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CLARIFY U OF T (and other school's) BELL CURVING CONCEPT!

A photo of kinganser kinganser
I created this post because I'm seeking some clarification/opinion and advice, if anyone has some to offer, on this notion of the University of Toronto (and perhaps other 'top' universities (in Canada)) curving their marks (usually down) to keep their class averages low to say, around a 70-ish to 75 (3.1 GPA) tops?

I am a concerned GRADE 11 high-school student in Maple, Ontario looking to go into a science undergrad program in preparation for med-school. U of T, and York, would be the closest universities to my home, meaning all other ones would probably force me to stay at their residences.

I have heard many stories and advice from people saying going to U of T for pre-med undergrad is as good as 'willingly destroying your chances to get into medical school'. Having a 3.7+ (80-84+) is nearly impossible. Highschool students with 95% go down to 3.1.

What are your insights on this topic? Does EVERYONE completely dis-recommend going to U of T? Is it really THAT much better to go to a SMALLER university just to bring up marks?
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A photo of kinganser kinganser
Also, in contrast - what is the cut off GPA / mark for med-school applicants? I know a lot of other things weigh in (MCAT obviously and the rest of the varying applications), but what is the average marks that accepted students have?

And one more thing: do top universities in USA do this too? What is the point of this - JUST to keep people's marks LOW?
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A photo of Realist Realist
It's great that you are considering your options and doing your research.

Firstly, I'd like to say that I had the unfortunate experience of attending UT. I really do suggest you attend a less-reputable university, seeing as ad-coms never take into consideration the name of the school you attend. Most of the premeds I knew who were wise and didn't attend the top schools are now med-students. In fact, a classmate of mine back in HS who wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed back then did medical physics at Ryerson and is now at Queens meds.

With that said, if you still want to come to UT then prepare yourself. Most students are weeded out in the first year, but I didn't find it to be that difficult. Grades are mostly curved up, with exceptions of course (never take o-chem during the regular semester, trust me on this). The problem why a great number of premeds are weeded out in the first year is the grade inflation in high-schools and lack of work ethic. Most of these kids had 95 averages in high-school without much of an effort. They ignorantly believe they can put in the same effort and will end up as medical students 4 years from now. Students with average intelligence but with strong work ethics under their belt will almost always do well, in stark contrast to their intelligent but lazy peers. Your second year will be the most difficult, and if you survive it you will have a solid chance at medicine. I suggest you don't start with EC's at least in your third year, when you are used to the grind and slowly start to pile them on. Remember, there will always be time for EC's but your GPA will almost always be irreparable.
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A photo of uncharted1111 uncharted1111
I go to a top 5 US school and as far as I know, all 100 and 200-level sciences classes here are curved. However, not all classes follow the same curve. For example. I got placed into a chemistry class for people who got a 5 on the AP or a 750+ on the SAT Subject Test and it was curved at a B+/A-. As long as you put effort into the class you were guaranteed at least a B, and more than half the class got A-s or As. I believe that Freshman Organic Chemistry, which is a level above, is curved the same way. The two lower level chemistry classes follow the "standard" curve, which is I think roughly 30% As, 30% Bs, and 30% Cs. Surprisingly, Intro Econ, which is our largest class, has a curve of 50% As, 40% Bs, and 10% Cs.

My university definitely doesn't want to weed people out, seeing as they did that during the admissions process. They also don't want to lose money on people who are on financial aid, etc.. Our retention rate for first year is 99%. They really want you to succeed. I can't say what it's like at other schools though.
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A photo of littleroom littleroom
I go to UTSG and just finished my first semester. Two of my classes (BIO120 and CHM139) were curved up, while my other three record your raw scores. It's not impossible to get 3.7+, I'm getting it, and a few of my friends are around 3.9-4.0, but I also have friends below 3.0 or just hanging on. It depends on how well you take the shock of the workload and demand.
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A photo of esin esin
^ how did u do in chm139 and bio120?
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A photo of DadeMurphy DadeMurphy
For me personally, I never really had an experience with the UofT bellcurving system, just try and keep above it, that's all there is to it. It's not that difficult. Of course, if you put in the same amount of effort into university as you did in highschool, that's no guarantee that you will get the same marks or grades (surprise! university is harder than highschool)

I know a few of my classes while in the EngSci program were curved upwards, simply because the program is already hard to begin with.
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A photo of littleroom littleroom

@esin wrote
^ how did u do in chm139 and bio120?



