Course GPAs

26 10 2008

So, in my own personal experience at Cornell, I’ve had a number of classes that I’ve done well in, and a number of courses that proverbially bent me over and made me beg for sweet, sweet mercy. My own coursework bridges CALS and the College of Engineering, so personally I’ve often wondered about the average GPAs with regards to my own in a course, or major, or college. I’m not the best at differential equation by a long shot (A little part of me dies every time I see the C- on my transcript), but I’m rather addicted to stats.

Luckily for my stats cravings, course GPAs are readily accessible online. A resolution passed in the mid 1990s allowed for the readily accessible publications of grade reports in order to get an idea of the average GPA in a given class :

http://registrar.sas.cornell.edu/Student/mediangradesA.html

http://registrar.sas.cornell.edu/Grades/MedianGradeFA07.pdf

http://registrar.sas.cornell.edu/Grades/MedianGradeSP07.pdf

Sadly, the website has no information for the past school year- rather surprising and unfortunate for the curious souls who want to know the average grades for their course in the past year. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any worthwhile informmation to be gleaned from these reports.

On a whim, I decided to search out the course with the lowest average in the two above pdfs (grades back to 1997 can be accessed from the main website). The spring 2007 reveals two C+’s that tie fro the lowest course average:  MATH 191, the Calc I for engineers, had 41 students and an average of a C+, which is low even for our friends in the engineering school, and the second is HD 260, “Intro to Personality”, which had 57 registered students. It was cross-listed with the 141-student PSYCH 275, which averaged a B.

The fall list doesn’t even have any C+’s. Instead, the lowest grade is a B-, which was the average in the Bio G 101 (intro bio intended for weeding out some of the wanna-be pre-med’s), and M&AE 325, a course in “Analysis of Mechanics and Aerospace”, which sounds as difficult as it probably is. Physics 213, the second of the engineering physics courses, also pulled a B- average for its 401 students. Ironically, the sequence in my major is 207-208-214, not that it matters much anyway because my physics grade averages to a B-. I have a hair above a 3.0 as my cumulative GPA, and I’m not too proud to admit that. But then, my advisor has said the average GPA for the major is 3.1 at the end of sophomore year, so that adds a meager consolation to my efforts as a student.

Now, finding averages for the schools…not as easy. U.S. News and World Report says that the University average is about 3.4….too bad I can’t copy that here because I would have to buy access. I’ve heard in passing that grades for ILR and Hotel are the highest on average, at 3.8 and 3.7 respectively. Engineering is often reported as the lowest, ranging between 2.8 and 3.1 (the 3.1 stems from a 1996 report on university academics, and the 2.8 is a more recent figure). The rest are virtually shots in the dark between that range.

I think the best part about trying to find this information was a college confidential thread about aem transfer gpas, where they then proceed to whine about the CALS general biology requirement [1]. I s’pose I’m a little jaded from science and math, but really now, suck it up.  Bio G 109 and 110 aren’t [weren’t] even that hard, just tedious.

In conclusion, this entry has done nothing for my esteem but hopefully sheds a little light onto some of the grades at Cornell. I can look at the averages and realize I’m a below average student in almost all regards, which may doom my chances of grad school in my field. On the bright side, I’m having by far my most successful semester ever at Cornell right now, thanks to all my core reqs being done and out of the way, so I can focus on courses I want to take, like an advanced stats class.

Yes, I’m an information whore.

[1]http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/transfer-students/498716-cornell-transfer-aem-average-gpa-acceptance-rate.html


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5 responses

26 10 2008
N

I am pretty confident that average GPA in ILR is lower than a 3.7 or a 3.8. In order to qualify for an honors thesis I had to be in the top twenty percent of my class — and I only had a 3.75 at the time.

29 10 2008
Patricia

I have also heard that the average ILR GPA is closer to a 3.4 or 3.5. Love the blog, and keep up the good work!

23 12 2013
Chikiliquatre

Ilr average is a high 3.4

2 11 2008
lordjuppiter

Sorry to hear that you’re a little down on yourself about your GPA, but at the same time, I’m glad things are looking up this semester. I want to throw in my two cents, though, and it may or may not make you feel better. Heh, I can hope for the former…

I don’t know where the numbers for average college or major GPAs have come from, but the information on the Median Grade Reports can be a little misleading. Median values are different from average values — the median value is just the middle value in a range (so if the range is xxyyyzzabcd, the median is z). Reporting the median instead of the average is supposed to avoid some of problems you encounter with outlier/extreme values (eg, an F in a class of A’s and B’s) or other funny grade distribution patterns (an unusually high concentration of A’s, for example, in a class where most people should be around B-). This approach has it’s own problems, though. In the ranges ABBBCCCCC, AAAACCCCD, and ACCCCCCDD, the median value is C. Likewise, in the range AAAAACDDD, the median value is A. So it can still be very misleading. A particular median grade can describe a wide range of scenarios and isn’t necessarily a good indicator about how well the class did on the whole or how difficult a class is. It just happens to be a relatively static value that isn’t as subject to minute changes as an average score.

So basically, people can feel free to use the value to gauge their performance, but should realize that it’s not really that great a benchmark (it’s just the only one we have). Where anyone falls in relation to that number, though, should be no reason for someone to feel inferior or (and probably especially) superior to his/her peers.

Hopefully that helps some people. Keep up the good work!

13 11 2008
sospokesaroj

I think I only survived Cornell because of the Median Grade Reports…I can’t imagine them not being there.

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