What follows is a set of three "prescriptions" for calculating and estimating of where you stand and some ideas that can give you the impression of plausible final letter grade outcomes. The three prescription let you answer these three three slightly different questions:

- What is my grade right now? Where do I stand?
- What is my likely grade after the Final Exam, based
on how well I have done on exams so far?
- How well do I need to perform on future exams to earn some particular grade that I want for the course?

To start with, let's consider your "grade right now" -- in other words, assuming that you have in hand a sense of your performance on the three exams, the homeworks and the labs (everything except the final exam) where do you "stand right now". Our method is to develop a weighted total of the points from all assignments and then convert these into a letter grade using approximate grade boundary estimates. Here's the method:

- Step 1: Take your first hour exam score (out of 100) and
divide it by two.
- Step 2: Add this to your second and third hour exam score
(each out of 100). Altogether, then the hour exams are worth up to a
maximum of 250 points. This is your Hour Exam Total.
- Step 3: Take the
*average*homework score (each assignment is scored out of 15 points -- usually 10 for the Written, 3 for the Online and 2 for the Pre-lecture Video Tests) and multiply this by 10. Yes, we know you have not yet gotten scores for the final three assignments. You only need an*approximate*average here. Before the final exam we will post all of the homework scores on Canvas so that you can check your points and make sure there are no missing or incorrect scores. But in the meantime, an estimated average score will give you a good number to work with for now -- by the way, remember that you will have eleven homework scores but that we will throw out your lowest single score so that only the top ten best scores will be used to calculate an homework average. Altogether, then, the Homework Total gives you a number which is a maximum of to 150 points. Add the Homework Total to the Hour Exam Total. - Step 4: Take your Laboratory percentage score (up to 100),
multiple this by 2.5. You can get your current lab scores from the
P121 Lab Canvas site. This will give you a number that has a
maximum value of 250 for the labs. Add this Laboratory Total to
the total.

- For each Hour Exam the APPROXIMATE PRELIMINARY grade boundaries corresponding to the three exams are (roughly) 85, 80, and 80 for an A, 57, 55, and 55 for a B, 47, 40, and 40 for a C, and 37, 30, and 30 for a D. You can see how these grade boundaries play out for each exam in the exam-score histograms shown below.
- For homeworks, an average score of 12.5 out of 15 and higher is "A", 10 and higher is "B", 7 and higher is "C", and 4 and higher is "D".
- For labs, a percentage of 90 and above is "A", 80
and above is "B", 70 and above is "C" and 60 and above is "D".

PRELIMINARY APPROXIMATELY GRADE BOUNDARIES FOR SNAPSHOT TOTAL: A-Just-Barely = 552 out of 650 or higher B-Just-Barely = 438 out of 650 or higher C-Just-Barely = 348 out of 650 or higher D-Just-Barely = 268 out of 650 or higherSo this tells you

Now, immediately I need to make two huge caveats:

**First**, while the grade boundaries for the homeworks and the
labs are fixed, the grade boundaries assigned to the exams given above
are ** tentative, approximate, and certainly subject to change**. The
whole point of is that we tune the grade boundaries on an exam-by-exam
basis to take into account the relative difficulty and importance of
each exam based at least in large part on how students actually
perform in detail on each problem. We always determine

** Second**, the final exam counts a very large fraction of your
score -- 35%. This means that any confidence that you have about
"where you are right now" is less certain and less useful for
predicting your final grade just because in fact a large fraction of
the question about how you will do in the class depends on how you do
on the final. In other words, the above calculation provides a
**"snapshot total"** of where you are right now, but it doesn't really
tell you much about where you are likely to be in the future. So we
go to the next step.

- Step 1: Take your first hour exam score (out of 100) and
divide it by two. Add this to your second and third hour exam score
(each out of 100). Altogether, then the hour exams are worth up to a
maximum of 250 points.
- Step 2: Now multiply your exam total number by 2.4 to get a
total that range from 0 to 600 maximum.
- Step 3: Take the
*average*homework score (each assignment is scored out of 15 point) and multiply this by 10. Add this to the multiplied exam total. - Step 4: Take your Laboratory percentage score (up to 100),
multiple this by 2.5. This will give you a number that has a maximum
value of 250 for the labs. Add this to the total. You now have a
number that should range in value from zero to a maximum of 1000
points.

PRELIMINARY APPROXIMATE GRADE BOUNDARIES FOR EXTRAPOLATED TOTAL: A-Just-Barely = 836 out of 1000 or higher B-Just-Barely = 632 out of 1000 or higher C-Just-Barely = 493 out of 1000 or higher D-Just-Barely = 378 out of 1000 or higherThis tells you "where you are heading" based on the assumption that your Final Exam performance can be accurately predicted by your past performance on Hour Exams.