CHM139 is my worst mark (I'm expecting around 70). In BIO120 I got 93. How'd you do?
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A photo of kinganser kinganser
thanks a lot everyone for the information you gave me. i would have to say that i too am lazy at this stage, especially seeing that i am capable of getting great marks without giving 100% effort towards my work.

i do make sure that all my work has quality, but at the same time i find my self lazy often afternoons to open my books and review the work, or slowly go through homework step by step - rather i rush most things which won't be evaluated.

its good to hear that getting 'great' marks at UTSG and like universities isn't IMPOSSIBLE, however takes a lot of effort.

but then, wouldn't going to a 'lower class university, if you know what i mean by that, be another act of laziness - rather than stepping up and working harder in top universities?

so why don't medical schools recognize this? does getting (for example) a 3.8 GPA in UTSG really mean LESS than getting a 3.9 in say U of Alberta (where ALL other credentials are the same)?
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A photo of Reality Reality

@kinganser wrote
thanks a lot everyone for the information you gave me. i would have to say that i too am lazy at this stage, especially seeing that i am capable of getting great marks without giving 100% effort towards my work.

i do make sure that all my work has quality, but at the same time i find my self lazy often afternoons to open my books and review the work, or slowly go through homework step by step - rather i rush most things which won't be evaluated.

its good to hear that getting 'great' marks at UTSG and like universities isn't IMPOSSIBLE, however takes a lot of effort.

but then, wouldn't going to a 'lower class university, if you know what i mean by that, be another act of laziness - rather than stepping up and working harder in top universities?

so why don't medical schools recognize this? does getting (for example) a 3.8 GPA in UTSG really mean LESS than getting a 3.9 in say U of Alberta (where ALL other credentials are the same)?


Yes. 3.9 > 3.8, as basic math dictates. And how would schools quantify how much harder is University X is to University Y. They can't (unless you have some ingenious plan you want to share), and this is why the MCAT is used as an a criteria - it's a standardized test, which gives everyone an equal playing field. So given all other things equal, the UofA candidate would have a higher probability of getting in. And no, you're not being lazy by choosing a less reputable school; I would call that being smart.
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A photo of esin esin

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote
^ how did u do in chm139 and bio120?



CHM139 is my worst mark (I'm expecting around 70). In BIO120 I got 93. How'd you do?



lol im a highschooler (high 5). I just heard both courses are pretty hard, especially chem. CHM138 is supposed to be way easier though...

What was the class avg for BIO?
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A photo of littleroom littleroom

@esin wrote

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote
^ how did u do in chm139 and bio120?



CHM139 is my worst mark (I'm expecting around 70). In BIO120 I got 93. How'd you do?



lol im a highschooler (high 5). I just heard both courses are pretty hard, especially chem. CHM138 is supposed to be way easier though...

What was the class avg for BIO?



Oh! Well, don't worry - if you put effort in (this isn't a boring cliche, it's true for these two courses, I think). Both courses require a very good understanding of the material, although beware that just droning over practice problems won't help you.

Many people who complain about BIO120, I find, just don't enjoy the course and are making excuses (like saying that the questions are too hard or that they all sound right on the test). Obviously, if you leave the readings until three days before the test (and there are a lot of readings), you will do poorly.

If you are intrigued by ecology and evolution, you will absolutely love the course (as I did!), but if not, either aim low like most people or just grind it out. Both class averages were 65, as that's what they have to be. To do so, however, marks had to be bellcurved up. For CHM139, for example, our first term test average was a failing grade (our professor didn't tell us the exact number, but my TA said it was between 30-40%). After the bellcurve, it was 61% I believe.

CHM139, I absolutely abhorred (I hate chemistry), and so for most of the course I studied very poorly. For the exam, I studied well however, and I did well on labs, and for that reason I think I'll get at least a B in the course. It is extremely difficult though: it requires a very detailed understanding of the textbook. For me, doing practice problems were a waste of time (but don't take this as your way of studying, everyone's will be different).

I've heard that about CHM138 as well, but my friends taking it tell me that I shouldn't be so sure. I'll update you in May if this discussion arises again.
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A photo of esin esin

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote
^ how did u do in chm139 and bio120?



CHM139 is my worst mark (I'm expecting around 70). In BIO120 I got 93. How'd you do?



lol im a highschooler (high 5). I just heard both courses are pretty hard, especially chem. CHM138 is supposed to be way easier though...

What was the class avg for BIO?



Oh! Well, don't worry - if you put effort in (this isn't a boring cliche, it's true for these two courses, I think). Both courses require a very good understanding of the material, although beware that just droning over practice problems won't help you.

