Expecting better grades than you get

I just gave back the first exam in my 200-seat intro class. 194 exams, median score 65 out of 100, with the median score almost exactly on the B-/C+ line. Which is all pretty normal for this class.

But since I have the “iClicker” for class polls, I asked the class on the day before the exam what grade they thought they’d get on the exam. The results:

Expected vs real exam 1

So 30% thought they’d get an A, and 52% a B, so 82% thought they’d get an A or a B. The real number is about 50%. And only 2% thought they’d get a D or fail, whereas the real number is over 30%.

So now I’m curious: How much of the error is that they didn’t know how hard a college curve might be (many are frosh, and might think the average grade will be more like a B+), and how much is just the tendency for people who aren’t getting it to not know they’re not getting it?

My guess is that the errors among the D & Fail students is more the latter, and the errors among the B and C students is more the former, but I don’t know. I wish I’d asked them about their curve expectations ahead of time as well.

Perhaps I’ll dig through the actual individual student data and get some insight.

23. September 2008 by Ron
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