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Grade inflation: do I live in an alternate world?


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I keep seeing doom and gloom talk about how much zoom university is causing grade inflation. And how that’s going to affect applications in the future.
 

Maybe? But that’s not something I’m seeing at my school. Do I just live in an alternate world, or is it that we are in a strange echo chamber here?
 

What I’m seeing: Depression and burn out at an all time high amongst students, who are dealing with online courses that are poorly set-up and professors over-compensating by either adding more busy work or making exams harder and tighter with time to prevent cheating. People stuck at home with family to study, which is disruptive. People (esp. premeds) working overtime in the hospital or other care setting because covid, while taking classes and being utterly stressed and exhausted. Class averages staying about the same. I’ve also talked to faculty who said grades were lower than usual in their classes since moving to online... and, people who have tried to cheat have gotten caught and stuck with academic dishonesty which has been prematurely career ending to some. Fellow students have been failing or withdrawing classes repeatedly.

Everything would have to align perfectly for this entire mess to be advantageous for a student imo, I’m sure it is to *some*, but it balances out at the end of the day, I think, where I’m at. Then again, this is anecdotal, I’m n=1, and maybe that’s different where you are?

 

Feel free to discuss.

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At most institutions now, they allow you to hide your worst grade for each semester, and this causes people's GPA to skyrocket. To give you an idea, my institution runs on a 10.0 scale, and 2 years ago, the cutoff for NSERC/USRA was 9.1... this year the cutoff for NSERC was 9.7/10, which is equivalent to a 3.97/4.0... Do you know how crazy this is!! Previously tough courses such as anatomy are now becoming easy electives because of the ease to ctrl f and no proctoring services being implemented. Almost every class does not have a proctoring tool, and if it does, its something insignificant such as zoom proctoring where people still find ways to cheat (I know for a fact it happen). In the health sciences department, the supposed 'hardest class' in the program (heavy science course) had a 9.77/10 class average last term, which is equivalent to 3.97/4.0

In my honest opinion, this is a huge problem because it devalues a strong GPA. When the norm is starting to be 3.97+/4.0, theres no way to distinguish who's actually performing well vs who's reaping the benefits of COVID university. Someone who graduated a year ago and had no chance to P/F any courses or write open book exams would be disadvantaged because of this system. 

 

Bottom line: prepare for some crazy competition over the next application cycles

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At my institution and program I am seeing the opposite of grade inflation in most courses. I agree that certain ones that are based entirely on memorization are easier, but in general the hard science courses are even more difficult. Professors are doing everything they can to make the midterms and assignments heavily application based, so that you need an extremely thorough understanding to even pass the tests. Profs make their assignments open book and we are allowed to use the internet, and still the class average is always very low. The internet and notes do not help at all. I have heard from many second/third years that they really upped the difficulty this year. This combined with the difficulty of learning online just makes it much harder to learn and do well and I have heard the same from many of my peers. People I know are doing very poorly and are losing motivation. I do not believe that we have been advantaged by these online classes at all, at least this has been my experience.

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11 minutes ago, zizou25 said:

Why it doesn't apply for this year application cycle, since some schools are counting winter 2020 grades. 

it did apply, there has been a uptrend in literally every school's stats that released them for interviews this year (just wait for final acceptance stats soon), and the impact will be more significant due to an entire year's of inflation not just 1 semester's worth and every school counting this year's marks as opposed to only some that counted W2020, also P/F was not an option last year at many schools

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I'm not French so I translated one of your recent comments so you agree about the rampant inflation 

 

I am in law where the averages are curved, and where cheating is really present (people who do exams with 10 people for example lol) with courses where the average is 85-90%, which puts us at a huge disadvantage. that our gpa is based on the average.
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12 minutes ago, zizou25 said:

Why it doesn't apply for this year application cycle, since some schools are counting winter 2020 grades. 

It will also be more evident next cycle, when the current second years will be applying to med with inflated GPA's. Take it in, they only had 1 full semester of in-person schooling. The rest was online and with the option to p/f. Wouldn't be surprised if every school saw 600+ more applicants at least given that this year, almost every school saw +400 increase

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12 hours ago, PirouetteCacahuete said:

I keep seeing doom and gloom talk about how much zoom university is causing grade inflation. And how that’s going to affect applications in the future.
 

Maybe? But that’s not something I’m seeing at my school. Do I just live in an alternate world, or is it that we are in a strange echo chamber here?
 

What I’m seeing: Depression and burn out at an all time high amongst students, who are dealing with online courses that are poorly set-up and professors over-compensating by either adding more busy work or making exams harder and tighter with time to prevent cheating. People stuck at home with family to study, which is disruptive. People (esp. premeds) working overtime in the hospital or other care setting because covid, while taking classes and being utterly stressed and exhausted. Class averages staying about the same. I’ve also talked to faculty who said grades were lower than usual in their classes since moving to online... and, people who have tried to cheat have gotten caught and stuck with academic dishonesty which has been prematurely career ending to some. Fellow students have been failing or withdrawing classes repeatedly.

Everything would have to align perfectly for this entire mess to be advantageous for a student imo, I’m sure it is to *some*, but it balances out at the end of the day, I think, where I’m at. Then again, this is anecdotal, I’m n=1, and maybe that’s different where you are?

 

Feel free to discuss.

Yeah, I feel like it’s both. Average grades might be stable overall, but the grade discrepancy between students has increased — people who already have good grades will only have better grades because of grade inflation (cheating and whatnot), but people who don’t (or who happen to be in a bad situation) are seeing their grades deflated even more because of mental distress and extra hardships imposed by the current circumstances. However, given that only the best students will apply to health school, the competition’s going to be a lot worse since there’s a lot more people with competitive grades (given that the distribution is being more skewed towards both ends).

