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Question about Japanese grading system

hiverloon

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I want to ask about Japanese grading system. The college I am attending use the following system: A+ (4.3), A (4.0), B(3.0), C(2.0), and D(0). I got A in a course which I think is good enough but it might also be good to know the correspondence between these level scores to the percentage intervals? A Wikipedia article uses a different letter score designation so I guess the interval used there might not be valid when applied to my college's.
 

Mike Cash

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I wish I had attended a school where it was impossible to get an "F".....
 

hiverloon

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I wish I had attended a school where it was impossible to get an "F".....
Well, I think rather than a school not have an F grade, it doesn't use an F grade as the fail-deciding grade.
 

WonkoTheSane

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I wish I had attended a school where it was impossible to get an "F".....
One of my few claims to fame is that I was thrown out of every school I went to (except one Jr high I was at for 2 months) until my second college.

I'm all too familiar with F grades.
 

Mike Cash

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It does seem a very Generation Snowflake everybody-gets-a-trophy インチキな grading system.
 

Glenski

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Japan is very new to the GPA calculations. Their basic rule is that a grade below 60 is failing, however, this is a common point:
GPA of Grade D (50-59) is 1.0,
GPA of Grade D- (under 49) is 0.7,
GPA of Grade F (no evaluation) is 0.
So, you can fail a course yet still get something in your GPA depending on how many points you earned.

Otherwise, I think you can follow a very rough scheme of
A = 4 -- with A- starting around 85% and "superior" something higher than 90
B = 3 -- from 70 to 84
C = 2 -- from 60 to 69

These may be off by a percentage point or two, and I'm guessing they may differ on the university (although they shouldn't). If you're worried about a GPA calculation, it begs the question why because Japan isn't all that critical of it. But if yours is low, you should worry anyway. And check what the particular school's requirements are for entrance. By and large, GPA is a black box to the Japanese.
 

hiverloon

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Thanks!!
Japan isn't all that critical of it.
Why is that the case? All this time, what I know about Japanese education system especially in the high school level is that it's pretty fierce. I know there have been a number of cram schools for high schoolers to prepare for college entrance exam which, if combined with the regular school time, will use up pretty much all of the students' precious free times. It gives me the impression that Japanese schools and colleges are more discriminative against the students' scores compared to the other developed countries are.
It does seem a very Generation Snowflake everybody-gets-a-trophy インチキな grading system.
What is "inchiki"?
 

Mike Cash

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Why is that the case? All this time, what I know about Japanese education system especially in the high school level is that it's pretty fierce.
Students are assessed on a curve against their fellow students rather then against a universal standard. Imagine a student with the highest marks from a poor school and a student with the lowest marks from an excellent school. It would be impossible to assess those two students against each other based solely on their grade transcripts, because their grades were really a reflection of how they did relative to everybody else in their class. That's why in Japan so much emphasis is placed on which school a person went to and why there is so much emphasis on getting into a more prestigious school. People care more about what school you graduated from and don't really care all that much what kind of grades you got.

What is "inchiki"?
http://ejje.weblio.jp/content/いんちき
 

hiverloon

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Students are assessed on a curve against their fellow students rather then against a universal standard. Imagine a student with the highest marks from a poor school and a student with the lowest marks from an excellent school. It would be impossible to assess those two students against each other based solely on their grade transcripts, because their grades were really a reflection of how they did relative to everybody else in their class. That's why in Japan so much emphasis is placed on which school a person went to and why there is so much emphasis on getting into a more prestigious school. People care more about what school you graduated from and don't really care all that much what kind of grades you got.
I see, that makes a lot of sense now.
 

madphysicist

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I've never taken a university course in Japan, but I have in several other countries, and in all except the UK the grading system was almost entirely down to the whim of the teacher. Even if it was supposed to be that 10% of students got an A, 20% a B etc., in practice there were some courses where everyone got the top grade and others where you'd be over the moon to get the equivalent of a B.

