Tuesday, September 30, 2008


You just got the exam back and your grade isn't looking too good. What do you do now?

First, ARGUE CLOSE CALLS. Do not sit back and just accept the answers the professor said are correct. If you have any, no matter how slim, reason to argue your answer may be correct, speak up. Most professors will give you points just by putting forth a semi-intelligent argument for your reasoning. Now here's the tip: make sure you speak up at the right time. Some professors want you to approach them privately immediately after the corrected exam has been returned, while others want these discussions to be held during class time. Use statements like, "that answer seemed ambiguous to several of us" or "question 9 was misleading the way it was written" or "my lecture notes indicated this while our text stated that". Get your timing down, be polite and serious in your reasoning, and see how many points you can pick up.

Second, ASK FOR CURVE POINTS. If the whole class has done terrible on an exam many professors will automatically add 5, 10 or more points to each student's grade. It never hurts to ask for curve points when the professor doesn't automatically offer them.

Third, PRIVATELY ASK FOR SPECIAL PROJECTS. When your grades are especially low, make an appointment to privately speak to your professor. Explain to your professor why you feel your grades are bad and what you plan on doing to improve and ask them if you could do a special project to improve your grade. Specifically state that you want to do a special project to prove your knowledge of the subject, that the test you recently bombed did not truly show your knowledge. Now many professors will refuse this request but then you follow up with a request for more help with the next exam, such as a specifically targeted study guide. If your professor does allow you special credit for a project, make sure you do the best job you can. Most professors will not give you a second chance with a request like this.

Fourth, DON'T LET ANY POINTS GO. Ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to get points in your classes. If the professor gives 10 points a week for turning in homework, this is an automatic 100 points (10 points x 10 weeks)toward your grade per quarter or 160 points (10 points x 16 weeks) for a semester. Are you turning in that homework every week or are you slacking because it's only 10 points? Here is a situation where you can guarantee yourself points and you can't afford to not take them, all of them. Whenever the professor is handing out points outside of exams, do what it takes to get the points. So completely answer those discussion questions, hand in the homework, show up for the participation and attendance points, watch how you format your papers, proofread your writing. It's all about getting your share of the easy points. Don't ever leave any points behind.

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