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Comai BIS2A. Spring Quarter 2010

The class grade is assigned based on your total score out of 500. Table 1 illustrates the score components.

Table 1. Score breakdown

Item Points Percent
Midterm 1 70 14
Midterm 2 70 14
Midterm 3 70 14
Final 130 26
Clicker participation 15 3
Assignments 25 5
Entry and Exit Assessment Quizzes 10 2
Discussion 100 16
Total 500 100


Clicking gets you points wether you have the right or wrong answer in each class session. Clicker points will be taken starting with the second week of class. After that, you can miss up to three lectures without loosing points. More information on clicker by consulting Clicker_102.pdf


These points are awarded for completing the smartsite-based assignment. The assignment involves the analysis of a mystery DNA to derive the encoded protein, and to identify the protein and its properties. The student will document this in a short report. The "Modules" section provides a tutorial that should be practiced. Proficiency in this type of analysis will be necessary for completing the assignment.

Final grade

What grade will each score get? The maximum grade cut-off points are shown in table 2.

Table 2. Guaranteed maximum cut-off points

Points Percent Grade guaranteed if you are above cutoff point
475 90 A
425 80 B
375 70 C
325 60 D

For example, if you score higher than 90 you are guaranteed an A. These are maximum cutoffs and the final cutoffs may be lower depending on the class distribution. For an example, see last Spring Quarter Comai-BIS2A distribution and grade cutoffs below. You will notice that in 2009 ~26% of the class got A- or higher, and ~15% got D+ or less.

Grade and attendance policy


Your presence at lecture is rewarded through "clicker points". If your clicker registers answers to clicker questions, whether right or wrong, you get points. There are no clicker points during the first week of class to allow everybody to obtain a clicker and learn its use. After that, you can still miss three lectures and gain full points.


There is a waiting list to get into this course. You must attend the first discussion session or you may be dropped from the course to allow a wait-listed student in. You are expected to attend all other discussion session. After attending the first discussion, you are allowed to miss one discussion session without an excuse. Grading criteria for the discussion will be explained by your TA.

Missed Exams

If you miss a midterm exam without a proper excuse you will get a score for that exam equal to 60% the average of the two remaining exams. For example, if you miss midterm 2 and your scores for midterm 1 and 3 are 50 and 70 points, you will be given 36 points for midterm 2. If you miss two midterm exams, you will get 60% the score of the graded midterm exam for one midterm and 0 for the other.

Valid excuses

You have the right to a make-up oral exam for any exam you will miss because of severe illness, death or life-threatening illness in the immediate family, and university-sanctioned activity. All these instances will have to be documented.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1. Is the class graded on a curve?

Let's first agree on the meaning of "curve grading"; see this web definition. If "curving the score" is taken literally, the answer is no. If all students in this BIS2A class get above 476 points and are distributed in a curve between 476 and 500, they will all get A. In practice, the scores of 480 students are typically found distributed in a near-normal fashion between 40 and 95%. I apply a bit of curving in adjusting the exact cutoffs by taking into account the average performance of the class. For example, I will decrease the cutoffs to ensure that a sufficient number of students score A, etc.

  • 2. According to your table, do I get B if I score 470/500?

Not necessarily, the A cut off may be lower than 470 (and the other cut offs as well) and will depend on the distribution of the scores. The table only gives the "guaranteed" maximum cut offs.

  • 3. My grade is lower than I want, is there anything I can do to raise it? Such as special assignments, research papers, tune your bicycle, mop the floors in your department, dispatch your enemies...


  • 4. As the scores in the different items (midterm exams, etc) accumulate, can I get a better idea of what my final grade might be?

The best that you can do is to work out your final percent score and match it to the above table. We do not know the exact score ranges until the very end, when all points have been collected and the score distribution can be computed.

  • 5. My family is engaged in a very special celebration this Spring that happens to take place during Midterm 2. This is in the occasion of my great granpa's 120th birthday. Since he is the oldest man on Earth, a war hero, and my best role model, I need to travel to Katmandu for the festivity. Is this a valid excuse?


  • 6. I have memorized every single word you said during lectures, and each line in the assigned text book pages. So, I know ALL class material and expect to get A. Yet, many of your midterm questions concern matter that was not covered and I could not answer them. This is very unfair!

I understand the problem. See "Preparation for Exams" in the General info page (side bar) of the smartsite.

A real grading example: Spring 2009-Comai

Table of cutoffs

Grade Cutoff % Cutoff score Number of students Percent of class
A+ 95 475 7 1.7
A 87.2 436 36 9
A- 82.3 411 61 15.2
B+ 78.8 395 34 8.5
B 75.9 379 23 5.7
B- 72.4 363 40 10
C+ 68.9 345 45 11.5
C 63.6 318 62 15.5
C- 59.5 298 32 8
D+ 56 279 21 5.2
D 52.8 264 16 4
D- 50.2 251 3 0.7
F 0 0 19 4.7

Figure 1. Distribution of % score and grade cutoffs for Spring 2009 BIS2A

2009 grade.png


Back to BIS2A pages: BIS2A_General_Info - BIS2A_Staff

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