Friday, December 15, 2006

Playing the Odds

I recently became familiar with Credit Card Roulette, in which a group goes out to eat, then everyone drops a credit card in and the server picks one at random to pay for the whole bill. Everyone else gets a free lunch/dinner/alcoholic binge. Now I'm not much of a gambling man, but I like to make things a little interesting from time to time, and UVa Law's grading system is ripe for manipulation.

For those not in the know, the only rule is that all classes must have an average grade between 3.27 and 3.33. In practice, this means that the grades tend to fall mostly at and around B+, with a few outliers on each end, like a standard bell curve. This distribution is not required, however, because the rule is based on the mean, not the median, of the grades.
This key fact allows for Exam Roulette.

Exam Roulette would be played as follows: Instead of distributing the grades evenly about the mean, professors would commit to giving the bottom 10% of each class a C. This would allow them to score the other 90% of exams at or above the mean. So in your standard 30-person single-section class, 3 people would each get a C, 15 would get a B+, and 12 would get an A-. The mean would come in at exactly 3.33. The best part? As long as every professor participates, even the people who lost once per semester would have at least a B- average, assuming four graded classes.

It's probably not too late to e-mail your professors. 90% of law students already think they're above average, so why not make it true?


TJ said...

If you lose CCR (which is an awesome game), then you're out $100. If you lose ER, say a half dozen C's over 3 years, you're out 80k per year, a signing bonus and you work in Kansas City (the Kansas side).

Other than that. I would support a wider curve though. It's hard to study when you know your grade will be a A, A-, B+, or B, all grades I was totally happy with in undergrad.

Fletcher Reede said...

True, although the odds are pretty high against losing multiple times. Although in retrospect, maybe it should only be applied in 1L classes, where you're all in class together. That should help spread the Cs around.