Many people who complain about BIO120, I find, just don't enjoy the course and are making excuses (like saying that the questions are too hard or that they all sound right on the test). Obviously, if you leave the readings until three days before the test (and there are a lot of readings), you will do poorly.

If you are intrigued by ecology and evolution, you will absolutely love the course (as I did!), but if not, either aim low like most people or just grind it out. Both class averages were 65, as that's what they have to be. To do so, however, marks had to be bellcurved up. For CHM139, for example, our first term test average was a failing grade (our professor didn't tell us the exact number, but my TA said it was between 30-40%). After the bellcurve, it was 61% I believe.

CHM139, I absolutely abhorred (I hate chemistry), and so for most of the course I studied very poorly. For the exam, I studied well however, and I did well on labs, and for that reason I think I'll get at least a B in the course. It is extremely difficult though: it requires a very detailed understanding of the textbook. For me, doing practice problems were a waste of time (but don't take this as your way of studying, everyone's will be different).

I've heard that about CHM138 as well, but my friends taking it tell me that I shouldn't be so sure. I'll update you in May if this discussion arises again.




I see!

When the class averages are really low (below C-) is it because the exam was surprisingly hard or is it because the material is generally hard and most people don't get it?

What other courses are you taking? Is it difficult to balance everything? Do you think students that do residence generally do better than students that don't, since they don't waste their time commuting?

Thanks :bigsmurf:
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A photo of littleroom littleroom

@esin wrote

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote
^ how did u do in chm139 and bio120?



CHM139 is my worst mark (I'm expecting around 70). In BIO120 I got 93. How'd you do?



lol im a highschooler (high 5). I just heard both courses are pretty hard, especially chem. CHM138 is supposed to be way easier though...

What was the class avg for BIO?



Oh! Well, don't worry - if you put effort in (this isn't a boring cliche, it's true for these two courses, I think). Both courses require a very good understanding of the material, although beware that just droning over practice problems won't help you.

Many people who complain about BIO120, I find, just don't enjoy the course and are making excuses (like saying that the questions are too hard or that they all sound right on the test). Obviously, if you leave the readings until three days before the test (and there are a lot of readings), you will do poorly.

If you are intrigued by ecology and evolution, you will absolutely love the course (as I did!), but if not, either aim low like most people or just grind it out. Both class averages were 65, as that's what they have to be. To do so, however, marks had to be bellcurved up. For CHM139, for example, our first term test average was a failing grade (our professor didn't tell us the exact number, but my TA said it was between 30-40%). After the bellcurve, it was 61% I believe.

CHM139, I absolutely abhorred (I hate chemistry), and so for most of the course I studied very poorly. For the exam, I studied well however, and I did well on labs, and for that reason I think I'll get at least a B in the course. It is extremely difficult though: it requires a very detailed understanding of the textbook. For me, doing practice problems were a waste of time (but don't take this as your way of studying, everyone's will be different).

I've heard that about CHM138 as well, but my friends taking it tell me that I shouldn't be so sure. I'll update you in May if this discussion arises again.




I see!

When the class averages are really low (below C-) is it because the exam was surprisingly hard or is it because the material is generally hard and most people don't get it?

What other courses are you taking? Is it difficult to balance everything? Do you think students that do residence generally do better than students that don't, since they don't waste their time commuting?

Thanks :bigsmurf:



I've heard stories towards both the answers you gave (either too hard exams or too hard material). For my first year classes though, I can tell you that it was because people don't take the course seriously enough, not because the professor was out to get them.

I'm taking HPS100 (History of Philosophy and Science), SII199 (a seminar course called "Globalization and its discontents: Germany as case study"), JMB170 (Joint Math and Biology course), and some others next term that I have nothing yet to say about. The courses listed above I all enjoyed, and found no problem balancing the academic workload, but that's because I don't go out much. Weekdays I'm doing homework almost all the time (except for breaks to just waste time on the web), but my weekends are more open to some social time.

I have friends that commute and friends that live on residence that are both doing well and doing poorly, but it is definitely extremely difficult to commute and do well (it drains you). Living on campus residence has drawbacks too, mainly all the social life that is going around you being hard to ignore. I think I have the best of both worlds, because I live off campus but close to school, so my commute is very short and I'm not preoccupied with parties and other things.
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A photo of esin esin

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote
^ how did u do in chm139 and bio120?



CHM139 is my worst mark (I'm expecting around 70). In BIO120 I got 93. How'd you do?



lol im a highschooler (high 5). I just heard both courses are pretty hard, especially chem. CHM138 is supposed to be way easier though...

