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Studying in the US: High Marks Just for Trying?

We continue our discussion of college grades in part 25 of our Foreign Student Series. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

This week in our Foreign Student Series, we continue our discussion about grades.

Would you want a doctor who got high marks in medical school just for trying really, really hard? Apparently many college students would have no problem with that. They believe students are owed a good grade simply because they put a lot of effort into a class. Or at least that is what they told researchers last year at the University of California, Irvine.

The researchers asked more than eight hundred undergraduates if they agreed or disagreed with some statements. For example: "If I have completed most of the reading for a class, I deserve a B in that course." And: "A professor should not be annoyed with me if I receive an important call during class."

Just sixteen percent thought it was OK to take that phone call. But sixty-six percent agreed that a professor should consider effort and not just the quality of a student's work when deciding grades. And forty percent thought they should get a B, the second highest mark, just because they did most of the reading for class.

The findings appeared in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The students were ages eighteen to twenty-five.

Some experts are not surprised that students often see no difference between effort and results. Social critics like to say that in children's activities these days, everyone gets an award just for trying, so no one will feel rejected. Or so it may seem.

Yet competition to get into the best colleges is fiercer than ever. Students may worry that low grades will keep them out of graduate school or a good job.

And there may be another explanation: pressure from parents to get a good return on the family's investment. These days, college can cost more than a house.

A former teaching assistant recently wrote to the New York Times about his experience with grade expectations. He would try to explain it this way when students asked for a top grade just for studying hard in chemistry class:

What if a baseball player came to spring training and worked harder than all the others, but still could not play well. Would the team accept him anyway, just because he tried so hard?

The students would say no. But most of them would still ask for an A.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Tell us what you think about grades, and read what others have to say, at Click on Foreign Student Series. I'm Steve Ember.