The most frequently award grade at Harvard is an A, reports The Harvard Crimson. The median grade is an A-, according to Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris.
Harvard’s grading rubric was leaked to the New York Times. (It’s possible this is a parody.)
“The A+ grade is used only in very rare instances for the recognition of truly exceptional achievement,” the dean tells faculty.
For example: A term paper receiving the A+ is virtually indistinguishable from the work of a professional, both in its choice of paper stock and its font. The student’s command of the topic is expert, or at the very least intermediate, or beginner. Nearly every single word in the paper is spelled correctly; those that are not can be reasoned out phonetically within minutes. Content from Wikipedia is integrated with precision. The paper contains few, if any, death threats.
A few things can disqualify an otherwise worthy paper from this exceptional honor: 1) Plagiarism, unless committed with extraordinary reluctance. 2) The paper has been doused in blood or another liquid, unless dousing was requested by the instructor. 3) The paper was submitted late (with reasonable leeway — but certainly by no more than one or two years).
. . . Finally, the A+ grade is awarded to all collages, dioramas and other art projects.
For students who haven’t committed assault, the lowest grade is an A-.
The A– grade is awarded to work that, while very good, is nevertheless diminished by a significant flaw that cannot be completely overlooked. For example, a final examination receiving the A– might be impeccable, except for having been left blank. Or the student filled in the test, but did so according to no discernible pattern, while screaming like a maniac. An A– term paper might offer an original analysis of a complex topic, but exist only within the imagination of the instructor or the student, or, in some rare instances, both.
Grade inflation has been an issue at Harvard — and elsewhere — for 20 years.