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Course Record Book of 1831 Shown in Widener Library

Marks Adoption of Percentage Basis for Keeping Grades


Harvard University's first five thousand graduates from 1636 to 1831 received their degrees without ever being marked on their examinations or recitations when the first accurate course record book used at the University was placed on display at the Widener Library as a part of the Tercentenary Exhibit.

This book, which contains the full academic record, week by week, of every student in the College is dated 1831 and is in the handwriting of Josiah Quincy, who was then President of Harvard.

Until Quincy took office degrees were awarded entirely on the basis of the faculty's general opinion of the candidate. The abuses and favoritism possible under this system led Quincy to require from the instructors an accurate mathematical record of every recitation. Each week he complied the marks personally, in what was probably the most monuniental bookkeeping task ever assumed by a college president.

This system was also probably the first step toward the introduction of the percentage method of marking into America. Under Quincy, the perfect recitation or examination scored eight points. The marks for all the recitations and examinations of a student were added together each year, and if at the end of the Senior year he had a sufficient point "aggregate" he graduated.

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