Therefore I think the only way to really know how you've done in each course is ask the teacher about the average grade, and have an idea of how capable your fellow students are. Because there are going to be optional courses that attract more able students and those that attract the lazy, and most universities don't bother to account for this in their grading systems because that would be too much effort.
 

johnnyG

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Schools, esp. private schools, expend a lot of effort to keep students enrolled (since that's how they make money). Still, my school loses maybe 10% or so over four years, and I think much more in the (now) six year pharmacy department.

The euphemism here for failing out is 進路変更, tho sometimes it's an "economic problem" (parents want to stop wasting money), or the comparable "family issue". Sometimes students 'take a break' (休学), and leave for a year, and, with a wink and a nod, most everyone knows they won't be back.

Students who do not get enough credits, who do not make normal progress, have another year to catch up. If they don't, they're out. We just went thru the big list of everyone at the last faculty meeting--for 1st thru 3rd yr it's to decide if they are allowed to go on to the next year, or if they have to repeat a year. And for the 4th year, there are some who, in spite of best efforts, are not allowed to graduate (the pool is usually pretty well winnowed out by then).

My school grades S, A, B, C, F (100-90, 89-80, 79-70, 69-60, and 0). If by my calculations, a student's actual point score is 58, or 49, or 32, I am obliged to record/enter their grade as a zero (and that's all the system sees, not those other failing numbers).

Besides not doing the work, another way to blow it is to not come to class. The general rule is that if you miss 1/3 of the classes (even if you offer to make up the work), I give you 受験停止, which I submit on a separate paper about two weeks before the exam. If you're tagged with this, you are not allowed to take the exam, and bingo, you are automatically out--no chance at all for credit. Do the course again the following year, or, if it's your second time around, then bye-bye for good.

Of course if your major is something like pharmacy, which has a rather difficult national licensing exam, you'd be worried about passing that rather than the grades you might be getting. Fail that a second time (and lots do) and it's 進路変更 time, or your parents will realize the futility of their investment, etc.

For one set of language classes (which I control) the exams are achievement tests--we lay out very clearly thru the terms what students need to know and then specifically test that. For another set (which I don't control) students take a competency test (on par with something like TOEIC) which becomes a large part of their final grade.

Blah, blah, blah..., as of the last few weeks, all of this is behind me forever. My only challenge these days is to move everything out of my office of almost 30 years (official retirement is the 31st), and no, I'm not going to piddle around with part time classes anywhere.
 

hiverloon

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Therefore I think the only way to really know how you've done in each course is ask the teacher about the average grade, and have an idea of how capable your fellow students are.
Fortunately, the course online system in my college appears to have that kind of information. In every course that I take, apart from my score, there is also another column containing the class's average score.
Even if it was supposed to be that 10% of students got an A, 20% a B etc.
Sounds familiar to me. While I was in Germany I once asked an administration person in my previous university about the grading system and she said that some profs apply such percentage system to decide how many get A, how many B, and so on.
My school grades S, A, B, C, F (100-90, 89-80, 79-70, 69-60, and 0).
So it's really different from college to college here in Japan.
 

madphysicist

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Sounds familiar to me. While I was in Germany I once asked an administration person in my previous university about the grading system and she said that some profs apply such percentage system to decide how many get A, how many B, and so on.
That's certainly how it's supposed to be in many countries. But if there are only a small number of students per class, applying percentages like that is impossible. The reason that my university in the UK could adjust the marks to make them a bit fairer was that they had about 250 students starting undergraduate physics every year (very quickly whittled down to about 220 haha). So even for optional classes there were a lot of people. Also as I said they should take into account the fact that some optional classes are harder, but many universities don't.

By the way I am curious about what subject you're studying in Japan?
 

hiverloon

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250 students starting undergraduate physics every year (very quickly whittled down to about 220 haha).
What?! 250 students intake annually? That means you have got around that number of pals in your year alone? That's exceedingly higher than the number of students enrolled every year in most universities in my home country Indonesia, in my undergrad college we had about only 60 students in undergraduate physics. Even the most favorite departments for high school graduates, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, as I remember they have 170-200 students.

