Quiz Scores from Quizzes #1-3

This is a report on scores for the first three in-class and take-home quizzes. As I’m sure you realize (and as I have been warning since the beginning of the semester), the material covered by quiz #3 was substantially more difficult than the material on the previous quizzes. This was reflected in the quiz scores which took a substantial and expected downturn. On the other hand, the take-home scores were much higher.

I’ll give you the gory details about quiz #3 in a moment, but I want to say this: students’ first encounter with the acid-base equilibria and chemical reactions (usually nucleophilic substitution reactions) of organic chemistry has been problematic for as long as I have been teaching organic chemistry (over 30 years). I would like to think that there is a better way to teach this material, but I haven’t found it yet. Still, there are some silver linings in all this. Read on.

This story contains several parts. To begin, I will define three scoring ranges, and then I will tell you how many students earned scores in each range on each quiz. That way you will be able to see the trends in class quiz scores and compare them to your own. Then I will report on 2018 scores so that you can see how the scores might evolve as the semester goes along. And, finally, I will offer some advice.

Scoring Ranges

  • 0-60% Numerically, this is a very large range, but most of the range is meaningless because students very rarely score below 30%. What is true about the entire range, though, is that all of the scores below 60% are not satisfactory.
  • 60-80% This range spans the marginally satisfactory to the very strong, but consistent scores anywhere in this range (assuming all goes well in lab and with homework) will earn students satisfactory grades so I have no special worries about scores in this range.
  • 80-100% A very high level of success.

So what happened on quizzes 1-3? Here are the percentages of students who earned scores in each category.

In-class quizzes

  • 0-60% In-class 23% (Q#1) -> 18% (Q#2) -> 58% (Q#3)
  • 60-80% In-class 40% (Q#1) -> 47% (Q#2) -> 28% (Q#3)
  • 80-100% In-class 37% (Q#1) -> 35% (Q#2) -> 14% (Q#3)

The numbers speak for themselves. The percentage of students earning less than 60% on in-class quiz #3 more than tripled from quiz #2. And nearly every person in the class, regardless of their actual scores, saw some kind of drop in their quiz scores (only 2 people out of 64 scored higher on quiz #3 than they had on quizzes #1 and #2).

Take-home quizzes

  • 0-60% Take-home 5% (#1) -> 12% (#2) -> 13% (#3)
  • 60-80% Take-home 24% (#1) -> 22% (#2) -> 36% (#3)
  • 80-100% Take-home 71% (#1) -> 66% (#2) -> 52% (#3)

Interestingly, the entire class took take-home quiz #3 (64 students) which was not the case with earlier take-homes (56 students #1, 58 students #2). Probably this fact alone tells you how much harder quiz #3 felt to everyone. The median score on take-home #3 was a few percentage points lower than on previous quizzes, but the take-home had the desired effect: even though only 42% of students earned satisfactory scores in-class, 88% did so on the take-home.

Last year (2018)

  • 0-60% In-class 23% (#1) -> 14% (#2) -> 55% (#3) -> 45% (#4) -> 32% (#5)
  • 60-80% In-class 30% (#1) -> 26% (#2) -> 33% (#3) -> 41% (#4) -> 41% (#5)
  • 80-100% In-class 47% (#1) -> 59% (#2) -> 12% (#3) -> 14% (#4) -> 27% (#5)

I don’t want to dwell on these data because each year is assigned different quizzes, but even with that excuse, you can see that last year’s class encountered the same shock on quiz #3. You can also see the “shock” was followed by steady increases in the percentage earning a satisfactory grade: 45% (#3) -> 55% (#4) -> 68% (#5). (And while I haven’t displayed the data, the take-home scores on quizzes were always much higher than the in-class scores.)


Don’t give up. Unless you really, really, really want to.

While a couple of students inevitably decide that their academic path through Reed lies in a much different direction than organic chemistry (and whatever goes with it), the vast majority of Chem 201 students keep working at organic chemistry. And nearly all of them find ways to become successful. Still, it is hard work. You need to find time in your busy schedule. You need to learn to focus on unfamiliar (and maybe not-so-appealing?) material to a greater degree than you have so far. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it.

Finally, you need to find and use resources that can help you learn and retain the material. What are these resources? Me. Tutors. Practice activities: book problems, making drawings, writing-speaking-reading, using concepts. Your classmates. YOU.

Make a commitment to helping yourself and to helping others as well. If you aren’t ready to explain something to your classmate, ask them for help answering your questions (and really listen when they try to do it). Whichever way things flow, your engagement with others in study will not only encourage them, it will encourage you as well. Trust me.

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