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Grading Exams: 100, 99, ..., 1 or A, B, C? Incentives in Games of Status



We show that if students care primarily about their status (relative rank) in class, they are best motivated to work not by revealing their exact numerical exam scores (100,99,...,1), but instead by clumping them in broad categories (A,B,C). If their abilities are disparate, the optimal grading scheme awards fewer A's than there are alpha-quality students, creating small elites. If their abilities are common knowledge, then it is better to grade them on an absolute scale (100 to 90 is an A, etc.) rather than on a curve (top 15% is an A, etc.). We develop criteria for optimal grading schemes in terms of the stochastic dominance between student performances.

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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1467

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    Cited by:

    1. Maya Eden, 2006. "Optimal Ties in Contests," Discussion Paper Series dp430, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
    2. Sergey V. Popov & Dan Bernhardt, 2013. "University Competition, Grading Standards, And Grade Inflation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(3), pages 1764-1778, July.
    3. Azmat, Ghazala & Iriberri, Nagore, 2010. "The importance of relative performance feedback information: Evidence from a natural experiment using high school students," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 435-452, August.
    4. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela & Xianwen Shi, 2007. "Contests for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 338-363.
    5. 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.
    6. Emmanuelle Auriol & Régis Renault, 2008. "Status and incentives," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(1), pages 305-326.
    7. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2007. "Paying Respect," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 135-150, Fall.
    8. Dubey, Pradeep & Geanakoplos, John, 2010. "Grading exams: 100,99,98,... or A,B,C?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 72-94, May.
    9. Hopkins, Ed & Kornienko, Tatiana, 2009. "Status, affluence, and inequality: Rank-based comparisons in games of status," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 552-568, November.
    10. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2006. "Methods of Social Comparison in Games of Status," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001183, UCLA Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Status; Incentives; Education; Grading; Wages;

    JEL classification:

    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General

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