By the way I am curious about what subject you're studying in Japan?
I am doing my research in ultrafast atomic and molecular dynamics.
 

madphysicist

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What?! 250 students intake annually? That means you have got around that number of pals in your year alone?
Yes, although for some courses they split us up into smaller classes. Obviously I was not able to meet everyone in my year... I think it's the biggest physics department in the UK.

I am doing my research in ultrafast atomic and molecular dynamics.
Cool! From next month I will be doing research on experimental particle physics in Japan.
 

hiverloon

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Yes, although for some courses they split us up into smaller classes. Obviously I was not able to meet everyone in my year... I think it's the biggest physics department in the UK.
I really envy you! It also brings back my memories during bachelor, the custom in my country and in particular in my college is that freshmen were drilled by their senior during the orientation period such that each one of us in the end of the orientation would value the other freshmen fellows as family. Often times we would gather in the depatment's hall to form a study group to prepare for exams 1 or 2 days later. 60 people were so farm and lively, I can imagine how much lively it was if there had been 250 people. 懐かしいなあ。
From next month I will be doing research on experimental particle physics in Japan.
In Kyoto right. If you are not yet in Japan now, then have a nice and safe trip to Japan!
 

WonkoTheSane

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Schools, esp. private schools, expend a lot of effort to keep students enrolled (since that's how they make money). Still, my school loses maybe 10% or so over four years, and I think much more in the (now) six year pharmacy department.

The euphemism here for failing out is 進路変更, tho sometimes it's an "economic problem" (parents want to stop wasting money), or the comparable "family issue". Sometimes students 'take a break' (休学), and leave for a year, and, with a wink and a nod, most everyone knows they won't be back.

Students who do not get enough credits, who do not make normal progress, have another year to catch up. If they don't, they're out. We just went thru the big list of everyone at the last faculty meeting--for 1st thru 3rd yr it's to decide if they are allowed to go on to the next year, or if they have to repeat a year. And for the 4th year, there are some who, in spite of best efforts, are not allowed to graduate (the pool is usually pretty well winnowed out by then).

My school grades S, A, B, C, F (100-90, 89-80, 79-70, 69-60, and 0). If by my calculations, a student's actual point score is 58, or 49, or 32, I am obliged to record/enter their grade as a zero (and that's all the system sees, not those other failing numbers).

Besides not doing the work, another way to blow it is to not come to class. The general rule is that if you miss 1/3 of the classes (even if you offer to make up the work), I give you 受験停止, which I submit on a separate paper about two weeks before the exam. If you're tagged with this, you are not allowed to take the exam, and bingo, you are automatically out--no chance at all for credit. Do the course again the following year, or, if it's your second time around, then bye-bye for good.

Of course if your major is something like pharmacy, which has a rather difficult national licensing exam, you'd be worried about passing that rather than the grades you might be getting. Fail that a second time (and lots do) and it's 進路変更 time, or your parents will realize the futility of their investment, etc.

For one set of language classes (which I control) the exams are achievement tests--we lay out very clearly thru the terms what students need to know and then specifically test that. For another set (which I don't control) students take a competency test (on par with something like TOEIC) which becomes a large part of their final grade.

Blah, blah, blah..., as of the last few weeks, all of this is behind me forever. My only challenge these days is to move everything out of my office of almost 30 years (official retirement is the 31st), and no, I'm not going to piddle around with part time classes anywhere.
Congratulations on the successful escape!
 

Glenski

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Japan is not all that critical of GPA because it's so new to the educational system. It's probably been around less than 5 years or so, and neither the schools nor the employers can get their heads around it yet.

All this time, what I know about Japanese education system especially in the high school level is that it's pretty fierce.
What does that mean? Having taught in private HS for 4 years (and more recently in uni for 10, and with a son in junior high), my experience is that there is a lot of wasted time and energy. That, IMO, causes the need for cram schools. The last 1 or 2 years of HS are devoted to studying what is needed to pass college entrance exams -- more crap because it's studying for the test, not the knowledge. They literally look at old exams and memorize the answers.

