A straight A student has just received a report card... along with some distressing news: There is a B in one subject. This makes the student disappointed at having their perfect record tarnished, while others wonder what the big deal is, since they'd usually be content to get a B. When they truly understand how upset the person in question is, there usually is a pep talk reminding them how great they are and offering An Aesop about how an occasional stumble is nothing to be ashamed of. Their overreaction is often caused by an Education Mama.
Frequently this trope happens with grades of "A-" as well.
Truth in Television, as anyone who has seen high school A.P./I.B. students receiving their grades can attest. With the onset of the Internet and teachers posting grade updates online, this usually happens well before the report card actually arrives.
Compare The Perfectionist and Second Place Is for Losers. What Do You Mean, It's Not Heinous? is often the character's response to "It's just a 'B.'" If your character isn't bright enough to be traumatized by this trope, then perhaps they'll balk at their F Minus Minus. A similar attitude regarding reviews of works, particularly video games, is known as 8.8.
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Anime and Manga
Ojamajo Doremi Sharp: In the very first scene of this season, Hazuki has a terrible reaction to getting exactly one "Try harder" mark. This doesn't affect the overall plot, however.
Zatch Bell! also plays it straight when the Teen Genius Takamine receives - horrors! - 70 percent on a history test, when before he was able to get full marks on everything without trying. Justified because whilst he may be a genuinely smart shonen hero, he's also skipping class and missing stuff because he has to heal up after his battles.
This is Ami's great fear in Sailor Moon. Aliens coming to take all the energy out of their bodies? Ami's on it. Yandere not quite over the heroine's Love Interest and will stop at nothing to Murder the Hypotenuse ? Not a problem. Mad Oracle from the future manipulating a prince into doing his bidding, and eventually goes after Crystal Tokyo's princess? No problem. An A-minus on her final? Ami's crushed.
In The World God Only Knows, Keima Katsuragi gets upset on the very rare occasions when he gets less than a perfect score; not because he cares about the test itself, but because he has a deal with his teachers that let him play his Dating Sim games in class so long as he aces his tests.
Digimon Adventure 02 offers something of an inversion - during his time under the influence of the Dark Seed, Ken Ichijouji was an excellent student who regularly topped his class in tests. After undergoing a Heel-Face Turn, his test results drop somewhat, and while he himself is quite shocked if aware of what's going on, his classmates are thorougly confused and concerned.
Toki No Shugomono has Miu get a bad grade on a psychics test because she was adjusting her watch. This sets off the whole plot of the story.
In Silver Spoon, obsessive student Hachiken Yugo achieves the best overall grades in his entire high school - but he isn't the #1 top student in any one class or subject, so he still feels like he hasn't reached his full potential.
In the classic John Hughes film, The Breakfast Club, Brian panics pretty severely (contemplating suicide) after realizing a B is the highest grade he can pull off in his shop class as the result of a failed project. This was mostly because his parents were putting too much pressure on him getting perfect grades.
Played straight in the comedy Choke. The pretty young "doctor" at Vic's mother's mental institution is actually a patient: a medical student who suffered a nervous breakdown after receiving her first B.
When discussing Boggarts, shapeshifters which take the form of one's worst fear, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Ron sarcastically suggests that Hermione's Boggart would be a homework paper she got nine out of ten on.
This is, in fact, paid off when she has trouble on a Defense Against The Dark Arts "obstacle course", where a Boggart transformed into Professor McGonagall, who told her she failed everything. So at least she has some perspective.
Perhaps justified- after all, Hermione is Muggle-born and presumably Hogwarts is her only connection to the awesome world of magic. Wouldn't flunking out scare you?
Ironically, due to her failing to defeat said Boggart in the obstacle-course, she ends up getting a B-equivalent in Defence Against The Dark Arts - thus making it the only subject where Harry Potter beat her out. (He, of course, got a perfect score. This being the one subject he really excels in.)
Plus, in Half-Blood Prince when the gang gets the results of their OWL Exams, Ron notes that Hermione got the top grade in everything except Defense Against the Dark Arts and, noting Hermione's not-so-pleased response asks "You're actually disappointed, aren't you?"
