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Inflated GPAs: When test scores and grades collide

Posted by Vicki Wood on Oct 30, 2014 1:19:05 PM

On the day SAT scores are released,Inflated-1 I wait for the one phone call that never fails: that from a distraught parent who cannot understand why her daughter with a 4.5 GPA received a 1350 on the SAT. Teachers and administrators at her daughter’s school may be quick to jump on the test anxiety bandwagon, even though the girl clearly does well on her classroom tests given her high GPA. In situations like this, however, the most likely culprit is grade inflation.

I come from a public school background, where there was some pressure to pass all students (okay, a lot of pressure. In 1999, I warned administrators that a student in my classroom was performing two grade levels behind, but was told that I was forbidden to hold him back without parental request). If this pressure of giving passing ‘D’ grades started creating inflated GPAs back then, how is the system affected today when high school teachers are told that B’s and C’s can ruin a student’s chance at top colleges? You can draw your own conclusion: in a recent SAT course in which I taught 15 students, every one of them had a 3.25 or higher. Over half of them had a 4.0 or higher.  

Some grade inflation occurs from weighted classes, which colleges may or may not weight themselves. It can also occur from elective courses, like art, phys ed, and music (colleges usually remove these courses when determining a GPA for core classes). But much of grade inflation occurs when students are assigned higher grades than they would have earned on the traditional GPA scale, so that a school’s students seem more competitive to prospective colleges.  

Most of today’s parents are unaware of this harmful trend. When they were in high school, grade inflation was not as rampant. If they hear that their son has a 4.2 GPA, they assume he’s in the top 5% of his class and that the SAT and ACT should be easy tasks. After all, the valedictorian with the 4.0 from their high school pulled in a 2250 SAT and 34 ACT. But when their high-GPA child comes home with sub-par standardized test scores, the gig is up, for the unsuspecting parents at least. Admissions officers, on the other hand, know the score. They keep tabs on high schools and they are well aware of which ones blow up grades and which ones do not.

So how can you tell if your GPA has been subject to grade inflation? There is no sure-fire way to know, but you can get a sense of whether it has occurred by looking at where students at your high school from your current class and from the past few years are being accepted to college. If your classmates all have 4.0s or higher but are only being accepted to less selective regional schools, there’s a good change grade inflation is present at your school. But if all those 4.0s are getting acceptance letters from highly selective schools, then grade inflation is probably not an issue. Also, ask your guidance counselor for your class rank. If he or she says the school does not compute class rank, this should be your first warning flag. Admissions officers often use class rank to determine whether grade inflation is occurring, so high schools who knowingly have too many 4.0 students may choose not to compute class rank. If you are provided with a rank, turn it into a percentage. For example, if your rank is 50th out of 200 students, you are in the top 25% of your class (50/200 = 0.25 or class rank/total number of students = percentage). This means that your GPA puts you in the 75th percentile because it is higher than 75% of the student GPAs in your class (but lower than 25% of your class). Does your class rank seem to correlate with your GPA? If you are ranked in the 50th percentile but your GPA is 3.5 or higher, there is probably some grade inflation. In an ideal world (and in the world of the past), only the top 10% of students received A’s.

If you find that your grade is inflated, you may realize that you (and your parents) have unrealistic expectations for your ACT and SAT scores. To determine a more reasonable target score, return to your class rank and percentile and compare it to the SAT percentiles and ACT percentiles. If you’re in the top 25% at your high school, a corresponding SAT score is 1720 (75th percentile) and an ACT score is 24 (74th percentile). While this is not a guaranteed way to determine your potential on these standardized tests, it’s likely to be more reliable than an inflated GPA. Be sure to share this information with your parents, whose understanding of GPA is likely outdated in today’s inflated world.

Photo: "Balloons against the grey, great sky!" couresty of Renato Ganoza.

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Topics: Admissions, SAT Prep, SAT Tip of the Week

SAT Word of the Day- Effervescent

Posted by PowerScore Test Preparation on Oct 30, 2014 11:00:00 AM


Effervescent

(adj.) bubbling or vivacious, lively

(pronounced "eh-fur-VESS-unt")  

  

sample2

Example Sentences:

  • The soda was so effervescent it nearly brimmed over the top of the glass.
  • Angelina's effervescent personality made her a joy to be around.

