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If a student feels that the grade he received is lower than he expected, because he has been working very hard, and truly trying to understand things, but sometimes at the cost of sacrificing details. But the instructor might think differently, as the student sometimes made careless mistakes in assignments and didn't have much time doing them.

Can he email the instructor for possibility of changing his grade, stating the reasons above? He knows if he never asks, the grade will stay the same, so he wants to have a try. Also as far as he knows, course grading generally has more or less flexibility.

If he does, is there some ethic issue that the student should be aware of?


PS: This is in a U.S. university.

1 Answer 1

You can get grades changed if you have a good reason, something tangible. In addition, you need to be a skilled negotiator and diplomat. It is easy to offend the professor in such situations. You want to avoid formal procedures if at all possible.

I have gotten at least 10 grades (sometimes assignments, sometimes exams) changed upwards during my studies in spite of an official policy to do that only for clerical errors. Reasons include:

  • Ambiguous wording in multiple choice exams that make my answer correct. This one is the easiest to negotiate for.
  • The answer that the professor expected based on what was seen in class is incorrect or at least incomplete in light of more recent scientific discoveries that I cited in my answer. Especially during undergrad years, this is not expected of students and can be overlooked when it happens. It was usually the TA who gave the bad grade and the professors easily overrule them in such cases.
  • I used an approach that makes the question easier to answer than the professor expected. It is quite tricky to negotiate that working smart is better than working hard, but it can be done.
  • Once a professor accused me of plagiarism and told me to be happy with an F instead of a formal procedure for cheating because "my paper is too good to be true". I challenged him on the spot to ask me difficult questions about the topic and see for himself. He changed my F to an A+.

Most of these negotiations only work if you are an excellent student I think. The professor needs to feel that you are very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject before opening up to your request.