What was the class avg for BIO?



Oh! Well, don't worry - if you put effort in (this isn't a boring cliche, it's true for these two courses, I think). Both courses require a very good understanding of the material, although beware that just droning over practice problems won't help you.

Many people who complain about BIO120, I find, just don't enjoy the course and are making excuses (like saying that the questions are too hard or that they all sound right on the test). Obviously, if you leave the readings until three days before the test (and there are a lot of readings), you will do poorly.

If you are intrigued by ecology and evolution, you will absolutely love the course (as I did!), but if not, either aim low like most people or just grind it out. Both class averages were 65, as that's what they have to be. To do so, however, marks had to be bellcurved up. For CHM139, for example, our first term test average was a failing grade (our professor didn't tell us the exact number, but my TA said it was between 30-40%). After the bellcurve, it was 61% I believe.

CHM139, I absolutely abhorred (I hate chemistry), and so for most of the course I studied very poorly. For the exam, I studied well however, and I did well on labs, and for that reason I think I'll get at least a B in the course. It is extremely difficult though: it requires a very detailed understanding of the textbook. For me, doing practice problems were a waste of time (but don't take this as your way of studying, everyone's will be different).

I've heard that about CHM138 as well, but my friends taking it tell me that I shouldn't be so sure. I'll update you in May if this discussion arises again.




I see!

When the class averages are really low (below C-) is it because the exam was surprisingly hard or is it because the material is generally hard and most people don't get it?

What other courses are you taking? Is it difficult to balance everything? Do you think students that do residence generally do better than students that don't, since they don't waste their time commuting?

Thanks :bigsmurf:



I've heard stories towards both the answers you gave (either too hard exams or too hard material). For my first year classes though, I can tell you that it was because people don't take the course seriously enough, not because the professor was out to get them.

I'm taking HPS100 (History of Philosophy and Science), SII199 (a seminar course called "Globalization and its discontents: Germany as case study"), JMB170 (Joint Math and Biology course), and some others next term that I have nothing yet to say about. The courses listed above I all enjoyed, and found no problem balancing the academic workload, but that's because I don't go out much. Weekdays I'm doing homework almost all the time (except for breaks to just waste time on the web), but my weekends are more open to some social time.

I have friends that commute and friends that live on residence that are both doing well and doing poorly, but it is definitely extremely difficult to commute and do well (it drains you). Living on campus residence has drawbacks too, mainly all the social life that is going around you being hard to ignore. I think I have the best of both worlds, because I live off campus but close to school, so my commute is very short and I'm not preoccupied with parties and other things.



Woah. Those electives sound so random. Why'd u pick them? Were there a lot of options?
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A photo of Reality Reality
Too scared to take MAT135. But, it's a smart choice as JMB170 is probably easier to do well in. Kudos to you.
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A photo of littleroom littleroom

@esin wrote

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote

@littleroom wrote

@esin wrote
^ how did u do in chm139 and bio120?



CHM139 is my worst mark (I'm expecting around 70). In BIO120 I got 93. How'd you do?



lol im a highschooler (high 5). I just heard both courses are pretty hard, especially chem. CHM138 is supposed to be way easier though...

What was the class avg for BIO?



Oh! Well, don't worry - if you put effort in (this isn't a boring cliche, it's true for these two courses, I think). Both courses require a very good understanding of the material, although beware that just droning over practice problems won't help you.

Many people who complain about BIO120, I find, just don't enjoy the course and are making excuses (like saying that the questions are too hard or that they all sound right on the test). Obviously, if you leave the readings until three days before the test (and there are a lot of readings), you will do poorly.

If you are intrigued by ecology and evolution, you will absolutely love the course (as I did!), but if not, either aim low like most people or just grind it out. Both class averages were 65, as that's what they have to be. To do so, however, marks had to be bellcurved up. For CHM139, for example, our first term test average was a failing grade (our professor didn't tell us the exact number, but my TA said it was between 30-40%). After the bellcurve, it was 61% I believe.

CHM139, I absolutely abhorred (I hate chemistry), and so for most of the course I studied very poorly. For the exam, I studied well however, and I did well on labs, and for that reason I think I'll get at least a B in the course. It is extremely difficult though: it requires a very detailed understanding of the textbook. For me, doing practice problems were a waste of time (but don't take this as your way of studying, everyone's will be different).

I've heard that about CHM138 as well, but my friends taking it tell me that I shouldn't be so sure. I'll update you in May if this discussion arises again.




I see!

