Get a Professor to Change Your Grade

With classroom sizes increasing on many Find a Parking Spot on Campus and the job market becoming more competitive, students are increasingly concerned with their grades. How do you handle a case where you feel that your grade did not reflect your performance?


  1. Remember: Professors do not GIVE grades. Students EARN grades. Also remember that your grades say nothing about what kind of person you are. You are not a better or worse person because of a grade. While a low grade may be disappointing, try not to personalize your grades. Before starting a grade appeal, determine if you have a legitimate basis to ask your professor for a grade review. Understand things from the professor's point of view when it comes to grades. Professors must treat everybody fairly and equitably when it comes to grading. If a professor reads an exam or Earn an A on a Paper again, that is giving that paper or exam extra consideration which others in the class will not have. Therefore you must have a legitimate academic reason for the professor to give you extra consideration. Unhappiness with the grade you earned or desire to escape the consequences of your poor grade are not legitimate reasons for requesting a grade change.
    • Make sure that you have read and followed the instructions in the syllabus and on the assignment correctly. If you are asked to answer an essay question on a test and you did not address the points that are needed in the essay, you do not have a basis to ask for your grade to be reconsidered. Make sure that you have followed instructions in their entirety, otherwise, you are asking for extra consideration that places the professor in an awkward situation..
    • Make sure you read the professor's comments carefully. Usually, confusion over grades comes from a lack of understanding about the reasoning for a grade.
  2. Consider whether the change in your grade is worth the time and energy involved. Unless the injustice is truly profound, you might be better off accepting that, just as the candy machine sometimes steals your quarter, then later gives you two Mars Bars for the price of one, you probably have the GPA you deserve, even if you occasionally lose a point or two on a quiz.
    • Think about the overall context of the grade. If you are challenging two points on a quiz that is worth 100 points and the quiz is worth 5% of your final grade, is it really worth it to go through this hassle? Before you make a decision about challenging a grade, think about the bigger picture: How much do you really gain in the final analysis? If the answer is potentially a substantial amount, then proceed, though always with a professional demeanor. If the potential gain is literally, hundredths of a point, then you may want to rethink your strategy.
    • If you challenge your grade, always keep the focus on the coursework and conduct yourself in a professional manner. Professors evaluate student work based on performance and results. Avoid making statements about how you always earn A's (professors can and do check this, and know when you are exaggerating your GPA), how much time you spent on an assignment, how hard you worked, how this class had more reading than another class, or needing a certain grade to keep financial aid. These things are not relevant to the discussion. The only thing that matters in the specific piece of coursework that is the subject of the appeal.
    • Potentially more damaging is the poor reputation you will earn if you throw temper tantrums (either in person or in email), make empty threats about calling your professor's department head or suing the university, and engage in grade-grubbing behavior. A reputation for immaturity, unprofessional behavior, and unethical conduct (such as requesting a higher grade than you honestly earned) could cost you opportunities within your major, and limit your ability to ask for letters of reference.
  3. Make an appointment with the professor or assistant to discuss how to improve the quality of your work on the next assignments. Professors look favorably upon students who are putting a concerted effort into learning the material and doing their best to improve their knowledge and skills, as opposed to merely focusing on grades. Do not attempt to appeal a grade during class, when the professor has a room full of students to teach. Instead, go to office hours or set up an appointment. Professors appreciate thoughtful, mature behavior.
    • If the grade was made by a teaching assistant, do not bypass the teaching assistant in the process. Make an appointment with the teaching assistant to discuss the matter. Bypassing the teaching assistant is inappropriate, and if you do so, professors will tell you to discuss the matter with the assistant first.
  4. Prepare for the meeting. Read all of the feedback you received and take it to heart. If the instructor has taken points off that you thought you deserved, go back into your lecture notes and text book and make a list of supporting evidence to have with you for the meeting. Be able to show the professor that you are not just making an emotional reaction to a grade. But remember, in using your evidence, this is not a trial. Use the evidence as a basis for determining if your answers were incomplete or if you misunderstood key concepts .
  5. Be courteous and professional at all times.
    • Avoid phrases like "You don't like me," or "I think I'm being treated unfairly." Professors can only evaluate the work in the front of them. They cannot give you a grade you did not earn just because they like you.
    • Do not approach a professor with the line "I did the same thing my friends did and I got a lower grade." Your classmates' scores are none of your business. Their scores are not relevant to the discussion. More importantly, confidentiality rules will prevent a professor from discussing other students' grades. Further, a student learning a new topic for the first time does not have the insight to accurately gauge if two answers are "the same thing." While two answers might seem identical to you, each student's work has differences in content and delivery that convey to a professor whether each student "gets it" or "doesn't get it."
  6. Emphasize that you want to improve your understanding in preparation for the next exam or paper. It will show the professor that you are not just complaining and you have an interest in the subject matter. However, do not pretend to care about improving future performance if all you really want is a better grade now. Professors see right through you.
  7. Highlight specific areas of concern and ask for an explanation as to what went wrong in those areas (instead of asking him or her to reread the paper or exam). Remember to read all of the feedback you received, as professors typically use the feedback on exams to clearly where you went wrong. If confusion persists, then discuss it further, for example: "I think I understand what you've said, but in the textbook, it seems to be saying something different and this is how I understood it."
    • If the professor is clearly in the wrong and a mistake was made, most often the professor will correct the error.
  8. Take it to a higher level as a last resort. If all else fails, most universities have a process in place to appeal grades. This process usually starts with the Chair of the Department, and may proceed to the Dean and then to a University-wide committee. Keep in mind; it is extremely rare that other professors will overturn another professor's grade unless there is a clear and compelling academic reason to do so. However, if there clearly is a grading error, a good solution is often be worked out in the early stages of the process. Just remember if you go down this road, you are entering a formal process in which the adjudicators consider grade changes very carefully and avoid rewarding "squeaky wheels" seeking unfair advantages over the other students. Make sure there is a legitimate, academic basis for the grade appeal. The best outcome is that the situation is resolved amicably and all parties are happy; the worst is that you will have spent time and energy on a futile exercise and damaged your own reputation in the process. Again, weigh the costs against the benefits and decide if this is something worth doing.


