How to Question a Grade-The Right Way


During your college tenure, you’ll likely receive at least one grade that doesn’t seem right. Although you shouldn’t sit back and let a mistake go, you need to be careful about how you approach the situation. It’s likely your professor has had many grade disputes that were frivolous, so you need to be sure your case deserves attention.


Ask Yourself Some Questions

There are a few important questions to ask yourself before you make contact with your teacher. First, is the work subjective? Many classes require projects and papers that are not completely objective. It will be much harder to prove who is right or wrong when the grading is based largely on the grader’s opinion. Was there a rubric or scale for the grading? Although grading can be a bit subjective, professors often have a standard on which grading is based. Carefully compare your work with the standard that was set. Even if you worked hard, it doesn’t mean your work met the goals that were set. Finally, ask yourself if the comments or criticisms have merit. It’s hard to look at your own work and find fault, especially when you put considerable time and effort into a project. However, it’s crucial to learn to take criticism and make improvements based on valid critiques.

How to Make Contact

Discuss the situation with your professor as soon as you believe there is a problem. Delaying contact often makes a professor less forgiving. You should contact your professor during his or her office hours, or through email to set up an appointment. When you go to meet with the professor, be respectful and courteous. Express your concerns in a non-accusatory manner (you do not want to put your teacher on the defensive).  Sometimes a professor will see your point and raise your grade a bit, or he or she will see that you are showing initiative and explain the problems with your work.

It is also possible that the grader made a simple error in scoring. Professors and graduate students are human so mistakes are inevitable. The important thing to remember is if you see a grade you believe to be wrong contact your professor as soon as possible.

Know the Procedure

If you’ve reached a point where you can no longer work things out directly with your professor and you’re positive a mistake was made, you may need to take things a step further. Your college has a proper procedure to follow when disputing a grade. Search your handbook or your university’s website to see what actions you need to take to officially dispute a grade. Most colleges have a time limit for challenging grades, which is often a year after the final day of the class. A professor must keep student records and grades for this entire period.

The case often goes to a committee made up mostly of professors with one or more student representatives. The committee will ask for records from both sides and allow each side to present their argument. Make sure you document everything with your professor if you are challenging the grade and make sure the professor has all the documentation for their side. Have your proof ready and be prepared to make your case. The school likely agrees with the professor by default, so it will take strong evidence to bring them to your side. Going through the proper channels doesn’t mean you’ll win, but at least you will have tried.

College can be shocking even for the best of students. Top grades don’t always come easily, and you may need to make more effort or increase your study skills to stay on top of things. If you do conclude that a grade is unfair, keep the tips above in mind to ensure you have the best chance of getting the score you deserve. For more on college success, read The Secrets of College Success (Professors’ Guide)