The Advantages and Disadvantages of the R-Score
The experience of CEGEP and university admissions with the R-Score is not fair and optimal for selecting talented applicants.
At Marianopolis, it’s about as common as a “hey, how are you?” to ask for someone’s R-score. The politeness of this can be debated at another time, but the fact remains that the R-score is seemingly important enough that it must be asked. Building an impressive CV and maintaining a good average is most everyone’s end goal, so come time for university admissions, we all get an acceptance letter in the mail. And that’s how it should be, right?
Well, I’m inclined to disagree.
I’m by no means rejecting the R-score or the importance of a CV. However, I don’t think that these should be the only factors taken into consideration when accepting future university students.
Let’s take a peek at how the R-score is calculated. The formula is (Z + ISG + C) x D. The variables look pretty insignificant right now, but we’ll break it down. C and D are both constants of 5, which is pretty self-explanatory. Z is the z-score, meaning how many standard deviations you are away from the class average. And, lastly, the ISG is basically the strength of your group compared to other groups.
Calculations aside, the R-score can be manipulated to one’s advantage, if they play the right cards. For example, a simple glance at Rate My Teachers can tell you which teachers are easy markers, and which ones to avoid at all costs. Many of my friends who have gotten high R-scores have achieved this by picking the right courses and teachers, even if the subject matter isn’t interesting to them in the slightest.
On the other side of the spectrum, the R-score can be disadvantageous, mostly in regards to the ISG. Even if your Z-score is high, the relative group average can dangerously drag your R-score down. In other words, even if you have an amazing grade in that class, or overall, the universities won’t see that – they’ll only see the final R-score.
The R-score also does not take work ethic or dedication into account. The number of hours one puts into studying and practice problems simply isn’t reflected in the R-score, unless their grades are actually improved. Some of the hardest workers I know have less than average R-scores, despite them continuously reviewing and seeing their teachers during office hours. To those who naturally get good grades or who get the luck of the draw when making their schedules, this is no big deal, but it’s definitely worrying for those who have to invest tons of time in order to just pass.
The R-score does not measure well-being, or important qualities that should be considered by universities, such as honesty and commitment. It is impossible to gage a person based on their R-score alone, and even with a glance at their CV, the choice is not clear cut. Interviews and letters of recommendation should be encouraged by universities, in order to better judge the applicants, and ensure a well-rounded student body. At the end of the day, the education system shouldn’t be focused on producing the highest R-score or building up the bulkiest CV, but should also work on catering to pupils’ needs and strengths, and bringing forth balanced and versatile students.
Written by guest writer Cassandra Moschella, edited by the MWR team
How the R-Score Treats Us Equally and Why We Should Also Treat It Fairly
To a youngster living outside of Quebec, the terms “CEGEP” and “R-Score” would probably sound as alien as the concept of pity to a troll physics teacher. Yet, to those of us who do live in Quebec, the two-year pre-university system known as CEGEP is probably one of the highlights of our paths as students. Naturally, whoever says school also says grades. While the rest of North America uses the system of grade point averages (GPA), CEGEPs use a little-understood statistical method called the R-Score. It would thus be appropriate to say that the university admission process in Quebec is somewhat different than that of other provinces. However: is it fair? Although the R-Score and the overall Quebec university admission process aren’t Utopian, they are undeniably optimal.
Like any other advanced learning institutions, universities in Quebec look at students’ grades during the admission process. Here, pre-university grades are represented by the R-Score, which I shall demonstrate carries greater legitimacy than a traditional GPA. Indeed, the R-Score is calculated with a formula (you can Google it) involving a Z-Score, which compares the student’s grade to the average, and the ISG, the Indicator of the Strength of the Group. If you’re confused, don’t fret—let me explain. The Z-Score is calculated by dividing the difference between one’s grade and the class average by the standard deviation. In essence, the higher one’s grade is compared to the class average, the better the Z-Score (and thus the R-Score) will be. The Z-score allows for much more unbiased comparison between students from different student bodies. For example, a student scoring 89 in a harder class, one where the average is 72, will get more recognition through a higher Z-Score than a student scoring 89 in an easier class, one where the average might be 82. Likewise, the ISG allows different student groups to be treated equally by taking into account the high school average of the students taking the course. A strong student body would result in a higher ISG, compensating for the possibly higher average of the class. Although it may not be easier for students in stronger schools to score higher R-Scores, the ISG helps these students strive with acceptable R-Scores, while the school’s reputation truly compensates for the heightened levels of difficulty in their institution. The statistical nature of the R-Score, where each grade compared to a distribution of class marks, is the main advantage of this system compared to the GPA.
The admission process, however, is not limited to a candidate’s R-Score. Indeed, many programs look at a student’s extra-curricular activities, including volunteering and work experience. And frankly, this is what makes university admissions fair! It cannot be said that academic success is all that is needed to perform well in the workplace. While school provides the necessary skills to complete a job, it cannot possibly simulate a realistic work environment. A good worker must be able to interact and maintain healthy relationships with his or her co-workers and employer, and these skills are most efficiently learned in real work environments. This inherent truth is the main reason why volunteering and work experience are nowadays so crucial for university admissions. It is not coincidence that Ivy League schools place so much emphasis on volunteering, research, and work experience during the admission process. And to be honest, extracurriculars are really fun, as they allow us to develop meaningful friendships and simply enjoy ourselves. They’re also a very efficient way to create connections that will ultimately prove useful later in life. No matter how you look at it, it’s a win-win situation.
Finally, the goal of the admission process is to select the most talented applicants. And honestly, the best applicants are the ones who are able to gather information and act accordingly. Indeed, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that all admission criteria are public and also somewhat common knowledge. The same goes for the mechanics behind the R-Score. A “talented” student will read about such matters and make the appropriate choices. Universities and employers are not only looking for candidates with good academic records and various life experiences, but also for people who are able to understand what is asked of them and to adjust accordingly. A student who really wishes to proceed to a highly competitive program such as Law or Medicine might consider joining Model UN, or start volunteering and doing research. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “A goal without a plan is just a wish” (Saint-Exupéry).
To conclude, while the admission process is not perfect, it wouldn’t really be fair to call it unfair. After all, these universities still need to be filled… one way or another.
Written by MWR writer Raymond Zuo, edited by the MWR team
Comité de gestion des bulletins d’études collégiales. The R score: a survey of its purposes and use. Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ). 2000. Print. Date accessed: 18 April 2016. URL: http://www.crepuq.qc.ca/IMG/pdf/R_Score_short.pdf
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Goodreads. Goodreads Inc., 2016. Web. 18 April 2016. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/87476-a-goal-without-a-plan-is-just-a-wish