  • Professors have very little time to devote to grade disputes. Be organized, efficient and be able to make a good case for yourself.
  • Some professors will ask you to write out your reasons for challenging the grade. Professors are doing this so that you organize and focus your thoughts, and to give you time to get past any initial emotional reactions. The issue is then in front of them and they judge it on its merits. This procedure can discourage students from challenging their grade without good reason, and it gives students who have valid challenges the opportunity to present their cases clearly.
  • Understand that each discipline has its own way of doing things. Writing an English paper is very different than writing a paper for Economics or Biology. Don't approach your professor and tell her or him that they do it another way in some other discipline; it is your responsibility to adapt to the requirements of this course.
  • Every once in a while there is a genuine grading error. If a situation like this arises, then find another professor to talk to, if possible in the same department. First, describe what is going on as objectively as possible. Then ask how this professor for advice about the situation (and be sure to mention that you may not be describing it objectively, even though you are trying to do so).
  • Many Not Go Insane Before Spring Break at Colleges and universities forbid the changing of final grades, except in cases of "computational error." The reason for this prohibition is that disputes over grades are an enormous waste of faculty time.
  • Distinguish between objective and subjective errors. If you are in a freshman biology class, for example, and definitely got a multiple choice question right, that is very different from an essay exam. Even if you might pick up 1 or 2 points on the essay, it may not make a difference in your grade. The first thing to do is to schedule a meeting with the professor. Don't attempt to discuss this during class, and don't just wander in unannounced. Make an appointment or come during office hours. Say something along the lines of "I have a few questions that were marked wrong that I think I have correct. I know It may not make a difference in my class grade, but would you go over these with me?" On an essay or short answer exam or paper, always start by reading the feedback provided. Make an effort on your own to understand the feedback, recheck the textbook and your class notes. When you meet with your professor, focus on those items where you need clarification. Then as the professor goes over it with you, you can ask about the grading rubric. Regardless of how things go, be courteous and professional. The very worst thing that will happen is that your professor now thinks you are better mannered than the average student and want to learn the material more than the average student. That is a big achievement even if you get no better grade.
  • Generally, no one else can change the grade a professor gives: not the Chair or department head, and not the dean or president, though procedures vary from college to college and department to department.


  • Do not act like you're the boss of the professor just because you pay tuition. You are not the university's customer. You are the university's PRODUCT, and therefore professors have a responsibility to society and your future employer to ensure that you have met the qualifications for your degree. Your tuition buys you an opportunity to learn, in the same way that a gym membership buys you access to equipment and trainers. In both cases, YOU have to do the mental and physical workout yourself. No one else can do it for you.
  • In the rare cases where instructors grade inconsistently, they are almost always disciplined as soon as students present clear evidence to the department chair. Make sure you have solid evidence, leave your emotions at the door, and present your case professionally.
  • Some professors will have a policy that if they review your test or paper, the entire exam or paper is up for reevaluation. This can have its positives and negatives. The positives are obvious, but the negatives can outweigh the positives because a professor can then find other things wrong with the paper or exam that may lower your grade further. You have to think about how serious the grade change is to you in this case.
  • Your grade may not change. You can talk to your professor about it, but do not expect a change unless an error was made. Keep your own grading records so you have documentation if you need to challenge something, but make sure you have a legitimate reason before you start. The best idea is to speak to the professor about what you can do to improve in the future. Find out why you missed the points that you did and where you fell short. You have to do substantially more work to earn an "A" in college than in high school.
  • Do not get your parents to call the university, threaten to have your parents call, threaten to call a supervisor or threaten a lawsuit. These are empty threats and will come across as a childish temper tantrum. Further, even if your parents choose to insert themselves into a situation, federal privacy law in the U.S. prohibits professors from discussing grades with anyone except the student. However, this may not apply outside of the US.

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