Harry's B-equivalent grade in Potions makes him worry that he won't be able to join the Dark-magic-fighting Aurors, and by extension, his defeating Voldemort could be that much more difficult. To be fair, he's been told that Snape absolutely refuses to take students that didn't score the A-equivalent to NEWT level. Luckily for Harry, Snape became Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts (on which Harry DID get the A-equivalent) and the Potions replacement is happy to accept the B.
One of the stories in Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul is based around this. Of course, the girl in question was upset because she knew her father was going to beat her when she brought home the straight A and 1 B report card. Yeah...
In Dear Mr Henshaw Leigh gets an A minus on his dog assignment. His teacher says the minus is for not standing on both feet.
You want to know what I make? I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor and I can make an A- feel like a slap in the face: "How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best?"
In Little Town On The Prairie, Laura despairs that she has not made one perfect grade in her school examinations(her history grade is *only* 99 and arithmetic is 92 plus).
The Langoliers: Toomy had a rather uncompromising father. It goes partway towards explaining why he's such a monster.
In The Fowl Files from Artemis Fowl it's mentioned that Artemis was once mortified to get a 99.9% on something (or something like 99.9%)
Animorphs has a minor example—some Power Incontinence happens to make it look like Rachel is suicidal, and her vice principal brings up her slipping grades as another sign that something may be wrong in her life. She's still getting an A-average, but barely. (Which is pretty good, given the circumstances).
Live Action TV
Saved by the Bell — Jessie has one of her standard meltdowns over The B Grade. Also has a lesser meltdown over getting less on her SATs than Zach's.
Small Wonder - A Girl of the Week has been caught stealing tests. She says her parents would kill her if she got a B, prompting the quip from the show's main human kid character Jamie: "I'd kill to get a B."
Not to mention what happened when several Ivy League colleges would have gladly accepted her - save for Harvard. Poor girl was devastated.
In Drake & Josh, Mindy deconstructed Mrs. Heffer's car and reconstructed it in her classroom, framed Drake by hiding his stolen sweater in the trunk, and then served as Mrs. Heffer's lawyer in an elaborate scheme for revenge because Mrs. Heffer gave Mindy a B. Several years previously.
In an episode of iCarly, Carly was distraught over the B+ she received in history class, leading her friend Sam to hack into the school's computer and change the grade without Carly's knowledge. However, once Carly found out, the guilt consumed her and hilarity ensued as she tried to change it back.
Probably an exaggeration, since the only reason Carly got a B+ was because she handed in her report on three hole paper, and the teacher doesn't like three hole paper.
Another reason it was so important to her is because if it weren't for that B+, she would have had her first all A report card.
Played with in the Angel episode "A Hole In The World": as she is dying, Fred deliriously cries out "I sinned. I've sinned, and I'm being punished. I don't know what's wrong. I never got a B- before."
Fred is also a bit taken aback in "Supersymetry" when her professor gives her an A- on her last paper. Granted, she didn't dwell on it too much.
An episode of Family Ties revealed that Andy's kindergarten teacher was also Alex's more than a decade previously. Apparently Alex hasn't gotten over the fact that said teacher gave him a B in shoelace tying and his parents even told her he was "willing to take a make-up test".
Alex thinks his girlfriend will leave him for the Romantic False Lead, who got an A from a professor who "never" gives them out, while Alex got a B. He gets over it when she stays with him, pointing out that he has a romantic side that the other guy lacks.
In one episode of Parker Lewis Can't Lose ("Senior Jerry") Jerry Steiner gets promoted to the next class and manages to get the first (non-A(+)) B+ of his life; out of devastation he quits school and wishes to become a mason.
Topanga Lawrence-Matthews in Boy Meets World is a definite example of a straight-A student who will go berserk if anything threatens to tarnish her perfect academic record.
To the point where Feeny could scare her back into her seat with two words: "A-minus."
Castle gently mocks his daughter who is studying for an exam on The Scarlet Letter: "Ironically, you will be ashamed if you don't get a big red A."
A variation of this was used as the focus of an episode of Stark Raving Mad: Maddie announces that as her last college assignment, she has to write a book report about Ian. Ian and Henry write it for her and the former is shocked when the report is awarded a "B". Ian goes to her professor to complain and slips out that he wrote the paper causing the professor to immediately fail Maddie. Henry manages to get the decision reversed by meeting the professor and telling a made up story about how the "Ian Stark" that visited him was an impostor. The professor believes him and all seems resolved...until the professor reveals that he examined the report further and decided to change the grade to a "C" due to its "childish use of commas". Henry (who at the beginning of the episode was arguing with Ian over the proper usage of commas) then claims "all those commas were justified" once again rising the professor's suspicion. The episode ends with Henry telling Maddie that she's "going to summer school", hinting that the professor failed her again.
