A More Explicit Grading Scale Decreases Grade Inflation in a Clinical Clerkship

Christopher S. Weaver, Aloysius J. Humbert, Bart R. Besinger, James A. Graber, Edward J. Brizendine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Scopus citations


Objectives: The medical education literature contains few publications about the phenomenon of grade inflation. The authors' clinical clerkship grading scale suffered from apparent inflation relative to the recommended university distribution. The investigators hypothesized that a simple change of the shift grading cards, using explicit criteria, would decrease this grade inflation and aid to redistribute the shift evaluations. Methods: This was a before-and-after study examining medical student shift evaluation grades. Evaluators and students were blinded to the purpose of the card change and were unaware that a study was being conducted. Beginning June 1, 2005, the authors altered the shift evaluation cards from the previous four choices of honors, high pass, pass, or fail to five choices of upper 5%, upper 25%, expected, below expected, or far below expected, and explicit grading criteria were provided. No other interventions to alter the grade distribution occurred. Data were collected on all evaluations from June 1, 2004, to March 31, 2005 (before change), and compared with data on all evaluations from June 1, 2005, to March 31, 2006 (after change). Results: A total of 3,349 evaluations were analyzed: 1,612 before the card change and 1,737 after the change. The grade distribution before the card change was as follows: honors, 22.6%; high pass, 49.0%; pass, 28.4%; and fail, 0%. This compared with the following ratings after the card change: upper 5%, 9.8%; upper 25%, 41.2%; expected, 46.2%; below expected, 2.8%; and far below expected, 0% (p < 0.001). Conclusions: A simple change in shift evaluation cards to include more explicit grading criteria resulted in a significant change in grade distribution and greatly decreased grade inflation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-286
Number of pages4
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2007


  • evaluation
  • global rating scale
  • grade inflation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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