Higher Grades Challenge College Application Process

A) Josh Zalasky should be the kind of college applicant with little to worry about. The high school senior is taking three Advanced Placement courses. Outside the classroom, he,s involved in mock trial, two Jewish youth groups and has a job with a restaurant chain. He,s a National Merit semifinalist and scored in the top ? percent of all students who take the ACT.
B) But in the increasingly frenzied world of college admissions, even Zalasky is nervous about his prospects. He doubts he#ll get into the University of Wisconsin, a top choice. The reason: his grades. It$s not that they%re bad. It&s that so many of his classmates are so good. Zalasky’s GPA is nearly an A minus, and yet he ranks only about in the middle of his senior class of 543 at Edina High School outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. That means he will have to find other ways to stand out.
C) “It’s extremely difficult,” he said. “I spent all summer writing my essay. We even hired a private tutor to make sure that essay was the best it can be. But even with that, it’s like I*m just kind of leveling the playing field.” Last year, he even considered transferring out of his highly competitive public school, to some place where his grades would look better.
D) Some call the phenomenon that Zalasky’s fighting “grade inflation”—implying the boost is undeserved. Others say students are truly earning their better marks. Regardless, it’s a trend that’s been building for years and may only be accelerating: many students are getting very good grades. So many, in fact, it is getting harder and harder for colleges to use grades as a measuring stick for applicants.
E) Extra credit for AP courses, parental lobbying and genuine hard work by the most competitive students have combined to shatter any semblance of a Bell curve, one in which A,s are reserved only for the very best. For example, of the 47,317 applications the University of California, Los Angeles, received for this fall’s freshman class, nearly 23,000 had GPAs of 4.0 or above.
F) That’s also making it harder for the most selective colleges—who often call grades the single most important factor in admissions—to join in a growing movement to lessen the influence of standardized tests.
G) “We,re seeing 30, 40 valedictorians at a high school because they don,t want to create these distinctions between students,” said Jess Lord, dean of admission and financial aid at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. “ If we don’t have enough information, there’s a chance we’ll become more heavily reliant on test scores, and that’s a real negative to me.”
H) Standardized tests have endured a heap of bad publicity lately, with the SAT raising anger about its expanded length and recent scoring problems. A number of schools have stopped requiring test scores, to much fanfare.
I) But lost in the developments is the fact that none of the most selective colleges have dropped the tests. In fact, a national survey shows overall reliance on test scores is higher in admissions than it was a decade ago. “It’s the only thing we have to evaluate students that will help us tell how they compare to each other,” said Lee Stetson, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania.
J) Grade inflation is hard to measure, and experts,caution numbers are often misleading because standards and scales vary so widely. Different practices of “weighting” GPAs for AP work also play havoc. Still, the trend seems to be showing itself in a variety of ways.
K) The average high school GPA increased from 2.68 to 2.94 between 1990 and 2000, according to a federal study. Almost 23 percent of college freshmen in 2005 reported their average grade in high school was an A or better, according to a national survey by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. In 1975, the percentage was about half that.
L) GPAs reported by students on surveys when they take the SAT and ACT exams have also risen—and faster than their scores on those tests. That suggests their classroom grades aren’t rising just because students are getting smarter. Not surprisingly, the test-owners say grade inflation shows why testing should be kept: it gives all students an equal chance to shine.
M) The problems associated with grade inflation aren’t limited to elite college applicants. More than 70 percent of schools and districts analyzed by an education audit company called SchoolMatch had average GPAs significantly higher than they should have been based on their standardized test scores—including the school systems in Chicago, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Denver, Colorado, San Bernardino, California, and Columbus, Ohio. That raises concerns about students graduating from those schools unprepared for college. “They get mixed in with students from more rigorous schools and they just get blown away,” said SchoolMatch CEO William Bainbridge.
N) In Georgia, high school grades rose after the state began awarding HOPE scholarships to students with a 3.0 high school GPA. But the scholarship requires students to keep a 3.0 GPA in college, too, and more than half who received the HOPE in the fall of 1998 and entered the University of Georgia system lost eligibility before earning 30 credits. Next year, Georgia is taking a range of steps to tighten eligibility, including calculating GPA itself rather than relying on schools, and no longer giving extra GPA weight to vaguely labeled “honors” classes.
O) Among those who work with students gunning for the more selective colleges, opinions differ as to why there seem to be so many straight-A students. “I think there are more pressures now than there used to be, because 20 or 30 years ago kids with a B plus average got into some of the best colleges in the country,” said William Shain, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin College in Maine. “It didn,t matter if you had a 3.9 instead of a 3.95. I don,t know if it matters now either, but people are more likely to think it does.”
P) Lord, the Haverford dean, sees grade inflation as the outcome of an irrational fear among students to show any slip up—in grades or discipline. In fact, colleges like his are often more interested in students who have overcome failure and challenge than robots who have never been anything less than perfect. “There,s a protection and encouragement of self-esteem that I don’t agree with, but I think it’s a lot of what’s going on here,” he said. “And the college admissions process feeds into that.”
