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Grade Adjustments for Controversial Economics Exam

A second year Economics exam in Microeconomic Theory, sat on 18th January, incited anger among students who launched formal complaints to their department. As soon as the exam finished, a barrage of comments were published on an unofficial Facebook group, with several receiving over a hundred likes. One student speculated that 60-70% of the year believed that they had failed, with many concerned that “some of the content was new” and others arguing that it was considerably more difficult than past-paper material and practice questions. One student claimed, “lectures and tutorials were irrelevant”. Demands were made through the course reps for either the moderation of marks or for the opportunity to resit a revised exam script for the module.

Results issued on 10th February were accompanied by an official statement from the head of school, Professor Chris Milner. The response was in line with the University’s policy on the “normalisation” of marks, which gives autonomy to individual schools: “Any adjustment of module marks…should only be made where inconsistencies are believed to result from a flaw in some element of the assessment, for example the inappropriate formulation of a question.”

Professor Milner’s statement acknowledged the efforts of students to actively pursue the alteration of grades: “Students were concerned that some of the questions were more challenging than those asked in previous years. This was recognised by the examiners who marked these (and the other) questions according to their level of difficulty.” As a result, the “overall mean was almost identical to previous years”.

Students are mostly pleased with the department’s solution. One student, who prefers to remain anonymous, commented: “I got 60, which I definitely didn’t get in the exam, but deserved.” The mean grade remains the same as previous years, but the number of students who allegedly failed has tripled from eight to twenty-four. While there is a consensus that results are somewhat polarised, one student commented that “you can’t expect them to give high grades to everyone”.

Education Officer, Elizabeth ‘Egg’ Goddard, advises any group of students facing the same problems to always “go to their course reps”.

Oscar Williams

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One Comment
  • SU Councillor
    31 March 2012 at 13:15
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    How does the department then know what students actually achieved in the module (assuming that it were to be assessed fairly)? You can only do so much with statistical tricks…

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