We’ve all been there: you get the test back and you’re 1% shy of the A you were gunning for.
Or you’re just worried about having an average high enough to get into medical school. Regardless of the reason, you’re wondering how to get points back.
I graduated with an honours BSc with a 3.94 GPA and I’ve been a TA for a whole whack of classes, so I’ve been on both sides of this conundrum.
As a former TA (who absolutely loved my job), I want to tell you how I always felt when handing quizzes back to students. First of all, I wanted my students to come and ask me if they had any questions for why they got the grade they did. I wanted them to do that respectfully, but genuinely, I was always glad when I got questions. Asking a question after a quiz meant that the problem was solved before the final exam and it was a major way to facilitate learning.
Secondly, I was also really happy to award points back. Look, those of us who are teaching are only human and we make mistakes. Sometimes I’d make a mistake, other times I’d realize I didn’t need to be quite so harsh and could give back partial credit, etc. I wasn’t a pushover and if I didn’t think that a request for points back was legitimate I wouldn’t do it. But if a student had a legitimate request for points back, I was more than happy to get them a better grade.
All of that is to say: your TAs and professors are (almost always) on your side. There can be the crazy prof or crazy TA, but barring one of those cases, your TA and prof want you to get the grade you deserve. And be sure to check out this post to find out how to pick a class so you aren’t stuck with a crazy instructor.
So how are you going to get points back on that pesky organic chemistry quiz? Here are my 10 tips to make it happen!
1. Check the math.
When grading, there’s always the chance that a tally was added incorrectly. We were SUPER careful about this always, but I did have one or two arithmetic mistakes creep in. Absolutely check it first and make sure the total is correct.
2. Look for any problems you don’t understand why you were marked wrong.
Worst case, your instructor will let you know why you were mistaken, which is already a win as far as learning is concerned. Best case, you could get a mark or two back.
3. Be nice. Don’t berate the instructor.
I especially disliked dealing with some male students who tried to push me around given that I’m a small woman. Don’t act entitled. We don’t have to give you marks back, so be kind and you’ll already be ahead. Also do not flirt.
Want to get some marks back on a test you feel you were harshly graded for? Here are 10 tips!
4. Try in the class.
I’ve had students who clearly didn’t care about the class ask me for marks back. I was a LOT less sympathetic to their plight than the students who were clearly working hard and were prepared for class. Your instructor is a human and they will be more likely to help you if they like you. They will like you if you care about the class they have put tons of effort into teaching (but aren’t also obnoxious about it). I also felt a lot less sympathetic to a student who got an extremely poor grade wanting to get points back. It felt like they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain – studying – and that they were trying to blame me for their mistake. There are situations where students try really hard and still get poor grades, but in a lab based course where I was watching students, variations in effort were really clear. Make sure to show your instructor that you care about how you’re doing.
5. Make sure you are getting the support you need.
We always really wanted to help students with learning disabilities and it was super depressing when students wouldn’t get their paperwork in on time so that we could give them extra time or other learning supports during their exam and then subsequently got a bad grade. Obviously, if that’s your situation and you feel you should get marks back, go and talk to your TA or prof, but please also make sure that you get the support you need to achieve your academic goals in the future.
6. Ask about a specific question.
I usually had a lineup of students wanting to talk to me after an exam. Asking about “why did I get such a bad grade” was a lot less likely to result in points back than “why did I lose X points for Y reason on Z question.”
7. Understand that your instructor has to follow a grading guide.
Grading guides make grading fair between different TAs and different semesters. We generally didn’t have a lot of wiggle room within the guide and the deductions were clearly delineated. You don’t have to agree with the grading guide (and your TA might not either), but understand that your instructor has to stick with it, otherwise he or she isn’t being fair to the other students in your class. Honestly, remarking that you understand that they have to follow the grading guide is a sub-point of “be nice and get your instructor to like you.”
8. Look for a spot where your writing was unclear.
The most common reason students were successful in getting points back is because I’d graded a short answer question that wasn’t clear in its organization or writing. They student had included, for example, the definition of osmosis at least in part, but I hadn’t noticed it when grading. Obviously, the best thing is to be clear in the future, but if there was a question where your writing was rambling, you may have made a point the instructor was looking for but had it be accidentally overlooked.
9. Never ask your instructor to round up so that you hit the next grade point.
They won’t and it’s in bad taste. You earned a 79% not an 80%. It’s really that simple.
10. Be honest with your instructor about your goals.
I LOVED hearing what my students wanted to do with their lives and what their goals were for their class. I was sometimes horrified at who the future doctors of the world were… but that’s a different story. Anyway, if your instructor knows you, they will be more inclined to help you out. However, this is a tightrope because you do not want to come across as entitled. Just because you want to get into medical school does NOT mean that you should get points back on an exam. (This information really won’t help your case if you’re telling me right when I hand back tests, it sounds like manipulation then. But if I knew prior to the test getting handed out that you were trying to get into medical school and wanted to boost your average… then I’d understand why you’ve got a look of panic in your eyes and seem a little desperate for 2% back).
There you have it: 10 tips to get points back on exams, quizzes, and assignments galore. Do you have any other tips? Let me know in the comments!