I’ve been informed by reliable sources that it’s near the end of the college semester for most United States colleges and universities. So let me bring back some of my very minor perennials. What Do I Need To Pass This Class? is my old and slightly overwritten description of how to get a particular course grade. It allows for any weightings of course work and final exam plus any extra credit that might be hanging around.
What Do I Need To Get An A In This Class? meanwhile is less flexible but maybe more useful at a glance. It’s simply tables of some common grade weightings and class averages, and shows what final exam score (if any) makes possible an A, B, C, D, or F. This is on the assumption that a 90 or above is an A, an 80 or above is a B, 70 or above is C, and 60 or above is a D.
And as ever the real answer is more fundamental. You should get more sleep. You should study a fair bit every day rather than cram at the end of the term. If you’re able, you should take notes by hand rather than by computer. You should talk with the instructor the moment you start feeling lost, rather than when you feel hopelessly lost. You should use the tutoring services the school offers. If you have special needs for exams or other class work, you should meet with the school’s office for that sort of thing. Your instructors can make accommodations but they need to know what you need, and the sooner the better. In short, don’t try to do it all in the final. But yeah, I know, you’re wondering too.
I suspected that my little pair of articles about what scores you need on the final to pass a class (or get an A, or such) would prove useful, which is almost as good as being informative. I noticed in the search queries bringing people to my pages a question about what a person needed for a course where the final was 40 percent of the class score. I hadn’t put that in my original set of tables, and if the searcher followed my first article — about how to work out what you need for any weighting of the final exam — then she or he got what was needed. I just didn’t think of finals being quite that heavily weighted. But, what the heck, if people want to see the tables worth 40 percent, it’s easy enough to generate them, and I added that to the collection of scores-needed tables. Good luck next term.
After writing my bit about how to figure out what grade you need to pass your class, I thought some more and realized that while everything in it is true, it’s not necessarily helpful, because people get panicky at formulas. So I thought to make up some tables showing what you need, if you go in with a certain grade, to pass, or get a B, or an A, or what not, for different weightings of the final exam. That’s easy enough to do especially once I set up a Matlab (well, an Octave) script to build the tables for me.
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I admit a bit of difficulty in identifying with people who are very worried about their grades. I stopped worrying about my grades somewhere around fifth grade, when I missed a straight-A report card by one question on one spelling test and decided the stress wasn’t worth it for changing one B+ into an A-. But it’s a question instructors get, increasingly, as the final exam approaches, and students are almost never satisfied with the correct answers, especially when circumstances require a time machine. I suppose I understand the despair in that case.
Anyway, working out the minimum grade you need to pass — or what you need to get an A, or to get a B, or whatever you like — is an easy enough problem it’s surprising when students don’t work it out on their own. Maybe they don’t realize this is what they learn algebra for. But here’s how to do it.
Continue reading “What Do I Need To Pass This Class?”