Some time ago I began to see a strange shift in the distribution of exam marks. So, one recent year, I examined the exam marks for a total of seven modules in related subjects. All the modules were quantitative and there were six separate lecturers involved. The modules covered second, third and fourth years of a degree programme. Now that enough time has passed, I think it is safe enough to show some of the data.
The high percentage of failed marks is, of course, pretty depressing but I find a couple of other aspects of the data fascinating.
First is the large number of marks under 30%. About one-third of scripts earned marks below this value, suggesting in my mind that many students simply hadn’t prepared sufficiently well. The fact that just over 13% of students got under 20% is just as shocking. How can you get less than 20% if you make any sort of genuine effort?
Second is the disappearance of the 2.1 grade. Less than 5% of scripts scored in this range. On the other hand, about 14% of scripts reached the first class honours level.
I have found that this type of distribution has persisted over the intervening years. Very large numbers of students are failing with very low marks, a substantial number are scoring exceptionally highly (marks in the 80s and even 90s are no longer very remarkable) and there seems to be a disappearing centre.
I wonder if anyone else has seen this kind of effect?