Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Perfect 10 - or 6 - or 4.0


Rating, judging, scoring. People love to put a numerical value on things. As early as kindergarten – or even preschool – we get a report card with grades on it. Back in my time, the grading system was check, check plus, or check minus. You were either average, above average, or below average. These days, most schools use an H-S-U system: highly satisfactory, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory.

When you get into grade school, the grading system gets more complicated, with five different levels: A, B, C, D, and F. Five is actually a very popular scoring system. You can review vendors or products on websites like Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy using a five-star system. Chances are if you look up a movie review on line, it will have a rating based on five stars. Many travel guides, such as AAA, rate hotels and restaurants on a five-star (or five-diamond) basis.

Some scoring systems are based on 4 instead of 3 or 5. Grade point averages at most high schools and colleges are based on a 4.0-point system. Unless, of course, there are advanced or accelerated courses involved, which then bumps the base up to a 6.0-point system.

Speaking of 6.0-point systems, until recently, competitive gymnastics and competitive ice skating were also both based on a 6-point system. But both events also take into account the degree of difficulty, which made it impossible for a perfect but simple dive or routine to score as highly as a perfect but complicated dive or routine.

Both ice skating and gymnastics have been judged on a ten-point scale in the past – who could forget the Olympic Games with Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 in gymnastics, or Torville and Dean’s perfect 10 for ice dancing? Ten points is one of the most common rating scales. The 10-point scale is the unofficial way that men rate a woman’s attractiveness (and vice versa).  Television shows like “Dancing With the Stars” use a ten-point scale – but the scale is multiplied by having three judges.

Other television shows with three judges, like “America’s Got Talent,” don’t give a score but simply a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” Of course, one of the earliest thumbs up/thumbs down ratings on television was Siskel and Ebert’s movie reviews. And one of the most popular thumbs up/thumbs down rating systems is surveys of politicians’ approval ratings. But in the case of approval ratings, the surveyors collect hundreds or thousands of ratings and determine a percentage approval rating.

Percentage is another popular rating scale. Jumping back to grading in schools, although the grade on a report card is usually either one of five letters (ABCDF) or a grade point average out of 4 or 6, individual exam grades are usually scored as a percentage of questions answered correctly. 90-100 percent correct is an A, 80-89 percent a B, and so on. Unless, of course, the teacher grades “on a curve.” Since a grade of C is considered average, the teacher may use the actual average score to represent a grade of C rather than arbitrarily considering 70-79 percent as a C. So if the highest grade in the class was 80 percent, and the lowest was 40 percent, a score of 60 percent would be a C and a score of 80 percent would be an A.

And as if all those systems weren’t complicated enough, some ratings are based on multiple factors that are all graded independently, then weighted and combined. For example, on the television show “Iron Chef,” three judges grade each competitor’s dishes on the basis of taste, plating, and originality. Taste is rated on a 10-point scale, plating and originality each on 5-point scales. So each judge’s score is based on 20 points, and since there are three judges, the total score is out of a possible 60 points.

Confused yet? Hmm, how would you rate your confusion on a scale of 1 to 10?


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