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Just now, keipop said:

Yeah, I feel like it’s both. Average grades might be stable overall, but the grade discrepancy between students has increased — people who already have good grades will only have better grades because of grade inflation (cheating and whatnot), but people who don’t (or who happen to be in a bad situation) are seeing their grades deflated even more because of mental distress and extra hardships imposed by the current circumstances.

This is a very smart point. Many people in university aren’t gunning for med or anything like that post undergrad so looking at overall trends is misleading. Like I said just wait and see the average applicant GPA’s in the next 1-2 cycles especially if next year is online too (that would be 2+ years of online school) 

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How did I run out of reactions after giving out just one today? Huuuh

Anyway. @keipop I'd give you a trophy if I could. That makes sense for sure. I'm personally surrounded with premeds who are experiencing what I and medhopeful02 mentioned above, but I know that this is just anecdotal. Seems to me that it's heavily institution-dependent, but still the balance might be tipped toward an overall grade inflation phenomenon based on what you and others are pointing out.

It's kind of disconcerting to think that some med applicants are potentially the ones benefitting most from this situation because of a lack integrity while others are just trying to make it through unscathed, but I guess it's not entirely surprising, lol.

Me, just trying to graduate amidst severe zoom university burnout...:

But It's Honest Work | Know Your Meme

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10 hours ago, nerdy_unicorn said:

Class averages are much higher this year in all the Bio/Kines classes at the Uni I went to. I think they would be about the same in physics/chem/math classes because you can't just ctrl F those classes.

Wolfram/matrices/equation solvers exist as well, having chemistry reactions/substrates/structures etc out in front of you as well .. really quite sad for academic integrity

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28 minutes ago, offmychestplease said:

Wolfram/matrices/equation solvers exist as well, having chemistry reactions/substrates/structures etc out in front of you as well .. really quite sad for academic integrity

Oh yeah that is true! it's really frustrating for students that graduated prior to covid just because they didnt get this advantage. Even if online school somehow doesn't effect the GPA average pool, there is a difference between people who worked hard to achieve a high GPA prior to COVID versus those who were able to use google or group chats during COVID semesters to achieve that same or higher GPA. 

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15 minutes ago, nerdy_unicorn said:

Oh yeah that is true! it's really frustrating for students that graduated prior to covid just because they didnt get this advantage. Even if online school somehow doesn't effect the GPA average pool, there is a difference between people who worked hard to achieve a high GPA prior to COVID versus those who were able to use google or group chats during COVID semesters to achieve that same or higher GPA. 

Doing school through 1+ years of social isolation while going through a global pandemic has is unique challenges. This year has by far been the worst for my grades and my mental health is at an all time low. Some people def could have an advantage this year, but I think we should realize a lot of us are going through really tough times too. Fwiw, most of my assessments have been turned to open book/ assignments which I am def worse at (not too mention they have made them harder). Prior to the pandemic I would actively avoid classes that used assignments over tests for evaluation.

 

It just feels a bit insensitive to say that doing school through a pandemic is an advantage, you know?

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24 minutes ago, AB27 said:

Doing school through 1+ years of social isolation while going through a global pandemic has is unique challenges. This year has by far been the worst for my grades and my mental health is at an all time low. Some people def could have an advantage this year, but I think we should realize a lot of us are going through really tough times too. Fwiw, most of my assessments have been turned to open book/ assignments which I am def worse at (not too mention they have made them harder). Prior to the pandemic I would actively avoid classes that used assignments over tests for evaluation.

 

It just feels a bit insensitive to say that doing school through a pandemic is an advantage, you know?

Of course the pandemic has been a struggle for everyone mentally, emotionally and physically, regardless of whether or not you are in school. When I said advantage, I strictly meant academically. For the vast majority of classes, people are able to google answers or use group chats. There are literally multiple posts of people taking as many classes as possible and delaying graduation/other summer commitments/delaying MCAT so they can take advantage of another online semester.

That being said, this doesn't apply to everyone. Some people need the face to face interaction to do better and to focus. Also for your situation with struggling with open-book assignments, it doesn't apply to everyone. I guess it just depends on the person and also on the courses. I'm sorry that your mental health is at an all time low. Hopefully you can use this summer to relax and work on self care and fall semester is gradually and safely able to move back to in-person.

 

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4 hours ago, nerdy_unicorn said:

 

Of course the pandemic has been a struggle for everyone mentally, emotionally and physically, regardless of whether or not you are in school. When I said advantage, I strictly meant academically. For the vast majority of classes, people are able to google answers or use group chats. There are literally multiple posts of people taking as many classes as possible and delaying graduation/other summer commitments/delaying MCAT so they can take advantage of another online semester.

That being said, this doesn't apply to everyone. Some people need the face to face interaction to do better and to focus. Also for your situation with struggling with open-book assignments, it doesn't apply to everyone. I guess it just depends on the person and also on the courses. I'm sorry that your mental health is at an all time low. Hopefully you can use this summer to relax and work on self care and fall semester is gradually and safely able to move back to in-person.

 

I know everyone is different that's why I'm saying it feels a bit inconsiderate to call this situation overall an advantage, thats all

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I think it completely depends on your school and program. I have no doubt that at many schools, grade inflation and cheating is leading to higher averages. However, at many schools this is not the case. I have a sibling in undergrad right now and I have seen first hand how difficult it is- at their school profs are not understanding, evaluations are difficult, everything is proctored online so no way to cheat, etc. To be fair, I don't think it's any harder than it normally would be (not including the mental health impacts of the pandemic), but it's certainly not easier.

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