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The Future for Chinese/English Dictionaries mentioned that MDBG doesn't have "grading on a curve", and it seems that it's still rather hard to find a translation for this. A rather literal translation might be "按曲线评分". Here are some suggestions from around the web:

  • Google Translate: 曲线上的等级
  • Wikipedia: 拉curve、常模参照、拉曲线
  • Canvas Help: 评分曲线
  • Blackboard Help: 曲线成绩

What are the most usual terms for "grading on a curve" or "to curve" (i.e., to grade on a curve, usually with the effect of raising grades, possibly by a set number of points rather than to fit a predetermined distribution of grades), both the practice (noun) and the action (verb)?

I guess it's telling that Wikipedia named their article "拉curve" rather than something with only Chinese characters, and the article was created as late as September 2019, so perhaps there is no established term in Chinese?

If you're not familiar with grading on a curve, here is the description from Wikipedia:

In education, relative grading, marking on a curve (BE) or grading on a curve (AE, CE) (also referred to as curved grading, bell curving, or using grading curves) is a method of assigning grades to the students in a class in such a way as to obtain or approach a pre-specified distribution of these grades having a specific mean and derivation properties, such as a normal distribution (also called Gaussian distribution).1 The term "curve" refers to the bell curve, the graphical representation of the probability density of the normal distribution, but this method can be used to achieve any desired distribution of the grades – for example, a uniform distribution.

拉Curve1[3](又称为常模参照[4]、拉曲线[5])是一种教育界常用的评级方法,英式英语称为marking on a curve,美式英语称为grading on a curve ,又称为curved grading、bell curving、grading curves)是以预先设定的正态分布(即高斯分布)形式评核学生的分数或等级[6]。术语“Curve”是指以图表形式展示正态分布的概率密度的曲线。大学常用的评级方法GPA便是使用拉Curve来区分一级、二级及三级荣誉。而著名的香港中学会考(HKCEE)及香港高级程度会考(HKALE)便是采用拉Curve形式评分。

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It is called 标准分. Its opposite is called 原始分.

标准分 is the modified score according to the distribution of the score in the class.

Its calculation method might be different from curved scores, but the logic is the same.

The problem is, in China, modified scores are rarely used. Original scores are used in almost all situations. So the word for the curved score is not wildly used.

标准分 was sort of an education experiment decades ago. Teachers tried but finally decided not to use it. So, people might not understand this word these days. I know this word because my parents who are in their 60s were educators at that time. But I myself never attended any school that uses 标准分 or any kind of modified scores.

And letters grades (优,良,中,差,及格,不及格) are usually only considered as additional information because original scores are almost always available. So usually grades are not very important but the original scores are. The original scores are usually out of 100, 120, or 150.

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  • 标准分 translates to "standard score" (which usually means z-score—the number of standard deviations above the mean—but not always) or "standardized score", and 原始分 to "raw score". It does seem like these might be better understood than a direct translation of "curved grades". – mic Aug 3 at 21:44
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I guess you wouldn’t refer to the system using the term “grading on the curve” in Chinese. It is more common to refer to the bell curve itself, and then talk about the grade associated with it.

Notice how “拉curve” is used in the context of Hong Kong. Code-switching is rather common in Hong Kong, and locals like to use words from both English and Chinese to express more abstract concepts. The mixing of English and Chinese terms is something which is socially acceptable there, and might not be suitable for your purposes, if you are searching for a term in pure Chinese.

The other Chinese terms you mention are mainly used in Hong Kong, and are quite unknown elsewhere.

The bell curve is also known as the 常态分布 (normal distribution) or 高斯分布 (Gaussian distribution).

If someone asks you,

这次考试是怎么评分的?

then you could answer

老师会利用常态分布来给同学们评分。

I opine the problem is with trying to force-fit an English expression into Chinese.

P.S. It turns out that a variety of relative grades can be obtained from the bell curve. This document explains the relationship. Relative evaluation can be translated as 相对评价法.

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按照正态分布给分 score by a normal distribution.

按照:follow, based on 正态分布: the normal distribution, the bell curve 给分: score the outcomes of students

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