41. Grading FAQ

41.1. When will the final grades be announced?

About a week after the final exam, give or take a few days. The grades for a course are usually calculated and submitted for review no later than three days after the course’s final exam. After the grades are reviewed, they are submitted to the registrar, who will then inform you of your grade for the course.

We will email you as soon as your marks are ready and available to be seen. Email asking when the marks will be ready is usually ignored.

41.2. Can I see my final exam?

Yes. Extra office hours sometime after the final exam will be announced. You are strongly encouraged to review your final exam to check that there were no marking mistakes.

You are not allowed to take your final exam. We are required to hold onto it for at least a year.

41.3. How is my final numeric score calculated?

For every assessed activity in the course (see your course marking scheme), you are given a numeric mark. When all your marks are entered into the gradebook, a final numeric grade is calculated using the weights given in the course marking scheme.

For example, suppose your course has this marking scheme:

10% Labs

30% Assignments

15% Midterm

45% Final

And suppose that you earn these marks for each activity:

Labs: 15/20

Assignments: 55/65

Midterm: 24/30

Final: 54/60

To calculate your final grade, your numeric marks are first converted to percentages (rounded in the usual way):

Labs: 15/20 = 75%

Assignments: 55/65 = 85%

Midterm: 24/30 = 80%

Final: 54/60 = 90%

Then your final percentage score is calculated as a weighted average of your activity scores where the weights are the percentages from the marking scheme:

Final Grade = .10 * 75 + 0.30 * 85 + 0.15 * 80 + 0.45 * 90

So the final grade is 85.5%.

41.4. How is my final letter grade calculated?

Generally, teachers set ranges that correspond to letter grades. However, there are no standard letter grade ranges at SFU: ranges differ from teacher to teacher and even course to course.

Here’s one sample set of ranges (which is not necessarily the range used in your course!!):

95% A+

90% A

85% A-

80% B+

75% B

70% B-

65% C+

60% C

55% C-

50% D

<50% F

So if your final numeric score is 85.5%, then your final letter grade would be an A- using these ranges. Again, this is only example of letter grade ranges, and may not be the ones actually used by your course.

A letter grade of N is assigned in cases where your work is somehow incomplete, e.g. you don’t write the final exam.

41.5. Does the GradeBook show the mark used to calculate my final grade?

Sometimes. The gradebook does not make it easy to do things like round-up everyone’s marks, or add 2% to everyone’s marks. Those sort of operations are done in a spreadsheet, and the adjusted marks are not usually posted back to the GradeBook.

41.6. How might my final mark be adjusted?

The exact details will vary from teacher to teacher. Some common adjustments, which may or may not be used in your course, are as follow:

  • Round fractional marks upwards.
  • Lower the “out of” mark for an exam. For example, if a midterm exam is out of 45 and the highest mark on it was 40, then a teacher might make the midterm out of 40.
  • Add a small bonus to everyone’s mark in cases where a course was deemed difficult.

Again, these are just examples of possible adjustments that a teacher may do.

41.7. Are grades curved?

First, lets make sure we agree on what “curved” means. Grading on a curve traditionally means that a pre-set number of letter grades are chosen before the course. For instance, before the start of a course graded on a curve the teacher might decide that there will be 3 A+s, 5 As, 10 A-s, 15 B+s, 10 B-s, etc. The good thing about this approach is that the three people with the highest grade in the course — no matter their exact percentage score — will get an A+. However, the 4th person will only get an A, even if they are within 0.0001 of the third person.

This course is not graded on such a curve — there is no pre-set number of letter grades that will be given out. It is possible (although extremely unlikely!) that everyone in the course gets an A+, or everyone gets an F.

In large courses, it is often the case that the marks naturally form a bell curve shape, with a few people getting very high marks, a few very low marks, and most getting average marks in the middle.

41.8. What does “a passing grade on the weighted average of the exams” mean?

Some CS courses contain the following rule in their marking scheme:

Students must attain an overall passing grade on the weighted average of exams in the course in order to obtain a clear pass (C- or better).

Essentially, this means that if you don’t do well enough on the exams, then your mark might be adjusted downwards to a D.

Suppose, as an example, you earn the following marks in a course:

5% Assignment 1: 8/10

5% Assignment 2: 33/42

5% Assignment 3: 20/20

20% Midterm: 28/31

15% Project: 45/100

50% Final: 60/70

The midterm and final are considered exams, and the weighted average of exams (wae) is calculated as follows:

28/31 * 20/(20+50) + 60/70 * 50/(20+50)

So in this example the weighted average of the exams is 87%.

It is up to the instructor to decide what exactly counts as a “passing grade”; they might decide that a wae greater than 0.5 is a passing grade, or they might choose some other criterion.

If your wae value is not passing, then the highest mark you can get in the course is a D. This is still a passing grade, but it is not considered to be a clear pass. A D might not be good enough to let you automatically enrol into some future CS courses, i.e. you may have to ask permission of the instructor.

41.9. Can you please give me a higher mark?

First, thanks for saying “please”: some students are not so polite when they ask for a higher grade!

Second, willingness to beg won’t get you a higher mark. Your mark is based on the work you do in the course and calculated according to the marking scheme.

Generally, the only reason we’ll change a mark is to fix an error, such as an incorrectly recorded assignment mark. If you are worried that an error was made in how your mark was calculated, then contact your instructor immediately.

We will not change your mark for the following sorts of reasons (all of which are real reasons students in the past have given for deserving a higher mark):

  • “If you don’t give me a higher grade I will lose my scholarship!”
  • “I worked hard!”
  • “Okay, I didn’t work that hard, but if I had I would have gotten a much higher grade. Therefore I deserve a higher grade.”
  • “I always get higher marks than this!”
  • “The course was too hard compared to course X where I got a high grade, and so you should give me a high mark like I got in course X.”
  • “I know I should have worked harder and come to get help from you or the TA earlier in the course. But I didn’t, and now that the course is over you should just give a higher mark.”
  • “The marking scheme was unfair to me, and you should change it so it gives me a higher mark.”