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"Separate students according to their academic performance(s)."

(For example, their test results.) Should I use singular or plural in this phrase?

I did some research, but the example here is quite different than mine.

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    Either is acceptable, but you can easily avoid the problem in several ways. The simplest is to omit the possessive pronoun: Separate students according to academic performance. Or consider: Separate students by academic performance. (Thank you for your question, @EmmaXL :) ) Sep 28, 2016 at 1:39

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Performance should be used in your original sentence. Performances would be for things such as performing in a play or something like that.

Performance, in this case, is a group noun like "clothing". It would apply to the whole of their academic performance.

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In your example, the singular "performance" could be used

Separate students according to their academic performance (into different groups).
according to each student's individual academic performance

which would result in

The academic performances of the students in a given group will be similar.

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  • sorry, I didn't quite understand. Would they mean different things? Why can I use singular? Each student has their own performance and everyone's performance is different.
    – EmmaXL
    Sep 28, 2016 at 1:55
  • Using the singular would mean that each student has a single "performance" measure which is an aggregate of their accomplishment, and this measure is then used to group various students together. Don't confuse a student's "performance" (collective measure) with an actor's "performances" (to perform something). If you turned the sentence around "We used academic performance to separate the students into groups." or "We used the academic performances of the students to separate into groups."
    – Peter
    Sep 28, 2016 at 5:39

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