Grade versus Percentile: What’s the Difference?

Grade versus percentile can be very confusing, especially when you’re still asking “What is a percentile anyway?” That’s why we’ve made this short video explaining the difference between a score and a percentile.

Making Grade Versus Percentile Less Confusing

What Is a Percentile?

A percentile is basically the rank of a student’s score – how well the student did on a test or class compared to all the other students who took the same class.

What Is the Difference Between a Grade and a Percentile?

To summarize the video, the basic difference between a grade and a percentile is that the grade on the assignment is based only on the student’s work. It will not change and is determined using only the number of questions the student got correct divided by the total possible.

A percentile, on the other hand, depends on the grades of all the students who completed the same assignment. This is found by determining the rank of the student’s score and dividing it by the total number of students’ scores.

Confusing Aspects

Even knowing this, percentiles can be confusing since they don’t seem to match the student’s score at all. Here are some example situations that could happen with percentiles.

  • A score of 100% and a low percentile
  • The same score on two different tests and a different percentile each time
  • A percentile that changes from one day to the next

The reason these situations can happen is that the percentile is less about the student’s grade and more about how that grade relates to everyone else’s.

100% with a Low Percentile

Sometimes, a student gets a perfect score on a test or homework and gets a low percentile score. That simply means that most of the students’ scores were 100% (or higher if bonus was available).

In that situation, if 100 students took the test in question, that might mean that the test was a bit too easy. If 10 students took it, that may or may not be true.

Same Score Different Percentile

This situation is not only possible but probable. Most students are not going to get the same score on every assignment. That means that even if one student gets a consistent score, the number of students who scored above or below that grade is going to change.

Changing Percentile

In a test at school, a student’s percentile is less likely to change than in a test with A Grade Ahead. Because, at school, all the students take the test at the same time, so no new scores are coming in to change the rankings.

At A Grade Ahead, students are currently offered a period of time to take the test. That means that your child could take the test and get both a grade and percentile but then have the percentile change the next day. That merely means that another student took the test after you saw that first percentile.

Does that make percentiles less confusing? What other questions do you have?

Author: Elizabeth F., Writer and Teacher at A Grade Ahead


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