Dear PHYS 121 Students: I have just posted "Midterm Letter Grades" to SIS for students in the course. Here are some reflections on how the grades were calculated and what these mean. (1) Students ask, "Mr. Covault, how do you calculate the mid-term grades?" My short answer is: "I make them up." A little longer answer: Mid-term grades are: --> Advisory ONLY. They give you a clue as to how you are doing. --> Temporary. They will go away forever when we issue your final letter grade for the course. They will never appear on any permanent record or transcript. --> By definition wildly inaccurate. In principle we are half-way through the course. In practice, student have submitted only a fraction of the work that the semester grade will depend upon. Here's the thing. There are two ways to "interpret" the "meaning" of a letter grade: (a) We can say "The midterm grade represents the grade based on the work that I have submitted thus far in the class." OR (b) We can say "The midterm grade represents a prediction of what grade I am likely to earn for the semester if I continue at the same level of performance." You might things these two ideas are the same, but they are not. Here is why: The midterm grade calculated and presented to SIS depends on only TWO exam scores, the First Hour Exam that students completed way back September and (just now) the Second Hour Exam. These exams are only worth 15% of your grade. So compared to the work students have submitted for homework and labs, it corresponds to a comparable portion of your semester grade. However, by the end of the semester, exams will count for 60% of your semester grade. And in terms of predictive power, the first two hour exams are more predictive of how you will perform in future exams than are the homework and/or lab scores. In other words, the one thing students can do to really improve their letter grade in the course at this point is perform well on future exams. But we have only preliminary information, on how students are doing with exams. What to do? Well we basically "invent something" that corresponds to a midterm letter grade that is a compromise between (a) and (b) above. It is somewhat (but not perfectly) indicative of students' performance in the class so far and it is somewhat (but not perfectly) a predictor of what letter grade students are heading for. We calculate it this way: 15% depends on your First Hour Exam score 30% depends on your Second Hour Exam score 25% depends on your Homework scores for HW #01 thru #06. 30% depends on your midterm lab percentage score Note that we include Pre-lecture, Online and Written Homework. Note that we do NOT throw away the lowest homework score (as we will for the final semester grade). We take the scores in each of the three categories, scale them to the percentages given and total to get a 100-point scale. You can calculate your own "Weighted Preliminary Midterm Score" by the following procedure: Step 1: Take your First Hour Exam score (out of 100) and multiply this by 0.15. You should have a number between 0 and 15. Step 2: Take your Second Hour Exam score (out of 100) and multiply this by 0.30. You should have a number between 0 and 30. Add it to your result from Step 1. Step 3: Add the TOTAL of ALL homework points (Pre-lecture, Online, and Written) for Homeworks 01 through 06, multiply this by 25 and then divide by 90. You should have a number between number between 0 and 25 Add this to the results of Step 3. Step 4: Take your lab percentage score (out of 100) and multiply this by 0.30. You should have a number between 0 and 30. Add this to the total above. You should have a number that scales from 0 to 100. We calculate "approximate letter grade cut-offs" based on weighted average scores for the exams, homeworks, and labs for hypothetical students with exactly borderline scores in each category. The letter grade numbers boundaries look like this: 84.6 or better = "A" 65.7 or better = "B" 51.7 or better = "C" 40.1 or better = "D" Important. These "cutoffs" are not just simple percentages of points found on Canvas. They come from WEIGHTING the Canvas scores as described above. Note: Last week Thursday October 26 we posted "preliminary" mid-term grades based on the First Hour Exam only. Now that the Second Hour Exam is graded, we have updated midterm letter grades as of Monday October 30, 2017. (2) Students ask: What if my midterm grade is based on a wrong/missing/incomplete score reported on Canvas? What can I do to "fix" my incorrect midterm grade? So first of all, the midterm grades are not really "fixable" because they are not "real". Except for the possibility that you (and/or your advisor) may get a less-than accurate impression of where you stand in the class, there is no consequence to having the "wrong" midterm grade. Remember, mid-term letter grades are unofficial, temporary, and advisory only. However it is VERY IMPORTANT that any incorrect scores in Canvas be corrected so that every student can ultimately earn the correct semester letter grade for the course. So if you see an INCORRECT OR MISSING SCORE on Canvas please follow the procedure listed in the FAQ for Question 10. http://www.phys.cwru.edu/courses/p121/faq.html Question 10 (A-E) tells you the exact procedure to have your homework, lab and exams scores corrected. It tells you what to do if a score is missing or wrong. It tells you how to look for "orphaned" (non-name) homework that might belong to you. Students are asked to follow the procedure carefully and exactly. There is no time-limit. We want every student to have their grade calculated based on the correct scores. (3) What if the midterm letter grade posted to SIS is different from the grade I determine when I calculate my score? What should I do? See FAQ Question 10E: http://www.phys.cwru.edu/courses/p121/faq.html (4) The midterm grade is low. Maybe I should drop the course? Likely you should NOT drop the course. See FAQ Question 12: http://www.phys.cwru.edu/courses/p121/faq.html