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Grading exams: 100,99,98,... or A,B,C?

  • Dubey, Pradeep
  • Geanakoplos, John

We introduce grading into games of status. Each player chooses effort, producing a stochastic output or score. Utilities depend on the ranking of all the scores. By clustering scores into grades, the ranking is coarsened, and the incentives to work are changed. We apply games of status to grading exams. Our main conclusion is that if students care primarily about their status (relative rank) in class, they are often best motivated to work not by revealing their exact numerical exam scores (100,99,...,1), but instead by clumping them into coarse categories (A,B,C). When student abilities are disparate, the optimal absolute grading scheme is always coarse. Furthermore, it awards fewer A's than there are alpha-quality students, creating small elites. When students are homogeneous, we characterize optimal absolute grading schemes in terms of the stochastic dominance between student performances (when they shirk or work) on subintervals of scores, showing again why coarse grading may be advantageous. In both cases, we prove that absolute grading is better than grading on a curve, provided student scores are independent.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Games and Economic Behavior.

Volume (Year): 69 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (May)
Pages: 72-94

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Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:69:y:2010:i:1:p:72-94
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622836

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  1. Englmaier, Florian & Wambach, Achim, 2010. "Optimal incentive contracts under inequity aversion," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 312-328, July.
  2. Pradeep Dubey & John Geanakoplos, 2005. "Grading in Games of Status: Marking Exams and Setting Wages," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1544, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Dec 2005.
  3. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "On relative wealth effects and the optimality of growth," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 87-92, January.
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  12. Pradeep Dubey & John Geanakoplos, 2004. "Grading Exams: 100, 99, ..., 1 or A, B, C? Incentives in Games of Status," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1467, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  13. Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
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  17. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2003. "Ratio Orderings and Comparative Statics," ESE Discussion Papers 91, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
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