Grading and Evaluation System ~ Dr. Leo Harvill

 August 2000 

 The grading system used at the Quillen COM has been reasonably stable since the first class entered the school in August 1978.

  Most of the courses offered during the first two years of the curriculum have been graded with a letter grading system (A, B, C, D, F with no plus or minus signs) with the exception of a few courses graded with a Pass/D/Fail grading system. There have been a few changes in the grading of individual courses from letter grades to Pass/Fail or vice versa in the first two years of the curriculum over the past 22 years.

  The required clerkships in the third and fourth years of the curriculum have always used the letter grading system mentioned above while all elective clerkships have used the Pass/Fail grading system mentioned above.

  The A, B, C and Pass grades have always been passing grades, the D grade indicates that remediation is needed to change the course grade from a D to a mandatory C without retaking the entire course. The F and Fail grades have always been failing grades that require retaking the entire course.

  There has never been a prescribed set of percentage grades associated with the letter or P/F grading systems although many courses have utilized the following scale: A = 90 to 100%, B 80 to 89%, C = 70 to 79%.

  The current grading system can probably be conceived of as a criterion referenced system as opposed to one based on norms (comparison of students with others in their class), improvement, effort, etc.

  There have been several discussions of other possible grading systems in the previous Curriculum Committee and the current Medical Student Education Committee over the history of the school but no major changes have been made in the grading system.

  In addition to the assignment of final grades for all courses and clerkships, there have been evaluation forms for course and clerkship directors to complete concerning each student at the end of each course and clerkship. Although it was intended that all course directors for courses in the first two years of the curriculum complete these evaluation forms, this practice has not been universal for all courses.

  The evaluation form used for all required clerkships was the same for all clerkships and had not been modified until two or three years ago. Family Medicine developed a new, criterion‑based form and has been using it for several years. New evaluation forms for each required clerkship incorporating the reporting of the completion of Commencement Objectives were recently approved by the Medical Student Education Committee and will be used during the 2000‑01 academic year.

  Many courses and clerkships utilize NBME Subject Examinations as a part of the evaluation system and use the scores from these examinations in determining course and clerkship grades.

  Students must pass both Steps 1 and 2 of the USMLE Examinations in order to graduate.

  The processes of evaluation and grading of students are obviously related but really represent two processes. Students can be evaluated without assigning grades; students should not be assigned grades without some evaluation of their knowledge, skills, abilities or attitudes beforehand. Why are students evaluated? Evaluations are value judgements about their knowledge, skills, abilities or attitudes that hopefully provide valuable information for the students, the faculty, and others external to the educational process. They are completed for both formative and summative purposes. The purpose of grading systems is to provide a systematic and formal procedure for transmitting value judgements made by faculty members to the students and to others most directly concerned with their development and welfare and/or the welfare of society. These value judgements provide a basis for making important decisions which are faced in the normal course of individuals' development in our society. A grading system is, in effect, a communication system.

Grading systems can be based on a number of frames of reference: 1) absolute standards, 2) growth or improvement, 3) achievement with respect to the student's ability, 4) achievement with respect to the class.

  Grading systems can also be based on differing numbers of grade symbols: 1) two‑category systems (Pass/Fail, Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, Meets Standard/Fails to Meet Standard, etc.), 2) three‑category systems (Honors/Pass/Fail, Pass/Needs Remediation/Fail, etc.), 4) four‑category systems (A/B/C/F, Honors/High Pass/Pass/Fail, Honors/Pass/Needs Remediation/Fail, etc.), 5) five‑category systems (A/B/C/D/F, Honors/High Pass/Pass/Needs Remediation/Fail, etc.), 6) more than five category systems (A/B/C/D/F with plus and minus signs, stanines (numbers ranging from one to nine), percentage grades.

  Evaluations of students can be accomplished without using any grading system. In effect, when decisions are made concerning whether or not students may continue in the curriculum a two‑category grading system is in place (i. e., Pass/Fail, Meets Standard/Fails to Meet Standard). Written evaluations of students which provide detailed information about their strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for improvement accompanied by a verbal discussion with a faculty member can be a powerful evaluation system with no grades involved.

  A continuum of evaluation/grading systems from many categories to no categories might look like this:

1)              Numerical or percentage grades (e.g., 93% final grade in Microbiology) with or without calculation of grade point averages (GPA)

2)              Letter grades with plus and minus signs with or without calculation of GPA

3)              Letter grades (A/B/C/D/F) with or without calculation of GPA

4)              Honors/Pass/Fail with or without calculation of GPA

5)              Pass/Fail without calculation of GPA

6)              Narrative evaluations




Last modified on January 09, 2008