October 04, 2007

How MIT Grading Works

If you've researched MIT at all, know anything about it, or have even heard of it, you know that it's notorious for being very difficult. One of the indicators of difficulty are test grades. If the grades are low, the test was hard, ergo the school is difficult. I'm using this premise as justification for what I'm about to post:

Yesterday was our first 3.091 exam (3.091 = Solid-State Chemistry). Chemistry, for me, is not that bad. If I do the reading (which I do) and watch the lectures (which I do sometimes) and do the PSETS (yep, do those) then it's fairly easy to grasp all of the concepts and know how to do everything. That's why I went into yesterday's test fairly confident. We had a study party beforehand, we all made aid sheets (we got an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper, front and back, filled with anything we wanted (including test answers from previous years if we so desired)). My aid sheet was fairly beautiful, and as such I've decided to share it with you:


See! Pretty!

So, about the title of this post (How MIT Grading Works). . . here's how MIT grading works. You go into a test knowing everything, you answer all the questions and feel like you grasped all the concepts. The next day you get your test back and they provide you with nifty little breakdowns with how you did on each question of the test. Here's my first section:

Wow, a 19/22! I'm off to a good start, let's hope I can keep this up. This positive outlook is reinforced by the fact that the only reason I lost points was because I miscopied a number from the problem (222) into my solution (22). Yep, the mistake was that dumb. I should be fine on the rest of the test! Next score:

SWEET! God, I'm good, I may become a chemistry professor when I grow up. Maybe I could start tutoring kids . . .

Let's keep the good times rolling!


Ok, not good. That's alright, it's only 9 points, I'm still sitting in fairly good shape for a good overall score. Let's just look at this next grade and

. . . . uh oh. Um. This is beginning to look really really really bad. Maybe the next one is somehow miraculously a 200%!

Um, not quite. Not bad, but not great.

So, how does MIT grading work? Basically, it takes tests written by people who know what they are doing, takes a ton of points off for not writing the answer in the exact form the grader is looking for (e-mail me about this, I'll rant about it, I deserve 9 more points) and then says "Congrats! You suck!" My grand total was

which (YES!) is passing. Remember, MIT is pass/no record for first semester, so that 65% is a P. Ps are good. Oh, class average -- 69% So, although I sucked, I was just barely below class average. And, with the 9 points I deserve, I'd be above average!

Overall, I'm pretty ok with all of this. I was prepared, I know exactly how to solve all of the problems, and I feel like I know the material enough to do well on subsequent material that builds off of it. Now, with no homework due tomorrow, I plan on watching the following tonight:

Plan 9 from Outer Space
Minority Report
Blades of Glory

It'll be a good night.