A is for Average

On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess, Dr. Isis solicits hypotheses for the increase in the number of A’s awarded to students at American universities. In 1960’s, one out of six students got an A (and C used to be the most Common). Now an A is most common, and the number of C’s (and D’s) has fallen by half. Dr. Isis says, “It’s interesting that the real change in grading appears to have occurred in the period between 1962 and 1974, probably coinciding with the increase in conscription for the Vietnam War.” Mike the Mad Biologist offers, “I think it’s pretty obvious what happened: increased competition for graduate school slots put (and still puts) pressure on faculty to not give C’s and to give more A’s.” Chad Orzel has a different theory, saying “blame the Baby Boomers. First, as students, they got a gigantic bump in grades […] Then, as they entered the faculty ranks, they continued the upward trend.” Regardless of the cause, more students now get a passing grade than ever before, and close to half of them get an A. B is the new Below Average—and C the new Crappy.

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