Nov 10, 2017 in Analysis

Grade Whining and Inflation

In the U.S., teachers grade students for the quantity and quality of work done in a given class at the end of each semester. The number of classes (credits) accomplished together with student’s GPA, which is calculated through multiplication of grade points acquired per course and the number of credits (units) attempted, determine the academic standards of a student. Therefore, to calculate a final mean value, teachers sum the total of grade points and divide it by total number of units. In addition, final exams, midterm exams, set problems, and papers are all important towards achieving a final grade. Students in colleges should take these periodic evaluations just as serious. It is essential for professors to provide students with syllabus detailing the assignments for the class and the weight of every assignment accompanied by their expectations from students at the start of the semester. This step minimizes excuses from students for why their performance was not average. However, student’s lack of satisfaction with grades has led to grade whining, thus causing grade inflation.

Grade Whining and Grade Inflation Problem

Formerly, students were awarded grades based on a set of standards. According to the college arrangements, students might receive traditional A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and F’s. Faculty could determine the cutoff point, for instance, an A for 90%, and in case a student would score 89.7%, then he or she receives a B (Curtis, 2013). Occasionally, students would question their grades, whether 10% or 70% of students were awarded F’s, since the professor was considered the final authority. However, if a student felt the assigned grade was unfair, the expected option was persuading the professor to change it. Nevertheless, the option was not assured as grading procedures were considered law. In the 1960’s, assigned grades usually replicated a class average other than prearranged standards (Stroebe, 2016). Later, in the 1970’s, various colleges of higher learning including Stanford University abolished the D and F grades, thus interfering with the grading curve (Orkodashvili, 2013). At the time of educational experimentation, in the early 1960’s as well as 1970’s, there was the prevalence of ungraded classes including pass or no pass in an effort to create more inner directed in noncompetitive atmosphere students (Pattison, Grodsky, & Muller, 2013). As grading system became more flexible, it marked the genesis of students challenging grades that were alleged to be unfair.

The problem of grade inflation followed an expansionary period in higher learning caused by various researches and the accompanying negative publicity. In the mid-1980s, new concerns from the public to enhance the quality of education emerged (Stroebe, 2016). Although research shows grade inflation has decreased, today, the issue again is the subject of intensive reporting and analysis. Usually, grade inflation involves a raising student’s grade minus increasing efforts.

Causes of Grade Inflation and Whining

Learning institutions, students, and professors have always experienced grade whining. Various students have been unhappy with the grades they receive for some courses (Hodges, 2014). Frequently, student expects to receive the particular grade, but at times, he or she might be taken by surprise, thus grade whining. Other times, a student is aware of the grade coming, but he or she is not satisfied with it, hence making complaints. Occasionally, a student not only feels unsatisfied with grade awarded to him or her but also thinks  the grade is inappropriate as either the professor has made a mistake or the grade does not present student's work (Pattison, Grodsky, & Muller, 2013). Usually, grades are anticipated to replicate the quality of the work produced together with the level of understanding that the student possesses regarding the materials covered in the class. Lately, the amount of suicide cases that have been either indirectly or directly credited to poor grades has increased. Moreover, a rise in the number of students threatening their professors due to poor grades has happened (Pattison, Grodsky, & Muller, 2013). It is surely painful to receive poor grades, let alone the significant amount of time and money that are wasted in failing a course, especially for international students. Therefore, most colleges in the U.S. and globally have policies that permit students to appeal for a review of grades and state their grievances in a courteous process.

However, there is minimal information supporting the theories concerning the root cause of grade inflation. Whether the reasons, solutions, and implications of grade inflation are of concern, reports are overstated, or grade inflation actually exists remains underexplored as there is no unity of opinion reflecting grade inflation conflicting views (Hodges, 2014). However, various factors have led to grade inflation, such as curriculum changes, faculty behavior, changes in grading policy, student demography, and institutional change (Orkodashvili, 2013). Concerning curriculum changes, students are nowadays pampered compared to past years as they are only told what they need to know. Therefore, students receive fair grades but not proper help to master the material for future use.