When the class averages are really low (below C-) is it because the exam was surprisingly hard or is it because the material is generally hard and most people don't get it?

What other courses are you taking? Is it difficult to balance everything? Do you think students that do residence generally do better than students that don't, since they don't waste their time commuting?

Thanks :bigsmurf:



I've heard stories towards both the answers you gave (either too hard exams or too hard material). For my first year classes though, I can tell you that it was because people don't take the course seriously enough, not because the professor was out to get them.

I'm taking HPS100 (History of Philosophy and Science), SII199 (a seminar course called "Globalization and its discontents: Germany as case study"), JMB170 (Joint Math and Biology course), and some others next term that I have nothing yet to say about. The courses listed above I all enjoyed, and found no problem balancing the academic workload, but that's because I don't go out much. Weekdays I'm doing homework almost all the time (except for breaks to just waste time on the web), but my weekends are more open to some social time.

I have friends that commute and friends that live on residence that are both doing well and doing poorly, but it is definitely extremely difficult to commute and do well (it drains you). Living on campus residence has drawbacks too, mainly all the social life that is going around you being hard to ignore. I think I have the best of both worlds, because I live off campus but close to school, so my commute is very short and I'm not preoccupied with parties and other things.



Woah. Those electives sound so random. Why'd u pick them? Were there a lot of options?




I took them because I was interested in them and they fit my schedule well. Yes, UofT offers a lot of courses you wouldn't imagine, especially first-year seminars.

Reality, you're assuming too much and being unnecessarily bitter. I actually did very well in high school calculus, so there was no cowardice on my part in not taking MAT135. JMB170 is not an easy course, you should get that myth out of your head - bird courses are rare. If you're curious to know, the reason I took JMB170 is because it relates to my intended major (something in Ecology and Evolution) as it ties in mathematics with biological concepts, whereas I'm sure you would know that MAT135 does not.
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A photo of Reality Reality
I'm just saying. No bitterness on my part (I actually love UofT!).

Doing well in high school calculus correlates weakly in terms of your mathematical performance in university. You probably heard of some horror stories about MAT135, and decided to avoid it - good idea on your part. And never once did I say JMB170 was a bird course. I just said it was easier - that's it, that's all.

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A photo of littleroom littleroom

@Reality wrote
I'm just saying. No bitterness on my part (I actually love UofT!).

Doing well in high school calculus correlates weakly in terms of your mathematical performance in university. You probably heard of some horror stories about MAT135, and decided to avoid it - good idea on your part. And never once did I say JMB170 was a bird course. I just said it was easier - that's it, that's all.





I didn't hear about any horror stories about MAT135, so that's not why I avoided it. I also know that high school performance has little to do with university performance, but a high school student going into university has nothing else to go by. Stop insinuating that I'm a coward, I'm not. The only reason I took JMB170 was because it relates to my program.
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A photo of esin esin
yo dawgz, where else did you guys apply back in the day?
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A photo of littleroom littleroom

@esin wrote
yo dawgz, where else did you guys apply back in the day?



I applied to McMaster for Life Sciences and Guelph for Zoology, but decided to go to UTSG because it had the best and most in-depth faculty for what I wanted to study.
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@Realist wrote
It's great that you are considering your options and doing your research.

Firstly, I'd like to say that I had the unfortunate experience of attending UT. I really do suggest you attend a less-reputable university, seeing as ad-coms never take into consideration the name of the school you attend. Most of the premeds I knew who were wise and didn't attend the top schools are now med-students. In fact, a classmate of mine back in HS who wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed back then did medical physics at Ryerson and is now at Queens meds.

With that said, if you still want to come to UT then prepare yourself. Most students are weeded out in the first year, but I didn't find it to be that difficult. Grades are mostly curved up, with exceptions of course (never take o-chem during the regular semester, trust me on this). The problem why a great number of premeds are weeded out in the first year is the grade inflation in high-schools and lack of work ethic. Most of these kids had 95 averages in high-school without much of an effort. They ignorantly believe they can put in the same effort and will end up as medical students 4 years from now. Students with average intelligence but with strong work ethics under their belt will almost always do well, in stark contrast to their intelligent but lazy peers. Your second year will be the most difficult, and if you survive it you will have a solid chance at medicine. I suggest you don't start with EC's at least in your third year, when you are used to the grind and slowly start to pile them on. Remember, there will always be time for EC's but your GPA will almost always be irreparable.



i completely agree. i go to UofT and I want to switch to another school now to boost my GPA. it's the hardest school to do excellent in. Stats are 0-3 students go to med school from uoft each year :bounce:
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