mark up all semester long) and look at the grading criteria. If the instructor uses a ten point scale and the total points I can earn equal 500, I'll note that I have a 50 point buffer with which I can still earn that A. Take a test, get an 88, I note that I now have a cushion of 38 points left to still earn that A.

It's a method that works well for me, because I walk into that last exam knowing exactly how many points I need to earn that coveted A. Last semester, I bombed the last Research Methods exam and figured I got a B, because I knew I had done poorly when I walked out the door. (It was an A-, and I was happy)

Typically, in the college setting, a guideline will be established and written as to whether students are graded on a 10 point scale, a 7 point scale or some other method. As there is no stated criteria at USF, departments and/or instructors are left to establish their own cut points for grades. I've been told several times over the past year that the Psychology department unofficially uses the ten point scale, but it is not listed anywhere.

The majority of my classes use that ten point scale, with three (Art History, Spanish and Developmental Psych) stating that they use the 7 point scale. For kicks and giggles, I just looked over the syllabi for eleven courses. Ten of them list a grading rubric-one does not.

Guess which one?

In it, there is a statement that tests and the term paper are graded on a 50 point scale, for a total possible of 200 points. He offered ample opportunity for extra credit, which I took advantage of when I did poorly (by my standards) on his first exam. Throughout the semester, he said that at the end of the semester, you just would divide your total score by two and that would tell you the official grade. Too bad we didn't know what those cutoffs were. Shame on me for not noticing this earlier!

Operating under the (incorrect assumption) that his cutoff was based on a ten point scale (as only one other Psych professor has used the seven point), I walked into that exam thinking I needed a 30 for an A. I got a 36 and figured I was fine. The grades got posted and I had a 93 overall. Even on the established method of the 7 point (on the USF and PSC campuses, even), 93 was an A.

But it wasn't. Apparently, in Blackboard, the default cutoff for an A is a 94. I did not know that there were defaults or that instructors wouldn't use their own grading criteria, but I do now.

I got an A-.

Yes, I should be happy with it, but I'm disappointed in myself, for missing that A by one point. Especially if I had KNOWN that a 94 was the cutoff and not a 90, I probably would have put even more effort into my studying.

As much as I like the course and really enjoyed the professor's lectures, I almost felt he was missing the point of one of the key topics we learned about. People have an easier time working towards and achieving their objectives when they are clearly stated.

I learned a lesson from that one point: verify what constitutes an A before you start working towards it!


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