Evaluation Groups, and How to Use Them to Your Advantage

If you have read our article The Ultimate R-Score Breakdown: Everything Explained (and if you haven’t, you should before reading this article), you will know that the only true ‘variable’ relating to the R-Score with which CEGEP students should be concerned is the evaluation group. To recapitulate, the evaluation group is the group of students who are considered to be taking the same class as you, and with whom you are grouped for the purposes of R-Score calculation: the class average, standard deviation and high school average are determined from this group. Contrary to what you might believe, this evaluation group is rarely your section, i.e. the people you see in class with you at the same times as you.

What are common manifestations of misunderstanding evaluation groups?

The issue at hand is not one we made up: without knowing it, many CEGEP students indeed refer, usually erroneously, to evaluation groups. Take a student who sees these kinds of statistics in the grade listing for their class on Omnivox during the semester:

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Given such an occurrence, it would be surprising if an even minimally interested student would not casually exclaim to their friends: “Dude wtf!!! The standard deviation is like 27%! That’s gonna kill my R-Score, RIP med!!” Hopefully you already see the issue: statistics in the Course Summary on Léa are always genuine class statistics, irrespective of the evaluation group, and relating only to the student’s specific section (i.e. your class of 20-30 students). It is unlikely, however, that this same standard deviation will be used to calculate the R-Score: rather, the student might be grouped with everyone who is taking that specific class, either at all or with that specific teacher.

Okay, RScology guy, you’ve made fun of the average CEGEP student enough. How do I find statistics for the actual evaluation group?

There is one reliable way to find the arithmetic average for the real evaluation group: it is always that which is shown in the Omnivox Statement of Final Grades. For example, if the student described in the previous questions views this Statement, the average shown will be correct:

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The class average of the evaluation group is indeed 79%. However, this average is not the one used to calculate the R-Score. Why the hell not, you say? Haven’t we already confused you enough with evaluation groups? As you’ll remember from our post explaining the R-Score, students with grades under 50% are completely excluded from the calculation of the class average, standard deviation and high school average. However, the Final Average on Omnivox never excludes grades under 50%, and is therefore not correct. In fact, there is absolutely no known way to find the R-Score class average for most CEGEPs. However, there is one rare exception worth mentioning: some CEGEPs (only one, Dawson College, is known to us) publish this information directly:

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The information under the “Avg. R Score per course” column is the much-prized R-Score class average mentioned above, both utilizing the correct evaluation group and excluding grades under 50%, and even being more precise (4 significant figures). The existence of such information is an RScologist’s dream, but seems to only be present for this CEGEP.

Which different ways do colleges determine the evaluation group?

There is, broadly, three different ways that the evaluation group could be determined for a given course in a given semester:

  • By class section: The evaluation group is constituted of all the students who take a given course with a given teacher at given dates and times. This method is practically unused.
  • By course title and teacher: The evaluation group is constituted of all the students who take a course with a given title and teacher, regardless of the dates and times at which the class meets. This is the original method recommended by the CREPUQ, and is the fairest in RScology’s opinion.
  • By course code: The evaluation group is constituted of all the students who take a course identified by a given code, regardless of the subject matter, the teacher or the dates and times. Not only can instructors teaching a course with the same code grade in widely different ways, but these courses often also relate to subject matters as different as apples and oranges, as in the example of “20th Century Cinema” and “19th Century Poetry” given above, even though they are both English 101 classes. For these two reasons, this is by far the least fair method, and procures absolutely no apparent advantage compared to the previous method.

Although every college is responsible for determining the way it determines these groups, they do not necessarily use a single method, and may instead use a mixed approach. For instance, at least two CEGEPs (John Abbott and Dawson) use a single evaluation group per course code for science subjects, and different evaluation groups per teacher for every other subject. This is somewhat defensible and fairer, as different groups are employed for classes like English where subject matter and teachers are completely different, while science subjects are necessarily uniform in subject matter (every teacher will teach Calculus I almost identically) and share a common final exam. However, midterms and assignments still differ, therefore the literal interpretation of “evaluation in the same way” is still not satisfied, and a student can benefit from choosing a teacher with easier midterm exams.

By far the least equalitarian method is by course code, leading not only to theoretical unfairness but also concrete distortion. The very same issues that the R-Score was meant to correct manifest directly, as a student who earns 100% with Teacher A has a much better R-Score than one who earns 80% with Teacher B for the same work, due to harsher marking.

There is an economic incentive for colleges to compose groups unfairly, by course code: institutions which do this, like Marianopolis College, behave as some sort of reverse Robin Hood, taking R-Score points from weak students to give them to strong students, given that those who are trying to get into competitive university programs are much more likely to pay attention to choosing the teachers with whom they can achieve the highest mark. By favouring strong students in this way, such a college is able to maintain and even boost its reputation as a gateway to prestigious programs.

How do I take advantage of evaluation groups to get the best R-Score possible?

In RScology’s opinion, evaluation groups are probably one of the best, if not the best, ways to optimize your R-Score. Their relevance mostly applies to institutions where evaluation groups are constituted according to course code, as described above.

According to course code

If you attend an institution which uses the incredibly unfair practice of evaluation groups by course code, you are in great luck. In such a case, here is what we suggest in order to achieve the best possible R-Score:

  • Easy marker: Your #1 concern. Because you are compared to students with other teachers purely in terms of numerical grades, it is only obvious that you should choose the teacher who gives the highest possible grades for the same work.
  • 100% achievability: A close second to easy marking, the ability to achieve 100% in a course is something that is relatively separate from it. Usually, this is manifested by the absence of “impossible” questions which are likely to trick even students who studied and understood the material thoroughly. In terms of subjective marking, some teachers will be relatively generous and easily give 90% marks on essays, but never like to give grades above 95%, for instance. Even if they are easy markers, you should avoid these kinds of teachers, instead opting for one who is a bit harsher but who will give a well-deserved 100% mark to an optimal essay.
  • Predictability: Regardless of how easy a course may be, there can always be instances where a student’s essay will completely miss the mark, not satisfying the teacher’s expectations regardless of how much work the student put into it. Getting a 75% grade when you expected a 100% is not at all unheard of, and can have a tremendously detrimental effect on your overall R-Score. As such, you should prefer teachers who make their expectations clear.
  • Teaching quality: It is only the last element to be mentioned for a reason. While you should stray away from extremely bad teachers, experience has taught us that an average-teaching instructor who is an easy marker is endlessly better than an excellently-teaching instructor who is a tough marker for the purposes of maximizing your R-Score. We believe there is a certain degree of independent learning that is always healthy, and while you can supplement your teacher’s lectures and notes with online videos and textbooks, you can never truly offset the disadvantage which uselessly difficult exams make you incur.

Making your schedule

Stressed about making your schedule? In a one-on-one meeting with one of our consultants, we are able to provide advice on the following topics and more:

  • Which teachers at certain CEGEPs with which we are knowledgeable are the best to choose according to the criteria we described above;
  • How to balance the choice of optimal teachers with the need for a timetable that allows for sufficient free time for studying or activities;
  • How to “snipe” the classes you want extremely quickly, nearly guaranteeing that you’ll obtain your preferred schedule.

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