Reflections on Exam 2


If you have a 0 for either test on SIS, then I don’t have your test answers. You may make up the test on Monday while we walk through test answers.


This exam was harder than the last. Since it covered more material, there were 19 more questions (49 questions > 68 questions, a 39% question). The exam took most people the full 90 minutes (reflecting the reality of a college exam and your upcoming ACT). I raised the bar. You all raised the class average by 10 points.

We failed better, but we haven’t crossed the finish line yet! As you know, aspects of my class approximate a college course. (To let you self-correct as you transition, I’ve been offering redemption points; more on that below). Since college lectures are wont to grade on a curve, I’ve decided to do the same for your assessments (both this exam and, retroactively, the first).

Curves adjust your grade relative to those of your peers. Suppose everyone, including the best student, bombs a test. Then one or more of the following probably occurred:

  • The material was poorly taught.
  • The test was unfair (e.g. on untaught material).
  • The test’s difficulty poorly matched students’ skill level.

To account for such inequities, professors adjust grades to match a distribution they would have preferred. The top 10% of students might be awarded an A, the next 15% a B, and so on.


My own curve was designed around two parameters: i) the class average would equal 75% (which is the mean of a normal distribution from F (50%) to A (100%)) and ii) the lowest scorer would earn a 60%. Here is my equation:

It’s not as complicated as it appears prima facie (i.e. at first blush)!

And here are the variable definitions:

  • x = your raw score (i.e. number of correct answers / total number of questions)
  • x0 = the average of raw scores =
    • 0.6492214533 for the second exam
    • 0.5603498542 for the first exam
  • y0 = desired class average = .75
  • (y1 – y0 / x1 – x0) = coefficient required to move the lowest score to .60 =
    • 0.8397094431 on the second exam
    • 0.8690878378 on the first exam
  • f(x) = your curved grade divided by 100 (so if you earned an 87, this would equal .87)

You can find your raw score by plugging these numbers and your curved grade into the formula above. There are a few features of this curve worth noting:

  • It will not lower anyone’s grade.
  • Low scorers benefit more. A raw score of 49% becomes a curved score of 61%—a 12 point jump—whereas a raw score of 91% only jumps 6 points to 97% (half the low scorer’s bump).
  • Improvements between the first and second test are more significant than they appear. Suppose a student earned a 69% on the first exam and a 70% on the second. Ostensibly, she improved by 1 point only. That 1 point, however, actually reflects relative rank. The class scored an average of 9 points higher (on a harder test). To maintain her relative rank, she must have likewise grown significantly. Had she stagnated, as the 1 point differential makes it appear, then her rank (and hence curved score) would have fallen compared to her peers.
redemption points

You can redeem a significant portion of missed work points by turning in work late. During my first notebook check, I checked for:

  • Notes on everything up to that point
    • e.g. grammar rules, rhetorical devices, persuasion (premises, ethos, etc), in-class exercises such as putting Paine’s Liberty or Death into your own words and breaking down the premises in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence
  • Assignments which demonstrate bona fide effort (i.e. multiple paragraphs of serious work), e.g.
    • Rhetorical analysis of Thomas Paine’s The Crisis
    • Objective summary of Abigail Adams’s Remember the Ladies
    • Objective summary George Washington’s Farewell Address

I’ll collect notebooks again on Monday. This time, I will look for i) notes since the last notebook check, ii) your rhetorical analysis of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and iii) your rhetorical analysis of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. If I find that you made up missing work, I’ll award redemption points.

Many of you also missed points for IXL skill mastery. I last checked this Friday and awarded full redemption points for late work (20 work points per week; 10 IXL assignments; 2 points for each skill with over 80 Smart Points, even though I asked for 90…Proverbs 16:32). For the list of IXL assignments to make up, scroll down to earlier posts.

To view your progress on IXL skills, go to the Language Arts tab at the top and then click Grade or Topic. To make your life easier in the future, I’ll assign skills from only one grade or topic per week.

Lastly, you had work on It includes all vocabulary lists posted on the Materials page. I’ll check completion of that sometime in the future.

Want to grow more quickly?

I was an unexceptional student for most of my academic career. When I decided to change that, I sought out systems for active learning. I signed up for word-of-the-day emails from dictionaries and news blasts from mainstream newspapers. If you’re interested in doing the same, I’d recommend emails from’s Word of the Day and Daily Bit of News (a news aggregator that summarizes each day’s top stories). I’m subscribed to these and half a dozen others—you’re never too old to learn!

If you’d like this extra work to count for your grade, consider doing IXL or practice in your spare time. You’ll do better on our exams and, if you’re lucky, finish some work before I assign it. For, I recommend the word lists on my Materials page.


Phew, this was a long post. Please let me know if you have any questions by contacting me at or through Remind. Can’t wait to learn again with y’all on Monday!