How to Ask Your Professor to Change Your Grade

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At the end of every semester, professor’s inboxes are inundated with a barrage of emails from desperate students seeking a grade change. These last minute requests are often met with frustration and disdain. Some professors even go so far as to set their inbox to auto-respond and not check back until weeks after the semester ends.

If you are considering asking your professor for a grade change, consider your actions cautiously and prepare yourself before making the request. Here’s your best chance:

Step 1: Do everything in your power not to find yourself in this situation.

A lot of requests come from students who have borderline grades. Just a point or two more, and their GPA would improve. However, being on the border isn’t usually an acceptable reason to ask for a grade change.

If your grade is 89.22%, don't ask the professor to consider a bump to 90% in order to keep your GPA up. If you think you might be on the borderline, work as hard as you can before the end of the semester and discuss extra credit possibilities ahead of time. Don’t count on being “rounded up” as a courtesy.

Step 2: Act before your professor submits his grades to the university.

Instructors will be much more likely to change grades before they submit them to the university. If you were missing points or feel you should have been given more participation credit, talk to your professor before grades are due. If you wait until after submission, your professor will likely have to jump through a lot of hoops to meet your request. In some universities, grade changes are simply not permitted without a significant written explanation of the instructor’s error written by the instructor. Keep in mind that instructors are usually required to submit the grades to the university several days before they are posted for students to view. So, talk to your professor as soon as possible.

Step 3: Decide if you really have a case.

Review the syllabus and make sure your argument matches up with the instructor’s expectations. A reasonable grade change request might be based on objective issues such as:

  • The instructor failing to count points you earned
  • A miscalculation on a particular exam
  • A problem with the online course’s learning management system that resulted in a point deduction

A request might also be made based on subjective issues such as:

  • You feel you should have been given more participation points
  • You believe your role in the group project was not adequately understood or appreciated

Step 4: Collect evidence.

If you’re going to make a claim, collect evidence to support your cause. Collect old papers, try to make a list of times you’ve participated, etc.

Step 5: Discuss your case with the professor in a professional manner.

Whatever you do, don’t be overly glib or angry with your professor. State your claim in a calm and professional manner. Explain, briefly, the evidence that backs up your claim. And, offer to show the evidence or discuss the issue in more detail if the professor would find that helpful.

Step 6: If all else fails, appeal to the department.

If your professor will not change your grade and you feel you have a very good case, you may be able to appeal to the department. Try calling the department offices and asking about the policy on grade appeals.

Keep in mind that complaining about the professor’s decision may be viewed poorly by other professors and may have negative consequences – particularly if you are in a small, insular department. However, if you stay calm and state your case confidently, you will have a better chance of keeping their respect and getting your grade changed.