Appealing a Grade

How to get an unfair grade adjusted

It’s happened to all of us at some point. You get back a test or an essay, often one that you were sure you’d aced, and you come face to face with a grade that’s a lot lower than you were expecting. Resist the urge to panic.

It’s normal for your grades in college to be lower than they were in high school, especially at the beginning of your freshman year when you’re still adjusting to the higher expectations of college academics. Ask yourself if you truly feel that you deserve a better mark. If you did all the work at the last minute, you probably got the grade you deserved. Most of the time, instructors mark assignments fairly. Sometimes, though, you’ll get a grade that’s not what you think you deserve. In these cases, you may have grounds for an appeal.

Grounds for an Appeal

In order to determine if the grade you received was unfair, go through the following steps:

  • Verify that your instructor didn’t just make a simple math error in adding up your marks.
  • Check if you lost marks because of handing in the assignment late or failing to meet specific requirements (such as word count, font size, etc.).
  • Carefully read any and all notes that your instructor wrote on your assignment. Are they valid?

If you’ve gone over this list and still believe that you received an unfair grade, the next step is to begin the appeal process.

The Appeal Process

One of the most commonly asked questions among college students (particularly freshmen) is “how do I appeal a grade?” The process is not difficult to follow, but it’s important that you work within the system.

The best plan of action when appealing a grade is to schedule an informal meeting with the individual who marked your assignment or test. Often, this is a teacher’s assistant. If he or she refuses to adjust your grade (or doesn’t have the authority to), the next step is to speak to the instructor of the course. If, after speaking to him or her, you’re still unsatisfied, your final option is to submit a written appeal to the department chair or dean, or to your school’s ombudsman.

If you can prove that the person who graded your test or assignment made an error, it’s usually not hard to have this error corrected. If the dispute boils down to a disagreement about the quality of your work, you may be out of luck. No matter how hard you worked or how good you think your assignment is, all that really matters is your instructor’s subjective assessment of it.

Grade-Appeal Etiquette

It’s vital that you remain courteous when appealing a grade. Speak with your instructor at the appropriate time (i.e. during office hours) and raise your concerns in a respectful manner. Don’t make any demands and always to keep your cool. Your instructor will not take kindly to being bullied. He or she reserves the right to adjust your grade, and that works both ways (up and down). There are countless stories of students who went in to complain about a grade, threw a temper tantrum and then left with an even lower mark than they had in the first place. Professors can always find something wrong with your assignment that they initially missed (and many love to do so), so don’t give them the chance.

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