In an early episode of Family Matters, Laura finds out on her progress report (not even her final grade for the semester!) was going to be a B in one course. She instantly declares herself grounded from everything until she can bring it back up.
Harriet: I hope we weren't too harsh on her.
In a different episode of Family Matters, Urkel, Laura and Waldo all end up in the same Home Ec class. Urkel does not have the knack for it that he has for academics and ends up with a C, which causes him to freak out. Waldo, on the other hand, plays the trope backwards by getting an A and being shocked to the point of disbelief. It was his first A ever, see...
Parodied in the British-Indian sketch comedy show Goodness Gracious Me, in which a father rants about his son getting a B in A-Level Classical Studies despite having the grades to do medicine at Cambridge; he then rants that his son should be getting a PhD and doing his undergraduate degree in his spare time, but his son cannot because his spare time is taken up playing soccer for the Milwall first team. The father then becomes incensed that his son isn't playing for Liverpool. His son is six years old.
The Bill Engvall Show: Bryan, Bill's know-it-all son, gets a B, and his reaction is in line with the trope..
On an episode of A Different World, Kim is stressed because she received a B on a midterm. This leads her to believe that she will not be able to get into medical school and has nightmares about it, complete with Walter and Freddie dressed as Killer Bees.
Gossip Girl has the overreaction to top them all. Upon receiving a B, Blair sets out to get revenge on her teacher. She sets up a prank and then realizing that the teacher was willing to work something out over the grade Blair attempts to apologize but the teacher is so upset about the prank (which wasn't even that bad of a prank, especially for Blair's standards) she informs the principal and majorly messes up Blair's chance to get into Yale (which was why Blair was worried about the B in the first place). Furious, Blair declares war on her and it eventually ends with the teacher leaving the school and returning to her old job. Over a B.
One episode of Bones introduces Brennan's old mentor. Booth jokingly asks if he gave her an A- when she gets a stern talking-to from him, to which she replies, annoyed "I've never gotten an A- in my life."
In The West Wing, the President mentions that he scored 1590 on the SATs (after someone suggested that he got a perfect 1600), and then retook the test just to get the exact same score again.
In Community, the prospect of receiving a 'zero' as part of a blanket punishment enforced on a class over a cheater's failure to come forward prompts chronic overachiever Annie to scream a Big "NO!" in front of everyone.
When the group's biology assignment is sabotaged and the teacher has to give them all a passing grade, this is Annie's reaction: "Why don't I just get pregnant in a bus station?"
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has Cody as one of these. In the episode where it comes up the most (where he's forced to take Wood Shop due to picking an elective that not even the teacher showed up to. It's revealed that he has extremely unrealistic ideas of what will happen to him if he doesn't ace every class. In a nightmare sequence he's made to be the janitor of a "Big Snooty Ivy League College" due to not acing Wood Shop. As he hysterically claims to his mom when she thinks he's putting too much pressure on himself:
Cody: I'm not putting too much pressure on me! Harvard is putting too much pressure on me! Yale is putting too much pressure on me! Princeton! Stanford! MIT! If I don't ace Wood Shop, I'm going to end up as one of those guys who sells hot dogs and sleeps in a taxi!
Inverted on the "Subway Wars" episode of How I Met Your Mother. Ted, who teaches an architecture class at college, finds out about a website that allows students to rate their teachers. He checks it out and sees dozens of glowing reviews. But the one he notices labels him as "boring".
Exaggerated on Glee, where Mike's strict Chinese father flips out over him getting an A- on a test (an "Asian F", providing the episode's title), and wants him to drop football, Glee Club, and dating Tina.
One episode of Lizzie McGuire had Gordo getting nothing but B's from his science teacher. It turns out the teacher just wanted Gordo to challenge himself since he was so good at science.
House: Dr. Cuddy must have been one. She finished second in her graduating class and was disappointed with the result. Something similar happened when social services examined her house to determine if she was fit to be a parent.
