How to Successfully Negotiate with Your Professor for a Higher Grade

How to Successfully Negotiate with Your Professor for a Higher Grade

How to Successfully Negotiate with Your Professor for a Higher Grade

            Has there ever been a time when you received a grade you felt was unfair? Did you do anything about it, or just kick yourself for things not going your way? Well, did you know that it's possible to negotiate with your professor (or the TA who graded the project) for a better mark? Despite being a skilled professor, sometimes very highly educated in the subject matter you’ve been graded poorly on, the whole practice of grading is actually quite subjective. Read on to find out the best way to approach your professor and plead your case…without coming across aggressive, or worse, pathetic.


            Make an appointment in advance. Don’t waste his time. You know why you’re there, but do they? Start off by scheduling an appointment to speak with your professor rather than merely showing up unannounced or staying after class. Blocking off an appointment in advance will show that you respect his or her time.

            Don’t go over every single comment/correction. Allow for some constructive criticism. While you may not agree with the grade, to get defensive over every single suggestion makes you look hypercritical…or worse, arrogant. Explain only the points that you stand in the most disagreement over. Word of caution: Be humble, and maintain a quiet, calm demeanor while talking with your professor. Regardless of your grade, there is no reason to get combative or loud. Remember, he is the teacher, not you.


            Convincing him you genuinely care about your quality of work is a game-changer. Many students just want a better grade so they pass the class, don’t get in trouble with their parents, or jeopardize their scholarship. However, if you can successfully make your teacher believe that you genuinely care about the quality of work you produce, that’s half the battle. Explain to him that you want to learn the subject matter, produce exemplary papers, and be known as someone who completes assignments well. This understanding will go a long way in earning extra respect from him, whatever his final decision on this particular project.


            Regardless of his final mark, thank him for his time and move on. At the end of the day, he is your teacher, not the other way around. Take his feedback and do better next time. You’re in college to learn, after all. So learn, and when you know better, do better. OK, that quote wasn’t really me. It was Maya Angelou, but it’s worth including.

            On your way out the door, though, you can ask for extra credit. Some teachers will agree to this, some won’t. But if you pitch it as a way to gather additional information on the subject matter (or the course in general), then it’s possible he will concede. If so, it could help you eke out a few more points in the class.

            In most cases, whether you can successfully negotiate your grade depends heavily on two things: First, the professor himself. Is he the type that can be swayed, regardless of how award-winning your pitch is? Second, do you have legitimate points? In other words, did you really give the paper (or in some cases, the class itself) 100%? Or did you half-ass it and you’re just upset he called you out on it?

The bottom line is…if you did your best, you stand a good shot at negotiating for a higher mark. If you didn’t, you could still get bumped up a few points but it all hinges on your ability to present yourself in a respectful, considerate, and credible way.


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