**Exam Preparation and Grades:
A System for Addressing Questions, Challenges, and Problems **

Abstract

Introduction

Regular Exams

Make-up exams

Weighting Exams

Exam Averages

Predicting needed grades

Final Grades

Links to additional strategies

Conclusion

References

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The system presented solves questions, challenges, and problems with preparing exams and grading. It includes detailed instructions, rationales, web pages, examples, and EXCEL spreadsheet templates. Use these components to keep grades, show grade distributions, calculate cumulative grades, make grade predictions based on assumptions of student performance, and inform students

Introduction

I developed and use a pragmatic system for addressing questions, challenges and problems faculty and students often have about exam preparation and grades. A few examples from faculty include "How long should I make the exam?" "How can I make different but equivalent exams for all my sections?" "What level of achievement earns a grade of A, of B, etc.?" "What can I do about poor questions I asked?" A few examples you have probably heard from students include "Do you give partial credit?" "Do you grade on a curve?" "What is my average?" "Can I still get a B?" "What must I get to pass?" (Challenges and problems - Table 1)

Three of the system’s strongest attributes are adaptability, flexibility, and clear results. It works for any exams, for small or large classes, and for single-section or multiple-section classes. It also works for other student work I grade where I assign values to each answer, component, section, or characteristic, such as when I grade reports and presentations. The final products are (1) a spreadsheet grade book for recording student scores, (2) a graph for each exam or other work showing the class score distribution, and (3) a table showing the grade equivalent for each student's individual and cumulative scores plus all possible scores. The URL hyperlinks I included take you to the accompanying web pages for more complete instructions, explanations, examples, and corresponding templates you can use or adapt to meet your requirements.

This novel system may seem complicated, confusing, and labor-intensive at first, but it becomes easy and quick to use after a few tries. I believe this system can serve you and your students well. To see, just follow the directions below. You can even try it using grades you already have by skipping the marked ** steps. You will obtain clear results plus options you probably did not have before.
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** Creating and grading regular exams
First exam
1.** Make up the first exam**

If students did not know the number of points possible for each question, adjust the possible points for answers that were generally much better or much worse than you should have expected (e.g., student answers show I gave a confusing presentation). If students knew the number of points possible for each question, adjust the answers you accept for questions where answers were generally much better or much worse than you should have expected (e.g., student answers show I gave a confusing presentation).

(Grade Conversion Table Template)

I always have students who misinterpret the bar graph at first because they are accustomed to receiving their grades as percentages out of 100. My students also initially resist looking up their letter and numerical grades on the grade conversion table for the same reason. My solution is to persist by (a) repeating my explanation and (b) using the graph and table patiently and consistently with every student who wants help with knowing and understanding his or her grade.

At this point, I always have students who become confused because they are accustomed to determining their course average by adding grades and dividing that sum by the number of tests. My solution is to persist by (a) repeating that the student need only add SCORES, find the sum on the table, and see the letter and numerical GRADES next to that score and (b) going through the procedure with each student who wants help with knowing and understanding his or her grade. After this, students understand and appreciate the system’s simplicity and clarity, and they rarely seek assistance with it.

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The difference between the student’s point total and the points needed to achieve the desired exam average is the total points the student must earn on remaining exams.

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In developing, modifying, and using this system of practical methods for addressing diverse issues with exams and other grading, I now believe it has become a coherent, efficient, and effective set of procedures, interactive tables and graphs that are applicable to many courses. It permits me to make justifiable decisions consistently. I follow the steps starting from the first stages in developing exams and other evaluation methods through the last step in determining final grades. The system permits reasonable adjustments and flexibility when unusual or unpredicted circumstances occur during a course. Students quickly find the system to be fair, simple, clear, and useful once they adapt to some of the system’s novel features. Main ones are my using exams of different weights, grading based on points rather than percents, adding points rather than calculation of averages, and using grade conversion tables to find the exact grade that is equivalent to the number of points earned. Improvements to this system could include automating my spreadsheet grade book templates so they create grade distribution graphs and convert the final point totals into final numerical grades and final letter grades. Currently, I do these two procedures by hand. The referenced web site by Richard Zach explains other possible additions and options for the EXCEL spreadsheet grade book.
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__References__

__Salisbury University Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog__ The 2016-2018
catalog is at
https://www.salisbury.edu/academics/catalog/16-18/Full-Catalog_16-18_sm.pdf.
See page 21.

or

1. Go to
http://www.salisbury.edu.

2. Search for "Catalog" to go to the "Salisbury University
Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog"

3. Search for "Grading System"

Zach, Richard, **"**Using Spreadsheets to Keep Track of Students' Grades**"** (2004) http://www.ucalgary.ca/~rzach/teaching/grades.html

(September 2004), Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary

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**Augustine G. DiGiovanna, Salisbury University (November
2004)
agdigiovanna@salisbury.edu
**© Copyright 2017, 2004 A.G. DiGiovanna, Salisbury University, Maryland. All rights
reserved.