Played massively straight in Star Trek: Voyager when Paris and Neelix are stranded on a planet together. Neelix asks Paris how he did in the Starfleet survival course and Paris says he got a B-. Neelix deems the news "Not very encouraging" and, when Paris says his father taught the course, observes he obviously didn't play favourites. Goodness only knows how Neelix would have reacted if Paris had a got a C: Taken out a phaser and shot himself to get it over with, probably.
Smallville has an early episode in which an honors student receives a C in Shop Class and proceeds to freak out because it could endanger his plans of getting into college early. When the teacher refuses to change the grade (and honestly that C was the best grade the boy could hope for; his project was so crappy), the student uses his meteor power to split himself in two and murder the teacher. Talk about overreacting!
Taken to its extreme in FoxTrot. Jason is upset to get "only" an "A++" since it ruins his "A++++" average.
In another strip, he begs to retake a test when he gets a 98. ("Nobody understands a perfectionist.")
And in an even earlier strip, he actually gets a "B" and fears that his dad will punish him because of it.
In another strip, Jason gets a 75... out of twenty.
In yet another strip, Jason tries very hard to solve an "extra credit" math problem, only to find himself afraid of showing up in class. The kicker? There was a typo in the problem.
In Peanuts, Marcie reacts the same to her imperfect-but-still-high grade as Peppermint Patty does to her standard D-minus. ("''AUGH!") This prompts the explanation that they have different thresholds of pain.
In Calvin and Hobbes, first-grader Susie Derkins fears that getting a bad grade on one research project will result in her having to go to a second-rate college.
It didn't help that she was teamed up with Calvin.
In A Very Potter Musical, Voldemort suggests giving all of Quirrel's students a B minus on their test results. Because it would be pure evil.
Subverted in Misfile when the bookworm Emily got a B-. At first she was disappointed she didn't automatically get an A grade in one of her tests, her friend Rachel pointing out she'd kill to be able to get a B. After that, she started to get over it. Also, she'd already aced the class during the two years she'd lost, and wanted to have a life outside of studying this go-round, but her Education Mama went berserk.
Sounds like Phase (Ayla Goodkind) at Superhero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. Phase has been in Montessori and prep schools his whole life, and is shooting for all 'A's while taking a huge courseload, including several junior/senior classes even though he's a frosh. Even his friends have pointed out the 'what are you going to do when you get a B grade' issue to him.
The Student Room is a British forum where GCSE and A-level students can communicate with each other. You will often come across a certain type of student that considers anything below an A* a fail - even though the official passing grades are A* to C.
In an episode of The Proud Family, Dijonay exchanged families with the Chang Triplets, and their father immediately chewed her out for having a B in math. "'B' means 'better work harder to get an A'!"
Hey Arnold!, "Olga Comes Home", plays with this plot by having Helga forge her titular big sister's report card, so that she thinks she got a B+. Which causes Olga to go catatonic and stay in her room crying until Helga breaks down and tells her she did get an A.
"Imperfection": Tish shows her report card to the gang, and her straight A grades. She is then surprised to read a negative comment concerning her perfectionism, which, ironically as she points out, tarnishes her report card.
"Brain Dead": The roles are switched around somewhat... Tish gets a B on a test, but wonders why the others are treating it as such a big deal that they're reinventing her as an exotic foreigner (she's a second-generation European immigrant) because she can't be the smart one anymore.
The Simpsons: On one episode, Lisa almost has a nervous breakdown when she receives a B for 'conduct'. Another episode has her worried that failing exactly one exam will prevent her from getting into Harvard, and make her go to Brown University, bus driver Otto's alma mater.
Twice (I believe) she nearly had a breakdown for almost failing gym. One had her believe she could never become president if the press found out.
Inverted in the genuinely touching episode "Bart Gets an F", where Bart jumps up and down and celebrates after getting a D- on a history test at the end. He had actually failed the exam, but his reaction to his failing grade showed he had actually TRIED to study this time and even retained some of the content so the teacher bumped him up a point or two for the effort as a reward.
Futurama used this as the motivation for Professor Farnsworth and Wernstrom's rivalry; Farnsworth once gave Wernstrom an A- (because "penmanship counts"), leading the student to swear he would get his revenge even if it took him 100 years. 99 years later, he achieves his revenge by beating and humiliating Farnsworth at the Annual Inventors' Symposium, giving his hastily drawn mock-up the "worst grade imaginable": an A- -.
