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Grade Distribution 2016-2017, 2

A source sent us the official registrar’s report (pdf) on the distribution of grades in 2016-2017. (Relevant background: data for 2008-2009 and 2013-2014, recent Record coverage, and prior EphBlog discussion.) Day 2.


1) Grade inflation is still a problem. The average grade at Williams in 2008-2009 was 3.39. It was 3.41 in 2013-2014. Last year, it was 3.45. So, in the last 8 years, the average has increased by 0.06. In the last 3 years, by 0.04. If the average grade continues to increase at the rate of about 0.01 per year, then, by 2072-2073, we will reach Nirvana! The average GPA at Williams will be 4.0.

2) Grade inflation may be decreasing in severity, perhaps as a natural result of bumping up against the 4.0 ceiling. The average GPA in 2015-2016 was also 3.45. The faculty seem concerned about the problem. Perhaps things are getting under control?

3) Which faculty are most concerned about the problem of grade inflation? My prior (prejudice?) would be that older (male?) faculty are more concerned. This Record article from 1998 has some interesting background.

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#1 Comment By anonymous On August 29, 2017 @ 7:30 am

Aren’t grades tools of oppression, based on a myth of objectivity, and used to perpetuate inequality?

#2 Comment By Alum-Anon On August 30, 2017 @ 3:50 pm

In response to point 1, should grade inflation be more properly considered an institutional problem, or more broadly as a societal problem?

I recall a Williams graduation in which the valedictorian speaker was a transfer student. It was pointed out to me on a number of occasions that one of the exchange programs (with a Very Prominent University that shall remain nameless here) tended to be highly beneficial for the participants’ GPAs.

In response to point 2, this is very likely the impact of ‘diminishing increases’ as the upper bound is approached.

I will note, however, that Williams retained an upper bound of 4.33 (an A+ grade) which was not obtainable at some public universities which at the time limited themselves to letter grades only, without modifiers. Hypothetically one could have graduated Williams with a GPA in excess of 4.00, whereas the best one could possibly do at the corresponding public institution was a solid 4.00.

#3 Comment By Williams Alum On August 30, 2017 @ 4:15 pm

Which graduation had a transfer as valedictorian?