How to Ask Your Professor to Change Your Grade

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At the end of every semester, professors' 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 carefully and prepare before making the request. Following a few tips can give you the best chance for success.

Act Early

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

Act Before Your Professor Submits Grades

Instructors are much more likely to change grades before they submit them to the university. If you are 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.

At some universities, grade changes are simply not permitted without a signed, written explanation of the instructor’s error. Keep in mind that instructors are usually required to submit grades to the university several days before they are posted for students to view. So, talk to your professor as soon as possible.

Ensure You Have a Case

Review the syllabus and make sure your argument matches 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 a group project was not adequately understood or appreciated.

Collect Evidence and Be Professional

If you’re going to make a claim, collect evidence to support your cause. Collect old papers, and try to make a list of times you’ve participated in class. 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 your claim. Offer to show the evidence or discuss the issue in more detail if the professor would find that helpful.

Appeal to the Department If Needed

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. Call the department offices and ask 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.