That is to say, "An A minus, MINUS!" Apparently Wernstrom has never even heard of a grade outside the "A" range. Which thanks to Fridge Logic you realize as a teacher himself has never given a student anything less than an A.
In Static Shock, honor roll student Thomas Kim (who turned out to be the Monster of the Week a sort of Hulk-like guy whose parents would take nothing less than perfection) got a 99% on a test (for leaving out a single contraction), and immediately complained that the teacher got his grade wrong (he later attacked the teacher at the parking lot, Hulked out and repeating "wrong"). It wasn't his fault though, as described above. When he complained, Richie (who wasn't exactly high on school achievements before becoming Gear - this was a season 1 episode) immediately asked if he could trade grades.
Later in the episode, when Virgil and Richie visit Thomas having a study session with his dad. His father is clearly setting the bar pretty high.
Thomas: I don't think that'snote He had been asked the name of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassin, which triggered World War I on the test.
Father: That attitude is the difference between a ninety-nine and a one hundred percent!
Later still in the series finale, Richie (who had already become Gear) getting a B- on an exam is the first sign that he's losing his superintelligence.
Similarly, one of the villains on Batman Beyond was a kid whose mother wouldn't tolerate him being second in anything... Which prompted him to try to kill Max when she got a perfect score on a test that he got a very nearly perfect score on. Highest Score? Perfect 2400. The loser kid who's never going anywhere in life? 2397.
There's an episode of Dexter's Laboratory where Dexter comes home all worried about having to take his mother to see the principal. Dee Dee spends the entire episode wondering "Whadja do? Whadja do?" until Dexter transforms her into a copy of his mother, and takes her to the appointment, allowing her to find out from a tearful principal that Dexter got an A-minus on his last test. Of course, she immediately proceeds to go ballistic ("A lousy A-minus!?").
Then Dexter tells Dee Dee that if she were going to bother him so much about it, they should never have gone through the trouble of turning her into their mother.
Parodied in ChalkZone: Mr. Wilter gives everybody an F because he thinks they've done the wrong assignment. The students all complain about it, except for Reggie Bullnerd, who doesn't see what the big deal is because he's always getting Fs.
In the The Emperor's New School episode "Girls Behaving Oddly", Malina got an A-, causing her to be kicked out of the cheer leading squad and behaved oddly after she joined some girl gang. It turns out that the teacher was about to give her an A+, but her pen ran out of ink.
In The Raccoons, Bentley is recruited as a computer technician for Sneer Industries by the Pigs, only for them to sabotage his work when they get jealous at how well he's doing. Sure enough, Bentley is fired and is moaning how his career prospects are ruined while Bert and Cedric can't get a word in edgewise of how no future employer is going to pay attention to a mishap that happened to someone as a child. Regardless, Cyril finds out the truth and Bentley is exonerated with an even stronger lock on a job with Sneer Industries when he is older.
In "Breezing Listening Blues" on Arthur, Brain gets a B- on a test and becomes convinced that his mind is being weakened by the breezing listening music that his parents recently started playing at their ice cream shop.
Inversion: Roger in the Doug episode "Doug's Lucky Hat", after he steals Doug's lucky hat, gets a D- on a test and brags about it: "Look at this! A D minus! I actually passed the test! Doug! This hat has changed my life!!"
In one of her earlier appearances, Azula in Avatar: The Last Airbender practices her lightning techniques. She gets the form practically perfect, with only one little hair out of place. Her response? Angrily sweeping the hair out of her eyes and returning to her practice, declaring that "Almost isn't good enough!"
This is the Start of Darkness for Earl P. Sidebottom. Once a straight A student at Flying Rhino Junior High, his reaction to getting a D in shop class was to flee to the school's boiler room, build a reality-altering super computer, and terrorize the school as The Phantom.
Not so much grades, but in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Lesson Zero", Twilight Sparkle stresses out over being tardy giving Princess Celestia a friendship report for the first time ever (which, in most real-world schools, would dock a grade). She thinks that it will lead to her being sent back to "magic kindergarten".
