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The following is the Fall 2015 official policy on grading and the common final exam, written by the course coordinator (with no input from me). It was also in effect the last time I taught this course (Spring 2016). I don't yet know what replaces it for this quarter, now that the system has been changed.
Regarding the assignment of letter grades, in order to uniformize grading standards across the many sections of MA251 we will use the following procedure. All MA251 sections will take the same final exam, which will be graded collectively by the instructors on a scale of 90=A, 80=B, 70=C, 60=D (if necessary, a curve will be decided collectively by the instructors). For any given section, the number of A/B/C/D/F grades given in the course will roughly match the corresponding number of letter grades earned on the final exam. So if a section with 20 students gets 7 As, 6 Bs, 5 Cs, and 2 Ds on the final exam, then the instructor will be allowed to award a maximum of 7 As, 6 Bs, 5 Cs, and 2 Ds for total course grades (with a little leeway allowed for borderline cases). If the instructor only felt that 5 As were appropriate, he or she could roll the extra two As down into the B bracket, and similarly for the other letter grades.
This system removes the unfairness that can result if one instructor is a very easy grader and another instructor is a very difficult grader.
Note that the system encourages and rewards strong performances on the final; if 15 students in the same class studied hard and got As on the final, then the instructor could give 15 As for the total course grade.
As a last point, in extreme cases instructors might be allowed to deviate from this system in consultation with the lead course instructor.
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Last significant change 26 March 2016.