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How prevalent is grade inflation at four-year colleges?

Have you ever wondered how college grades today compare with grading in the past? How much grade inflation is there, and how common is it for professors to mark student’s scores arbitrarily higher? According to a new study published in Teachers College Record by researchers from Duke University and Furman University contemporary students have been the recipients of widespread grade inflation. Historical data was collected from 200 four year colleges and contemporary data from 135 schools. There has been an increase of 28 percent since 1960 and 12 percent since 1988 in the percentage of A’s awarded in higher education.

Grade distribution figures for different higher education sub-categories follow.

University and College Grade Distribution by Sub-Category

-Private Non-Profit Universities: A’s 48.2%; B’s 35.2%; F’s 2.3%

-Private Non-Profit Colleges: A’s 42.7%; B’s 36.6%; F’s 1.9%

-Public Flagship Universities: A’s 42.3%; B’s 34.5%; F’s 3.6%

-Public Satellite Universities: A’s 41.7%; B’s 32.0%; F’s 5.4%

-Public Commuter Universities: A’s 39%; B’s 31.8%; F’s 6.3%

More regulation of grades by universities and departments could alter the decades-long trajectory of grade inflation, but there are few signs that steps are being taken. Students and their families should recognize that even high grades may not distinguish them from many of their peers when they apply to graduate and professional schools. Attending a “brand school” helps, but the importance of standardized graduate and professional school tests including the LSAT’s and GRE’s has increased markedly. Top Test Prep offers tutoring and test preparation with admissions experts who help you gain admission to your top schools.

David Dickson is a counselor with Top Test Prep’s tutoring and admissions programs. Call (800) 501-7737 to learn more.

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