But there are drawbacks and perils here as well:

**First**, you have only taken less that half of the total exam
points (25% taken, 35% yet to take) so extrapolating your future based
on what you have done in the past is rather uncertain activity.
Roughly speaking, those ten percent error bars for "snapshot total"
method above are probably at least *doubled in size* for the
estimated extrapolated grade.

**Second** this extrapolation assumes that the grade boundaries for
the final exam will be proportionally matched to the grade boundaries
of past hour exams. This is really just a wild guess. There is no
way to know what the actual grade boundaries for future exams will be
until after the Final Exam has been given.

Still, in certain ways the "extrapolated total" method gives you different information than the "snapshot total" method. In particular it tells you where you are "heading" grade wise if your Hour Exams are a good predictor of your Final Exam performance.

Again, this is a perilous and uncertain activity for all of the
reasons indicated above, only even more so since we are now talking
about calculating "margins" instead of averages. So let's quadruple
the error bars on this exercise to ** at least 40% uncertainty**.
With this extreme caveat we proceed:

Let's start by noting that in this point system, the final exam is
worth 350 points. So for any given final exam score which we
represent as a percentage (0 to 100), you can divide by 100, multiply
this by 350, then add this to your "snapshot total" to get your
putative "scenario" grand total points. For example if you earn an
80% on the final exam and your "snapshot total" calculated above is
530 points, then your **"scenario total"** would be 0.80 * 350 +
530 = 810 points.

This **"scenario total"** is a number from 0 to 1000 that you can
now *compare* to the **"extrapolated total"** grade boundaries
above to see your estimated "scenario" final letter grade associated
with this score. (For example, in this case of a "scenario total" of
810 total points, this corresponds to a grade of "B").

Indeed you can work this *backwards* from any "extrapolated
total" boundary to *estimate* the points you need to achieve on
the final exam to earn a given letter grade. In other words, you can
answer the question "What do I need to earn on the final to get a
grade of X" by finding the final exam score that is needed to give you
a "scenario total" that matches the corresponding "extrapolated total"
grade boundary. For example, if your "snapshot total" was 530 points
(corresponding to a current grade of "B") and you wanted to estimate
how well you need to do on the final to squeak out an "A", then you
see that you need to get 835 total points for an "A", which means you
need 305 points for the final exam corresponding to a percentage score
of not quite 88%.

Now again, I need to emphasize that this exercise is fraught with huge
uncertainties. In particular, if you go through these steps you might
somehow conclude that "it is impossible to earn a grade of X no matter
how well I do on the exam". Or, conversely, you might conclude
something like "it is impossible for me to earn a grade of less than X
no matter how poorly I do on the exam." ** I would very much urge
against any inclination to draw any such conclusions **. This is
because at present we do not have fixed grade boundaries for the final
exam. And we cannot assume that the grade boundaries will be simple
extrapolations of the grade boundaries from the hours exams. In
looking at past years, we find that the grade boundaries for the final
exam are *extremely variable* from year-to-year. It is entirely
possible that a strong performance on a difficult exam might boost
your grade up beyond where you might otherwise imagine you can reach.
It is also possible that a disastrous performance on a relatively easy
exam may injure your final letter grade much more than you might
estimate here. Grade boundaries for the final exam will only be set
once we have had a chance to look at the overall performance of
students on the final exam, including careful consideration of how
students performed on each of the nine individual problems. And
remember:
**I am very likely to adjust any and all grade boundaries for all of
the exams, including previously taken hour exams, based on overall
student performance levels after all of the exam scores have been
tabulated.**.

The bottom line is this: You can only * approximately estimate
* where you stand in the class but because so many points
remain to be earned for the final exam, any prediction that you might
make about where you are headed and/or how well you need to do on the
next exams is wildly uncertain. On the other hand, the fact that
there are so many points to be earned still means that most students
still have a large opportunity to improve their scores, no matter
where they stand now. I've designed the point system so that it is at
least possible in principle for almost every student in the class to
move themselves up or down a full letter grade based on how they do on
the final.

In other words, no matter where you stand, it's not too late, and there is work to do. Yours,

-Corbin Covault P.S. Students ask about "Bonus Points". See Document #2, Section 15 page 26 for details on pilicies and application of Bonus Points for PHYS 121. In a nutshell, any bonus points you have earned will be automatically applied as insurance against a low score on any one of the nine final exam questions.