Scott’s post on grade complaints gives me the excuse I need to post this:
Typical Grade Complaints and Responses
The following are a set of complaints students often make regarding grades. All graders make mistakes, and an interrogation of those mistakes can result in a higher grade. Unfortunately, many students resort to one or more of the following arguments. When questioning a grade, make sure that you argue about the substance and quality of your answer, and point out what a grader may have missed.
But I need this grade to a) keep my scholarship, b) get into law school, c) get into business school, d) get into grad school.
Ideal Response: Really? If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have given you a 2.4. . .
Actual Response: The good people at Yale Law have accorded me a sacred trust. I would be violating that trust if I allowed someone like you to enter their program.
But how do you know it’s a 3.2? Why not a 3.3 or a 3.4?
Ideal Response: You’re right. Because the system of evaluation is ambiguous, there’s no real reason to give you this grade.
Actual Response: Why not a 3.1? Or a 3.0? Or a 2.4?
You don’t like this paper because you’re a a) Republican, b) Democrat, c) Realist, d) Marxist, e) Liberal, f) Asshole.
Ideal Response: Clearly, my ideological preconceptions have clouded my evaluation of this paper. Let me give it a higher grade.
Actual Response: This might be a problem if your argument was coherent enough for me to understand and disagree with. . .
But I really feel like I worked hard enough to get a higher grade.
Ideal Response: Well, if you really worked that hard, I guess that you should get a higher grade.
Actual Response: Really? Well, you’ve discovered that hard work does not unproblematically transform itself into good results. Congratulations.
But I studied with a) Joe, b) Stephanie, c) Bill, d) Tracy, e) six other people, and he/she/they got a different grade.
Ideal Response: I see. Well, let me raise your grade to that standard, just for the sake of consistency.
Actual Response: Hmm, you’re right. I’ll have to reduce their grades accordingly.
But I’ve never been given a grade below a)3.7, b)3.8, c)3.9 before in my life!!
Ideal Response: Obviously your other professors are more clear-headed than I. Let me adjust your grade upwards.
Actual Response: Well, there’s a first time for everything, I guess. Everyone has a lowest grade ever. . .
But you don’t understand that I a) work 60 hours a week, b) am taking 28 credits this term, c) volunteer for my church, d) captain the Crew team, e) am a state senator, and therefore don’t have time to work as much on this as I otherwise might.
Ideal Response: Well, given that you work so hard in every other part of your life, I don’t see how I can object to giving you a higher grade.
Actual Response: I understand that you’re busy, but I can’t give you credit for work that you don’t do. Everyone has to juggle responsibilities. Learning how to do that is part of your education.
I see your point, but what I meant to say was. . .
Ideal Response: Well, if that’s what you meant to say. . .
Actual Response: I can’t grade based on intentions, or on my beliefs about your knowledge, only on what you actually give me. Next time, say what you meant to say.