# Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
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### AuthorTopic: Understanding the Curve  (Read 968 times)

#### Ali

• Sr. Citizen
• Posts: 107
##### Understanding the Curve
« on: April 01, 2007, 02:09:19 PM »
I'm going to be a 1L in the fall, and am uncertain about the curve.
I need to maintain a 3.0 to keep my aid. I think of this as a B in college, but know this is not the case.

How difficult is a 3.0, and if the law school adjusts the curve (which I understand frequently happens), do I want it to get higher or lower?

Is there an F for every A?
That's downright scarey.

Thanks

#### Legal Ease

• Full Member
• Posts: 30
• I live in a barn!
##### Re: Understanding the Curve
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2007, 02:20:50 PM »
Hate to answer this as a 0L myself, but in engineering school we had an absolute curve in most of our classes.  It would vary, but usually they gave out a distribution like this:

15% A's
25% B's
35% C's
15% D's
10% F's

Those numbers might vary, but there were always a lot of B and C grades, with very few F's, and relatively few A's (and D's).

I would definitely like to know how the law curves tend to look.

#### drbuff123

• Sr. Citizen
• Posts: 125
##### Re: Understanding the Curve
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2007, 02:29:28 PM »
Basically, the average of all the grades cannot exceed the curve for each class. Therefore, if you are on a 3.0 curve the class could not have 10 A's and 10 B's because the class average would be a 3.5.

For instance, the curve at my school for legal writing is a 2.5.  Most professors will stack the curve so there are very few A's and very few F's and have most grades in the middle so that they would all average to a 2.5.  However, one professor decided that he didn't want to give anyone a bad grade so the entire class got either a B- (2.67) or a C+ (2.33).  Thankfully, it wasn't my class and I believe it hurt the students in that section more than it helped them, but it does demonstrate how you shouldn't look at a curve as "an F for every A."

Naturally, the higher the curve the better, because the grade average will be higher... that is why class rank is generally more important because it gives you a better idea of how you compare to your classmates.

Hope this helps

#### StrenuouslyObject

• Full Member
• Posts: 21
##### Re: Understanding the Curve
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2007, 05:13:52 PM »

Naturally, the higher the curve the better, because the grade average will be higher... that is why class rank is generally more important because it gives you a better idea of how you compare to your classmates.

This doesn't make much sense.

Where the curve sits does not matter because employers, scholarship givers, etc. will only care about how you are performing relative to the rest of your class.  If A has a 3.5 and is 30th in her class but B has a 3.4 and is 10th in her class, it would be a tough row to hoe to say that A has performed better than B.  In fact, B's GPA vis-a-vis A's GPA is probably due to the fact that B's school curves lower than A's.

Bottom line, GPAs are unlike LSAT scores in that they are not standardized - every school knows what a 160 LSAT means because the test is standardized and compared with every other test-taker; however, not every school (and consequently not every employer) knows what a 3.3 means unless it is put into context with the rest of your class.

#### drbuff123

• Sr. Citizen
• Posts: 125
##### Re: Understanding the Curve
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2007, 06:01:52 PM »

Naturally, the higher the curve the better, because the grade average will be higher... that is why class rank is generally more important because it gives you a better idea of how you compare to your classmates.

This doesn't make much sense.

Where the curve sits does not matter because employers, scholarship givers, etc. will only care about how you are performing relative to the rest of your class.  If A has a 3.5 and is 30th in her class but B has a 3.4 and is 10th in her class, it would be a tough row to hoe to say that A has performed better than B.  In fact, B's GPA vis-a-vis A's GPA is probably due to the fact that B's school curves lower than A's.

Hence, why I said class rank is more important than GPA.  However, if you are only taking the GPA into account, how is a higher curve not desirable?  Especially since some employers and programs have minimum GPA requirements. This is one of the major arguments why schools with low curves do their students a disservice by deflating their performance.  A student may have a 2.9 average, but be in the top 20% of their class.  Meanwhile, they are being dinged from employment opportunities that have minimum GPA requirements of a 3.0 or higher.  Additionally, while it is true that a student with a higher rank, but lower GPA than another student has performed better overall, you can't deny the fact that that 3.5 GPA looks a lot nicer on a resume compared to a 3.0.