Create your own sentence and post it below. 


 


 

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Topics: SAT Word of the Day

SAT Word of the Day- Ambiguous

Posted by PowerScore Test Preparation on Oct 29, 2014 11:00:00 AM


Ambiguous

(adj.) unclear

(pronounced "am-BIG-you-us")  

  

unclear

Example Sentences:

  • The movie's ending was ambiguousPercy couldn't tell if the hero had defeated the villain, or vice versa.
  • "Poets often make their work intentionally ambiguous," said my English teacher, "because they want to leave its meaning open to your own personal interpretations."

Create your own sentence and post it below. 


 


 

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Topics: SAT Word of the Day

SAT Word of the Day- Embroil

Posted by PowerScore Test Preparation on Oct 28, 2014 11:00:00 AM


Embroil

(v.) to bring into conflict or throw into confusion

(pronounced "em-BROIL")  

  

Conflict

Example Sentences:

  • Although Katy hated fighting, after Max insulted her sister Katy had no choice but to become embroiled with him.
  • "Don't let his attitude upset you," advised Katy's sister. "It's not worth it to get embroiled in a senseless fight over silly words."

Create your own sentence and post it below. 


 


 

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Topics: SAT Word of the Day

SAT Word of the Day- Credence

Posted by PowerScore Test Preparation on Oct 27, 2014 11:00:00 AM


Credence

(n.) belief as to the truth of something

(pronounced "CREE-dunce")  

  

believe

Example Sentences:

  • Timmy didn't give much credence to Pam's claims; she was known to stretch the truth and fabricate facts.
  • The conspiracy theory gained credence as more and more evidence was discovered supporting it.

Create your own sentence and post it below. 


 


 

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Topics: SAT Word of the Day

SAT Word of the Day- Prophetic

Posted by PowerScore Test Preparation on Oct 24, 2014 11:00:00 AM

Prophetic

(adj) predictive of future events

(pronounced "pruh-FET-ik”)
 

  

SAT Word of the Day, SAT vocab, SAT flashcards

Example Sentence:

Mrs. Probert’s warnings about speeding proved to be prophetic when her son got in an accident as a result of going too fast.

 

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Topics: SAT Word of the Day

SAT Word of the Day- Charlatan

Posted by PowerScore Test Preparation on Oct 23, 2014 11:00:00 AM

Charlatan

(n) a person who falsely proclaims to have skills or knowledge

(pronounced "SHAHR-luh-tn”)
 

  

SAT Word of the Day, SAT vocab, SAT flashcards

Example Sentence:

The charlatan tricked the unsuspecting customers out of their money by pretending to be able to predict the future. 

 

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Topics: SAT Word of the Day

SAT Word of the Day- Enervated

Posted by PowerScore Test Preparation on Oct 22, 2014 11:00:00 AM


Enervated

(adj.) lacking strength or vigor

(pronounced "EN-er-vey-tid")

  

sleeping

Example Sentence:

  • After an entire weekend of cleaning, packing, and moving furniture, Enrico was enervated; he would need to rest for days in order to get his strength back.

Create your own sentence and post it below. 

 


 

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Topics: SAT Word of the Day

SAT Word of the Day- Vicarious

Posted by PowerScore Test Preparation on Oct 21, 2014 11:00:00 AM

Vicarious

(adj) experienced through another person

(pronounced “vahy-KAIR-ee-uhs”)
 

  

rollercoaster

Example Sentence:

Although Vicki had never been on a roller coaster, she experienced a vicarious thrill when Zach described the descent down the big hill.

Leave a sentence of your own in the comments!

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Topics: SAT Word of the Day

SAT Word of the Day- Sully

Posted by PowerScore Test Preparation on Oct 20, 2014 11:30:00 AM

Sully

(v.) to make dirty or impure

(pronounced “SUHL-ee”)
 

  

pta

Example Sentence:

Mrs. Sullivan’s reputation was sullied by accusations that she was embezzling money from the PTA.

Leave a sentence of your own in the comments!

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Topics: SAT Word of the Day

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