Have A Grade Dispute? The Right Way to Solve It.

Have A Grade Dispute? The Right Way to Solve It.

We agree, having an unfairly marked grade is frustrating. You didn’t spend hours collecting first-hand sources and writing your essay for a C.

But we implore you not to rain your wrath upon your professor, as this will get you nowhere. In fact, this could do more damage than good.

A grade dispute is one of the most vexing things to happen to a college student. You know your professor and the institution have all the power.

Because of that, it is paramount that you approach this situation with caution. One wrong step and you’re stuck on a landmine. Here are the correct steps to take to conduct a grade dispute.

See if you can settle it the peaceful way

Approach your professor during office hours. It is vital that you speak in a respectful manner. Most professors don’t want to have a grade dispute on their records, so they may be willing to help you out if your claim is fair. Just don’t start in an accusatory tone.

Before you approach them, you may want to request a meeting with them over an email. This may stand as evidence in your favor if the situation is exacerbated. 

Tell them why you think you were unfairly marked, and bring evidence to support your claim. Listen to their justification as well. It could turn out that you were in the wrong. This will help you avoid an unnecessary hearing process.

File an official grade dispute only if this approach fails you.

Educate yourself on the college policy

Each university deals with grade disputes in its own uniquely elaborate way. When there are rules in place, the worst thing you can do is skip straight to step 3.

Before you file a complaint, know what actually qualifies as a grade dispute.

  • Example 1: Person X is marked ‘A’ for a shabby essay, but you were given a ‘D’ for a good one. There is no way any committee would consider this a plausible reason for a dispute.
  • Example 2: There is a calculation error, or you weren’t evaluated according to how it’s stated on your syllabus. This is appropriate grounds for dispute.

Most universities have time limits to file disputes. Know the timeline in which things happen at your university so that you can be prepared.

Next, know who to approach. Is there a specific department that deals with disputes? Should you speak to your mentor first? Learn the order in which to do things.

You should also know the documentation you will need to have in order to fight your case. Going into a hearing unprepared will not end well for you.

Don’t go email-happy

Some will advise you that it’s prudent to BCC every single authority figure in your university when filing the dispute. It isn’t.

Going straight to the highest level shows unpreparedness on your part. The dispute policy will elucidate how to go about filing the dispute and whom to talk to first.

If you jump straight to the top, it shows that either A) you haven’t read the policy at all or B) you’ve read it and ignored it. Neither speaks well for your case.

If you don’t follow the steps to the T, some universities make you start all over again. This is a huge waste of time considering there’s already a time limit to file the dispute.

Collect evidence in your favor

When you make a grade dispute, you should have evidence to back up that there is, in fact, a dispute.

Documentation such as work history (if you’ve used a program like Google Docs), the syllabus, and professor’s notes will help strengthen your case. Highlight or label information that will work in your favor. This way, the hearing committee doesn’t have to scour through the paperwork blindly.

You should also be prepared to handle evidence against you from your professor. Understand that it’s easier for them to justify why they gave you a certain grade than it is for you to argue why you don’t deserve that grade.

The evidence you collect should accordingly be indisputable.

Remember you still have a professional relationship to maintain

As powerless and emotional as you feel, it’s never a good idea to bash the authorities at your hearing.

Even if you’ve raised the complaint at the end of your term, there’s a chance you have to encounter the same professor again, or other committee members may be your professor in a future term.

Once a student-teacher relationship has been damaged, it’s almost impossible to bring it back to good terms.

So, in spite of your anger, be respectful and professional during the hearing.

Prepare a statement

“I um… am here today um… for my um…”

We get it, you’re nervous. But, your “um’s” will only portray that you aren’t confident about your case.

Though you’ve sent an email to appeal the case, you will be asked for a verbal statement at your hearing. Do not forget to prepare a well-composed statement for the appeal.

Practice delivering the statement in front of your friends. Ask them for criticism, so you can perfect your statement before the hearing.

On top of that, you should also be prepared to answer questions that the committee will ask.

Don’t make it a habit

It’s like the boy who cried wolf. Making repeated grade dispute claims will bring down your credibility. So, when you make an actually valid claim, the committee might find it hard to believe that it’s legit.

Before filing a dispute, self-assess how much you stand to gain from it. For example, if you’ve been marked down a complete letter grade, then it might be worth it to file the complaint. But, if you can only be raised half a point, then it usually isn’t worth it to go through with it.

The difference between an “A-” and an “A” won’t get you as far as you think.

Handling grade disputes with teaching assistants

Teaching assistants are often responsible for grading essays. Raising a dispute with a TA is very similar to raising one with a professor. They deserve just as much respect.

Approach them directly before raising a formal complaint. If that fails, you can magnify the issue to your professor.

The advantage, though, is that TAs are usually much easier to reason, as they are typically students as well.

Accepting a lower grade

Hearing that you’ve failed your appeal can be painful, but remember that all is not lost.

Hopefully, you’ve taken our advice and remained respectful towards your professor. If this is the case, you can approach them to see if you can work for extra credits. This may help you get a decent final grade.

But, remember that your teacher does not owe you this, it is simply a courtesy.

Some other things to keep in mind

Bring up concerns over the marking structure early on in the course. This way, your professor can explain what they expect from your work. You will also get a heads up on how to submit your work for the best marks.

Some colleges have second or third-level appeals if you fail the first one. Check if your university allows that. Your first hearing should also help you decide if amplifying the issue will get you anywhere.

Understand that the hearing process may be tedious and take a lot of your time. Make arrangements to ensure that any other work you have doesn’t suffer from this. You can talk to professors of other subjects if you need extra time to submit that subject’s work. There’s no better feeling than to emerge from a grade dispute hearing with a better grade. These strategies should help you achieve the mark you deserve. 

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