It gives me the impression that Japanese schools and colleges are more discriminative against the students' scores compared to the other developed countries are.
Not in my opinion. Yes, they look at entrance exam scores carefully for universities, especially the elite ones, but there are plenty of "suisen" students accepted, too. Those are the ones who get in on recommendation from the HS, whether because the student is remarkable in some way (a good baseball pitcher) or just because they were poor in school and yet want to go to college so a teacher felt sorry for them (and also wanted the HS to have a good show by listing the uni which took the kid). As for getting jobs, a lot is still based on who you (the student) knows, meaning, your advisor has contacts. Plus, you also spend a year or more doing job hunting, practicing how to stand, sit, and enter a room for the interviews, etc. If you don't graduate from an elite school, don't even think about applying to a high ranking company, either. And, don't get me started on the uselessness of TOEIC.
 

johnnyG

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...
And, don't get me started on the uselessness of TOEIC.
Useless? Really?

Our students are rewarded for good TOIEC scores--money back on tuition, plus credit for certain courses. I think we offer the IP version three times a year.

I do understand the testing theory and the variability of scores. Generally, it's +/-50, so if your "real" score is, e.g., 600, you could take a test and you might get 550, or 650 (or you might get 600!). Or if you take one test today, and another tomorrow, same situation. I'm okay with that, and I know it's hard to design/implement a test that will do better.

I think it's wise for prospective employers to look at it over (or in addition to) GPA (or school name/reputation), since it's an equalizer.

What's your beef?
 

hiverloon

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If you don't graduate from an elite school, don't even think about applying to a high ranking company, either.
In my first 5 months in Japan I have actually experienced the taste of the Japanese big university praising custom. A clerk in a convenience store praised me that I am smart after revealing that I am a student in Todai, then last week the driver who transported my stuffs for moving out praised for the same reason. While I acknowledge that Todai has some of the best professors and research facilities in the world, I really think that such praise to Todai's and other big uni's students is rather exaggerating. It's considered difficult to get accepted in my college thanks to its super challenging entrance exam questions. But on top of that there is the economic factor due to the fact that they are located in Tokyo which sets the first barrier for applicants who want to enter. Smart only is not enough to get in. This actually relates to the view of job acceptance rate per university. I am wondering is it always the case that those graduating from big university are definitely a promising asset for the accepting companies? I think as long as one has some months of internship in a company and also hard working/persistent, he can still compete on the same ground with big university graduates.
 

johnnyG

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The top national schools, from todai on down, are an absolute steal. ¥267,800 per semester, and at ¥114/$1 that's about $4700/year.

Yearly in-state tuition & fees at my alma mater, U-ILL Urbana (a state school, not private), are now listed as $15,868-$20,872, and out-of-state and international pay far more. For $20,872, a student could spend a year at todai, all inclusive, and live well.

I know of one todai student who pays ¥75,000/month for a room in a four person share house (includes utilities). While that is several times what my students pay locally, I think it is still reasonable. Housing in Tokyo is comparable to any major US city, and is probably cheaper than places like London/NYC.
 

hiverloon

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Housing in Tokyo is comparable to any major US city, and is probably cheaper than places like London/NYC.
That's the case if you compare it with American's standard. But for other Japanese especially those originally from outside Tokyo, the total cost for studying in Tokyo might require their parents to think twice before sending their kids there. This is just my assumption, it may or may not require correction from natives.
 

madphysicist

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The top national schools, from todai on down, are an absolute steal. ¥267,800 per semester, and at ¥114/$1 that's about $4700/year.
To Americans an absolute steal, to most Europeans a complete rip-off!
 

Glenski

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I am wondering is it always the case that those graduating from big university are definitely a promising asset for the accepting companies?
Nothing in life is guaranteed, not even that. Japanese are considered more favorably to be interviewed for positions if they come from the elite schools. However, a lot also depends on how they present themselves during the interview, whether a TOEIC score is needed, etc. The diploma merely gets a foot in the door more easily. A lot of companies nowadays are very concerned about how well Japanese graduates can communicate socially. Yeah, right, I know.
 
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