How to Approach a Teacher About an Unfair Grade
If you received a grade on a test, assignment, or paper that you feel is in error, you should definitely approach the instructor or professor to discuss and clarify the issue. You may find a mistake has been made and receive a more palatable grade. At the very least you can explore what made your effort subpar and gain some understanding of what the teacher is expecting for the next test or essay. On occasion the teacher may allow you to retake a test or redo a paper if you can demonstrate compelling circumstances.
Choose the time and place wisely
It is highly unlikely that a high profile, public attempt to change a grade will get you the result you are seeking. Do not confront the teacher during class or when other students are nearby. Take a low-key approach that allows both you and the teacher time and space to discuss the matter respectfully and to explain opposing views without rancor or an audience.
Although you could schedule a meeting through an email, take the time to meet face-to-face with your instructor. It is impossible to control the tone of communications and reach a true meeting of minds through an email. Ask when your teacher has at least 20 minutes to meet, preferably in the instructor's office.
Before you meet with your teacher, carefully review your test and paper along with any comments the grader has attached. Decide whether you honestly believe you were unfairly graded or whether your effort fell short. If you feel the instructor has not adequately explained matters, keep that on your list of discussion topics, too. Use your study materials to help you decide where the disagreement lies.
Here are some ways you might improve your grade:
- If the instructor made a mistake: If you feel you gave correct answers that were not assigned proper credit, bring along the materials or notes that substantiate your claim. When meeting with your teacher, politely show the evidence for your position. If an honest mistake was made in grading, the teacher should correct the error and give you the points you deserve.
- If you made a forgivable error: Perhaps you did not fully understand the assignment. Maybe you were overwhelmed with other class work and missed an assignment deadline. If you feel you did not put forth your best work because of a one-time circumstance, consider talking with your teacher to see if you can explain the situation and perhaps do some extra work to improve your grade.
Be sure that you are honest in this conversation and, if given an additional chance, put forth your very best effort. Know this is an approach that can usually be used only once.
- If you are struggling with comprehension: Sometimes the unfairness lies with inadequate preparation or presentation from the teacher or his or her assistants. This is a delicate problem, but if you approach it in a humble and authentic way you may be able to gain the knowledge you need to do better the next time or be given a second chance to show what you know.
Bring along the materials you've been assigned and notes taken and ask where you could have found the correct answer or theory. If the concepts are not clearly stated, you may be helping not only yourself but also other students and the teacher when you seek further clarification.
Once your discussion is complete, be sure to thank your teacher no matter what the outcome. Keep the entire affair private and move on during the remaining class sessions.