Also, in the Season 3 episode "The Crystal Empire," Twilight comes out of a test with Princess Celestia looking distraught. Spike inquires if she got an "A-? B+?" but it turns out the Princess actually was just assigning Twilight with the task of saving an entire empire.
The Powerpuff Girls: In "Him Diddle Riddle," one of Him's tasks to the girls is to take their SATs and get a score of 100. Buttercup scores a 25, Blossom (to her confused anger) scores a 10, but Bubbles—whose SAT sheet was done up with a drawing of a flower—scored 1075.
Him:(in complete shock) "Well, I'll be darned."
In Transformers Prime, this is what Miko assumes Raf the Child Prodigy means when he claims to have blown a few tests. "Translation: A-minus instead of A."
Graduate school. Depending on the program, 3.0 out of 4.0 is often considered the lowest acceptable grade, and funding has been severely cut for grade point averages that would make undergrads very happy. Students can get lectured about receiving 3.5 out of 4.0. Does not help keep grad students sane.
Colleges these days often list the preferred GPA and.or minimum GPA for applicants. most don't go below 3.0, and the rest don't usually dip below 2.5.
Believe it or not, in Korea a fourth grader commited suicide because his grades were declining.
The many, many, sad tales of kids who are grounded, beaten, or worse by overbearing parents who don't like it when their kids bring home B or C grades.
This. While not as drastic, still pretty much captures the mentality.
Some college professors use a fully curved grading scale. This means that the highest scoring person gets an A and the lowest gets an F, so what would be a B could be much worse, if the rest of the class is sufficiently ahead of you.
Appears to be what sent unstable Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner off the deep end, with him having a Freak Out in class and later declaring his community college a "genocide school."
The International Baccalaureate program is almost entirely composed of people who fit this trope, even though the IB program is notorious for being difficult.
Schools who do pre-IB courses tend to have half or more of the kids drop the program before even reaching actual IB, due to the level of work required for good grades.
Go to any high school with an AP program. Talk to the teacher in charge of that program. Any teacher. They will all tell you stories of students freaking out for this exact reason. Makes you wonder why more schools don't have AP programs.
Due to the aforementioned increased difficulty of IB and AP, some schools now grade those classes on 4.5 or 5.0 scales—so a B is still a 4.0, possibly to put less stress on the students. This is referred to as a "weighted" grade, though, and your un-weighted grades are still shown with it, since some colleges or other organizations only want the latter anyway.
There's also the fact that while for AP exam a 3 (out of 5) is a pass, most colleges now only accept 4 or 5 for credit, and IB, which teaches half it's courses at "higher level" and half at "standard level" colleges usually only take the higher level passes as credits. You can pass or even get full marks on IB Calculus, but if it's "only" standard level a lot of schools won't count it and make you take college algebra anyway.
Furthermore, when high school GPA for the purposes of choosing valedictorian is concerned, many schools use the weighted scores. This means that it is possible to get a high school GPA greater than 4.0, and so students aiming for valedictorian have to pack as many AP classes into their schedule as they can AND get as many A's as they can to have a chance. A student with perfect A's all four years but not enough AP classes can still be beaten in this system.
Justified in the case of some scholarships; a B or C average could literally be synonymous with losing a scholarship and having to drop out due to being unable to pay for school.
One of the biggest rivalries among America's tiny, academically-obsessed liberal arts colleges is the one between Williams and Amherst. One year, some Amherst students chemically burned an "A" into the Williams quad before the annual football game. The following year, some Williams students went down to Amherst and burned a "B+" into theirs.
Many private schools in the northeastern US are extremely competitive to the point that it is not uncommon for middle school students to cry for getting an A-
Several non-American universities have more relaxed standards, sometimes where even anything above 80% is an A. Depending on your point of view, this can make getting a B even more painful.
In most places in Canada, 80% and above is an A (with everything 90% and above being A+).
At the University of Oxford, 70% is the grade boundary for first-class honours (highest honours possible). This is much harder to achieve than you might think, and it is very easy to slip down the grades... anything less than 60% (upper second) tends to get frowned upon.
In the US, grades for the first semester of law school frequently induce this reaction. Many law students were at the top of their class as undergraduates, but because law school grades are curved and usually based on a single exam, very few get A's and only a few more get A-'s. This causes a lot of first-year law students to freak out.