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Problems of letter grades

All the works, exams, writings are to be given the corresponding grade. Different countries have a different grading system that is conven...

All the works, exams, writings are to be given the corresponding grade. Different countries have a different grading system that is convenient for the educational process. There is a system for assessing the quality of the development of educational programs for students, an essential element of the educational process. Over the years, the ways and quality of training have changed. Teachers try to keep up with the times and set only fair assessments. Different countries have been traditionally developing their own knowledge assessment systems. Each country historically chose grading system for their students and used it for a long time. Currently, in the world, there are many scales of knowledge assessment. In some scales, it is customary to use numerical designations of discharges, and fractional estimates are allowed, other scales (for example, in the USA) traditionally deal with letter symbols. The American scale also has a numerical interpretation, in which the highest marks A and A + correspond to 5 points. The letter designations, by the way, are also abbreviations and have their own percentage ratio (used for the rating evaluation system).

Types of grading system

  • Letter grades system;
  • Number grades system;
  • Mixed grades system.
Letter grades system is made as a set of letters from A to F, where grade “A” is the best mark and grade “F” is the worst one. Letter grade system is the most used in the USA. It settled in the American educational system since the 1883 year, when the Harvard University student was given the grade “B” (that means “good”).

A number grade system is represented by three types of grading scales.

  • Hundred-point grading scale;
  • Twelve-point grading scale;
  • Five-point grading scale.
The hundred-point grading system has numbers from 1 to 100, where “100” is the best mark and “1” is the worst one. This type of grade system has 100 varieties that can show the level of the student’s knowledge. The number grades system is widely used throughout the world, especially in Europe. Also, there is a five-point grading scale that has mark “five” as the best one, and mark “one” – the worst. This scale is used in the ex-USSR countries in primary schools. And the twelve-point grading scale, where “12” is the best and “1” is the worst mark, is used in high schools.

Mixed grade system consists of both upper systems. It is mostly used at the Europe Universities, where the professors have to give to the students the marks from the hundred-point grading system and indicate the letter counterpart.
What grading system is the best?

There are lots of arguments and questions about the right type of grading system. Some people think that the letter grades are good for the students and teachers, they consider it easier for using and understanding, letter grades are convenient, they are easy to be given, stored and transferred. And many people, especially among teachers, think that the letter grading system cannot show all the aspects of the student’s work. Teachers are inclined to believe that the assessment should be verbal-descriptive. Some experts believe that in the modern world, the letter grading system can no longer be considered adequate to the requirements of modernity. It is believed that the letter grades are too simplified, and their actual value in different systems and even among different teachers can vary greatly. Letter grades lack accuracy. They also do not carry meaningful feedback for the student, but the students themselves and their parents do not want to read long reports, just as teachers do not want to compose this reports.

Should the letter grades be replaced by the number grades?

Let’s think about the replacement of the letter grading system by number grading system. Should this question be raised nowadays? This question is really central in the educational system at the present time.

Letter grades mostly are used in American colleges, universities and schools. This grading scale is used since the nineteenth century and it is customary for all the students, teachers and parents. For years the students know what to expect for their efforts.

Teachers and professors will have to make more efforts to give an appropriate number grades. In contrast, letter grades are much easier to be given because there are only six variants that run the gamut of knowledge and skills. If a teacher uses number grading system, he/she should choose a correct point that shows appropriate characterization of the student’s work. A correspondence of the letter grades to the number grades is the next: 

A — great (90 — 100);
В — good (75 — 89);
С — acceptable (60 — 74);
D — pass (50 - 59);
F — not pass (0 – 49).

To calculate the academic performance of a student, a special scale is used in which the letter designations may have plus and minus categories. Under US law, schools can use their own variations within a single sample. Not everyone recognizes plus and minus or replaces the lower score from F to E.

Modern students are accustomed to seeing these notations of marks both on paper and on computer screens. Web-services that writing different essays and works, as Pro-papers, can easily match letter grades, because it is narrower than numbers. And today, observers consider, there are no serious reasons to follow the example of the schools, which replaced this system with descriptive estimates or number grades. In higher education, any change takes time. Schools will continue to write letter grades until college selection boards stop accepting them, which is unlikely to happen.

There is one more problem with the letter grading system that can be solved by replacing it with the number grades. All schools have their own level of education. Some schools have deeper learning of the materials, and other schools have a common learning process. But if the letter grades are the same, then the good grade will be the same for a student with a deeper level of knowledge as well for a student from the common school. Whilst the numbers grading system is in use, all the levels of knowledge will have their own range of marks.

After thinking about the replacement letter grading system by number grades everyone can understand that this is a long and difficult process, that needs much time, efforts, money, people’s forces. It is impossible to implement it in 1 year. It needs more than one decade to make people accept the new educational system and grading system.

The letter grading system is increasingly criticized but is unlikely to be cancelled in the foreseeable future. So we can only think about these problems and try to solve it in our heads. But the main thing is to receive a good education and learn well.