Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Ouch, that's going to leave a mark

You know something went wrong when a professor says [paraphrased] "And now I want to talk a bit about the midterm exam. Some of you will see scores that you're not at all used to seeing, that you haven't actually seen since, oh, your 13th birthday. Your first response to getting your results should not be to drop the class; rather, it should be to blame me for being a bad teacher. This is the first time we've actually had exams in this course and it's clear that we have a lot to learn. So, if you scored less than 25%, don't freak out, please come and see me".

This little speech referred to the results of the midterm in my cell bio class [in which I was hoping for partial credit], where the mean score was 51%, with a standard deviation of 16%. So, assuming a normal distribution, that means close to 70% of all the students in the class scored between 35% and 67%. Not exactly the sort of thing MIT grad students [or any grad students, I would think] are used to, hence his mea culpa.

That distribution is pretty closely aligned with what happened on the midterm in my molecular biology class, which had a mean of 54%, with a standard deviation of 14%. But at least in that case, the low mean was [mostly] intentional -- the professors told us at the beginning of the semester that they tend to give hard exams, and the mean usually hovers around 60%. In this case, I guess they overshot a little [or undershot, as the case may be].

This is in stark contrast with one of my other classes, which is computational and hence has more of a cut-and-dried, no-matters-of-opinion-and-interpretation -- the mean on the midterm in that class was 82%.

I take all this as further confirmation of my growing suspicion that "no, really, biology is hard" ;-) If only it weren't so interesting and useful [as opposed to being interesting but not useful, at least not yet].


Blogger Son1 said...

Well, take heart in the fact that your grade in my class is going to (probably) be quite a bit better than those other ones...

5:04 PM  

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