Examinations are given periodically during the year. These contribute to an assessment of performance in each subject, but for students who regularly participate in classroom conversations, they are not the principal means of showing progress in the program. By observing contributions to the daily conversations, tutors are well aware of their students’ development. Exams may help tutors make better judgments about students and, especially for those students who enter class conversations infrequently, may even provide the primary source of evaluating their understanding of the subject matter. Examinations aid students in measuring their own grasp of the material and provide occasions for them to exercise their knowledge and reasoning power.
The principles of wisdom that form the mind and character are much worthier of pursuit than letter grades, which are only signs of progress. Students should orient themselves above all to a love of wisdom; their grades should then take care of themselves. Nevertheless, letter grades are necessary for students who transfer to other schools or who continue with graduate or professional studies
Grades, though fallible, are also useful measures of a student’s progress. The grade for each course is A, B, C, D, or F. “C” represents satisfactory progress. A “C” average is required to graduate. Students whose semester average falls below “C” for a term are notified by the Dean that they are on Academic Probation for the following term. To be taken off Academic Probation, they must attain a “C” average for that term and must also raise their cumulative average to “C.” Students whose semester average falls below “C” for two successive terms are dismissed from the program. Since the program is cohesive, each course contributes essentially to it and to the student’s growing discernment of the relations among the various arts and sciences. Courses not successfully completed cannot be made up piecemeal; therefore, students receiving an “F” for a course normally are dismissed from the program.
Twice yearly during the freshman, sophomore, and junior years, each student sits with his tutors and hears their observations on his work. The primary aim of the Don Rag is not, like a report card, to state the degree of a student’s mastery of the material. It is, rather, an occasion for offering him specific advice on how to improve his class preparation and participation and to help him advance in the intellectual life. Tutors thus work with the student to enable him to pursue more successfully the wisdom offered by great books.
In the event that a student is in danger of failure in one or more subjects, the Don Rag also may be an opportunity to alert him and to make suggestions for improving his performance. The Don Rag takes place with nearly half the semester still to come and subsequent classroom performance can strongly affect a student’s grades. The Don Rag does not, therefore, anticipate infallibly the final grades he might earn.
During their first week in the College, all freshmen write diagnostic essays. Those freshmen judged by tutors to need additional work in grammar and rhetoric attend the writing preceptorial, a weekly class discussion led by a tutor on the principles of grammar and rhetoric. For the duration of the preceptorial, which runs through most of the first semester, students write no papers for their regular classes; but they do write short essays each week and then meet individually with tutors to discuss them. By the end of the preceptorial, students must achieve a satisfactory level of writing ability.
The Junior Mathematics Tutorial makes use of algebra. Each student must demonstrate a basic proficiency in algebraic operations by passing the Algebra Enabling Examination by the end of the sophomore year; no student will be allowed to continue to the junior year unless he passes the Enabling Examination. The exam is given twice in the freshman year and twice in the sophomore year and must be taken each time until passed. An optional Algebra Preceptorial is available for students who have difficulty with this examination.