#### GA-fan

• Guest
##### Re: Understanding the Curve
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2007, 06:54:31 PM »
High curves don't necessarily help the top of the class. If you actually do well, it's to your advantage to have a low curve so less of your classmates will "bump" into the top of the curve. It sucks, but your A means less when there are more of them given. If you want to get to the top and stay there with less work, a very low curve is better- you want less people within .05 or .10 of your GPA so you don't have to fend off those trying to move  up every semester. Not hte typical way to think of it, but something to think about if you aim for the top.

#### StrenuouslyObject

• Full Member
• Posts: 21
##### Re: Understanding the Curve
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2007, 07:09:55 PM »
High curves don't necessarily help the top of the class. If you actually do well, it's to your advantage to have a low curve so less of your classmates will "bump" into the top of the curve. It sucks, but your A means less when there are more of them given. If you want to get to the top and stay there with less work, a very low curve is better- you want less people within .05 or .10 of your GPA so you don't have to fend off those trying to move  up every semester. Not hte typical way to think of it, but something to think about if you aim for the top.

I concur.

#### Buddy Holly

• Sr. Citizen
• Posts: 107
##### Re: Understanding the Curve
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2007, 07:42:13 PM »
Curves totally depend on the school. Some schools, like UCLA and Virginia, require that for each "+" given out a "-" must be given out also. Others, just have a set curve not related to +'s and -'s.

My school's curve is something like this:

A+: Very rare (not in curve, but allowed to be given)
A: 10%
A-: 15%
B+: 27.5%
B: 27.5%
B-: 10%
C: Not on curve, rarely given

There's about 10% room for the professors to mess around with and most professors will generally up the curve, rather than add to B-/B students (though some are the opposite). Also, professors can deviate from the curve within 2-5%, so some professors literally only give out a couple of B-'s in a class. Going to a school with a sweet curve rocks, I highly reccomend it.

#### lanval

• Full Member
• Posts: 33
##### Re: Understanding the Curve
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2007, 08:26:36 PM »
Our 3.0 curve is something along these lines --

3.3 = top third
3.45 = top quarter
3.7 = top tenth
The bottom half of the curve I believe is mostly a mirror reflection for bottom third and quarter (I'm thinking 2.7 and 2.5, respectively) with that final tenth spread out between 1.0 and 2.0. I do not think it is necessary or even ordinary for people to score sub 1.0, even though this makes the curve slightly uneven.

#### roygbiv

• Full Member
• Posts: 20
##### Re: Understanding the Curve
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2007, 10:42:24 PM »
You all are missing the point for the OP. Agreed, curve doesn't matter in terms of jobs because it's all about class rank.

However, it does matter if there is some type of incentive tied to a particular GPA, in this case a scholarship. At other places it matters because you have to have a certain GPA after 1L (generally a 2.0) or be put on academic probation or be dropped altogether.

So, to the OP, what is the curve of the school? At a place with a B- (2.67), a 3.0 is about top 1/3rd.

Naturally, the higher the curve the better, because the grade average will be higher... that is why class rank is generally more important because it gives you a better idea of how you compare to your classmates.

This doesn't make much sense.

Where the curve sits does not matter because employers, scholarship givers, etc. will only care about how you are performing relative to the rest of your class.  If A has a 3.5 and is 30th in her class but B has a 3.4 and is 10th in her class, it would be a tough row to hoe to say that A has performed better than B.  In fact, B's GPA vis-a-vis A's GPA is probably due to the fact that B's school curves lower than A's.

Bottom line, GPAs are unlike LSAT scores in that they are not standardized - every school knows what a 160 LSAT means because the test is standardized and compared with every other test-taker; however, not every school (and consequently not every employer) knows what a 3.3 means unless it is put into context with the rest of your class.