Friends want your help, but the class is curved. What to do?
Ah, the dreaded class curve. Can't live with it, can't live without it. Typically, for math, science and engineering courses, exams are difficult. If no one in the class scores above an 80 percent, it'd be terrible for the professor to assign grades straight up. Curves aren't only meant to protect against grade inflation – they also provide a more realistic grading scale.
I've sat on many student panels as wide-eyed youngsters ask about the vaunted college course load. Without a doubt there will be at least one question pertaining to "the curve" at every session.
I'll usually tell them a curve is necessary for student survival, throw in my story about the 34 percent average and be done with it. What I don't go into is how to approach a situation where a classmate (or a group of classmates) needs help.
I'm sure you have all been there and done that. Classmate calls you, the kid is floundering, doesn't know up from down and has made you question how they gained admittance into the school. Undoubtedly, he/she wants your help. Here's the deal:
As much as it might annoy you to sit down with someone and start from step 1, it won't affect your placement on the class curve. A little help here and there won't bring anybody from C-range to A-range, but it might save someone from failing. For that you get a gold sticker.
And truth be told, the people you are helping know the class is curved too. If you start to get shorter with your explanations, Slacker Sally will get the gist and wrap it up, still very thankful for your help.
Plus, if you find that you can literally teach the material, then go grab some kool-aid and hit the beach – you'll breeze through the exam.
What are the best and worst parts about class curves? In a perfect world, how would grading systems be structured?