Q) Back in Minnesota, Edina may join a growing number of schools that no longer officially rank students—a move that could help students like Zalasky, who says he was told by Wisconsin his class rank makes him a longshot. “They feel they’re being left behind or not getting into the schools that they’re applying to because of a particular class rank,” says Edina counselor Bill Hicks. “And there is some validity with respect to some certain schools that use certain formulas.”
R) But the colleges most popular with Edina students already know how strong the school is: students’ median verbal and math SAT scores are 1170 out of 1600. Hicks isn’t willing to blame the concentration grades at the top on spineless teachers, or on grade-grubbing by parents and students. Expectations are high, and grades are based on student mastery of the material, not a curve. Wherever teachers place the bar for an A, the students clear it.
S) “Everyone here is like, ‘ if I can get a 98 why would I get a 93? said Lavanya Srinivasan, who was ranked third in her Edina class last year. Far from being pushovers, she says, Edina teachers are tougher than those in a course she took at Harvard last summer. Zalasky agrees the students work hard for their high grades. “The mentality of this school is, if you’re not getting straight A,s you’re not doing well,” he said. “There’s just so much pressure on us day in and day out to get straight A’s that everybody does.” Hicks compares the atmosphere at Edina to the World Series expectations that always surround the superstar lineup of the New York Yankees. “If they don’t win it,” he said, “then it’s failure.”
1. Nearly half of the applications that the University of California received this autumn had GPAs of 4.0 or above.
2. It,s also harder for the most selective colleges to lessen the effect of standardized tests.
3. More than 30 years ago, about 11.5 percent of college freshmen reported their average grade in high school was an A or better.
4. Because of the negative effects of standardized tests recently, a lot of universities have no longer required test scores.
5. Some think Zalasky’s improvement unworthy, while others think his high grades win the praise for him.
6. Because many of his classmates are so outstanding, Zalasky is nervous about his college application.
7. Some colleges would like to admit students who have conquered failure and challenge rather than those who have never been anything less than perfect.
8. In the next year, Georgia is taking a series of measures to tighten qualification, including calculating GPA itself and avoiding paying too much attention to vaguely labeled “honors” classes.
9. In Zalasky,s opinion, students are put under great pressure to work hard to get straight A"s, or they will be regarded as losers.
10. More and more schools no longer officially rank students by grade, which can help students like Zalasky.
文章精要
文章指出,目前美国大学在录取新生时,仍然比较看重分数。在一些学校里由 于奖学金政策的执行,学生的分数迅速攀升。考试的拥护者指出,考试有必要存在, 因为它给学生提供了展示自我的平台,而这也无疑会给学生带来巨大的压力。
答案解析
1. E 本题的出题点在E段的最后一句话,属于数字题。从原文可以看出,申请 者的人数为47,317,而获得4.0或者4.0以上分数者的人数接近23,000,由此 可知比例接近50%。
2. F 本题是F段的总结。原文提到,对学生的选拔最为严格的学校也越来越难 以参与到降低标准考试的影响的活动中来,也就是说,这些学校很难降低 标准考试的影响。
3. K 本题的出题点在K段的最后两句话,属于数字题。More than 30 years ago可推测应该是上世纪七八十年代,对应原文的1975年;从原文可以看出,在 大一新生中,2005年在高中取得A或者更好成绩的人数差不多是总人数的 !%%,而在1975年时此比例减半,大约为11.5%。
4. H 本题的出题点在H段。原文提到最近标准考试有一些负面影响,许多学校已经停止要求用考试分数来评判学生。题干的negative effects转述了原文 的bad publicity。
5. D 本题是对D段前两句话的同义转述。原文提到:有些人把Zalasky的努力这种现象称为“分数膨胀”,暗示他的这种进步不值得接受,而其他人认为那 些学生真正赢得了好的评价,题干中的win the praise for him同义转述了原 文中的earning their better marks。
6. B 本题的出题点在B段的第一句和第五句。原文提到even Zalasky is nervous about his prospects。接着在第五句中提到了原因:It’s that so many of his classmates are so good.由此可知题目是这两句的总结。
7. P 本题的出题点在P段的第二句话。题目中的Some colleges替换原文中的colleges like his;题目中的conquered和原文中的overcome属于同义词转换; 原文中的are more interested in换成了另一种说法would like to admit;原文中 的robots是一种比喻的说法,比喻那些完美得像机器人一样的学生。
8. N 本题的出题点在N段的最后一句话。题目中的In the next year替换原文中的Next year;题目中的a series of替换原文中的a range of;题目中的avoiding paying too much attention to替换原文中的no longer giving…weight to。
9. S 本题考查人物的观点。S段后半部分指出,Zalasky表示,学校的想法是,如果你没有得到全A的成绩,你就没有学得很好,学生们为了得到A都有很 大的压力。文章最后提到,Hicks将Zalasky所在的学校和纽约洋基队的情 况作了比较,“如果他们不能取胜,那么他们就失败了”,即对于学生来说 不能得到A就等于失败。
10. Q本题出题点在Q段的第一句话。题目表达意思与原句表述一致,题目用非限定性定语从句解释说明原文中破折号之后的内容;题目中的more and more schools和原文中的a growing number of schools属于同义转述。