Regarding faculty behavior, such issues as pressure, mindset, faculty-student relationship, and perceptions can be distinguished. The problem of grade inflation is attributed to laziness on the faculty; majority claims that it is stress-free to record a better grade than a bad grade since the faculty is not obliged to justify high grades but rather to defend low marks (Curtis, 2013). In addition, changes in grading policy have caused grade inflation. Departmental differences play a key role in this case since students migrate to majors that are assumed to grade highly. They also opt for courses that lack tough assignments and prefer courses and majors where the average grade is higher. Student demographics is another cause of grade inflation (Curtis, 2013). Today, most students believe that grades are essential for success in life compared to acquired knowledge, the capability to learn in a lifetime, and hard work in college. They have been directed to believe that scoring A’s is fundamental to attending college. Institutional change also causes grade inflation. Institutions are overly mindful of their image, thus focusing mostly on student achievements, graduation rates, retention, and admissions (Orkodashvili, 2013). Usually, students are viewed as valued customers who believe that better grades are key to success in future, especially in colleges focused on enrollments.


Today, typical freshmen in colleges are going through educational philosophy where success have been reduced to a score given at the end of a course. Usually, a good professor is defined by how his or her students pass the end-of-grade regular tests (Hodges, 2014). Students attend colleges knowing that all that matters is final score, thus fighting more for good grades. Therefore, to elaborate a number of solutions is essential in order to minimize or completely end grade whining and grade inflation (Orkodashvili, 2013). In regards to grade whining, various measures can be applied, such as clear policy on grade reviews, clear expectations, and detailed feedback (Hodges, 2014). A college professor should have a clear policy on grade reviews to aid in considering grade complaints. He or she also should be firm on matters of students arguing for an extra point, inform students that if they want one question to be re-marked, then the entire exam will be reviewed, and maybe, the outcome might be lower compared to the initial grade (Stroebe, 2016), thus making most students avoid grade complaints. Moreover, a professor should be clear on what he or she expects from students by providing detailed guidelines on assignments and stating if the answers should be detailed explanations, a statement, single word, or with various examples (Stroebe, 2016). In addition, it is essential to state the number of marks associated with each question. These actions will aid students in clarification what is expected to acquire better grades. Another solution to grade whining is providing students with detailed feedback on marked assignments and exams. A professor also can give annotated answers or explanations to students while returning their exam papers (Stroebe, 2016). The more the grading scheme is transparent, the lesser there are complaints from students.

Furthermore, various solutions focus on grade inflation, namely conducting external exit exams, rating faculty members for yearly performance review, and determining responsibility for the grades (Hodges, 2014). In particular, external exit exams might enhance student achievement, discouraging grade inflation since colleges can compare marks of students in various universities and schools during their admissions (Stroebe, 2016). Moreover, students should be compelled to do evaluation of professors in various courses at the end of every semester to aid in faculty’s annual performance review. Additionally, as a solution, grade accountability is essential because faculty will demonstrate reasons for specific grades (Hodges, 2014). For instance, a professor should be aware of the link between student’s review and the high number of A's in a grade sheet. Therefore, universities, colleges, and schools need to take major steps concerning grade inflation in order to prevent higher education from turning into unimportant part of life.


Grade whining and grade inflation are problems that have emerged in the recent years since formerly, students were awarded according to their performance. Today, universities and colleges teach students how to pass rather than how to retain the material for future. Children attend schools having in mind that the final score in a course matters more than the skills acquired, therefore increasing grade whining over unsatisfied grades. As a result, in the past few years, grade inflation has become a subject of reporting and debate. Currently, students retain less mastery of skills compared to the past years and achieve little, thus increasing concerns about grade inflation. It is essential that learning institutions combine efforts towards reining back grade inflation, which is turning universities and colleges into something else.



Curtis, W. (2013). Grade inflation. The Architectural Review, 233(1394), 14-15,4.

Hodges, L. (2014). Demystify learning expectations to address grade inflation. College Teaching, 62(2), 45-46.

Orkodashvili, M. (2013). Grade inflation. Sociology of Education, 330-331.

Pattison, E., Grodsky, E., & Muller, C. (2013). Is the sky falling? Grade inflation and the signaling power of grades. Educational Researcher, 42(5), 259-265.

Stroebe, W. (2016). Why good teaching evaluations may reward bad teaching. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(6), 800-816.

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