Last week I received a midterm mark back – an ouch mark*. You can imagine how upset I was. I have studied very hard this semester in an attempt to achieve a straight-A average (which, going by the ouch marks, I am falling short on).
Monday was worse. I came to school only to get another ouch mark. But this time, I wasn’t the only one. Seventy percent of my class got a mark under 69 percent and the class average was an all-time low of 62 percent. Of course, the majority of the class was outraged. Apparently, we had all misunderstood the essay question and therefore had not applied the material properly.
The professor mentioned the opportunity for students to submit their midterm exam for a re-mark. Like all opportunities that seem too good to be true, there was a catch: whatever re-mark the professor bestows upon you is the final one. If the mark is adjusted in your favour, you’re in luck. But if the new mark is even more unfavourable, you have to roll with the punches because you’re stuck with it.
The issue of whether to submit your essay/text/(mid)term exam for a re-mark plagues all students at some point in their university career. All professors have a re-mark policy and it’s important that each student is familiar with it. You should read the course outline for the policy instructions and make note of the criteria which impact your effort to get a better mark.
The re-mark process begins with the person who marked your assignment, generally a Teaching Assistant. In most cases, the TAs have the power to change marks. You should approach your TA with the attitude that you want to understand what you did wrong on your exam and how you can improve. You should only go to the professor if you still feel unsatisfied with the TA’s explanation.
Generally, when you want a paper re-marked by a professor you are required to submit a formal request in written form. In addition, you need to provide a detailed explanation of why you are deserving of a better mark. A lot of students don’t put enough effort into this step.
Telling the professor you deserve a better mark is a bit like writing an argumentative essay. Having a position is not enough – you need to provide support for your position and refute the criticisms made by the TA about your work. Detail is important. Rather than say the whole assignment was marked incorrectly, take the time to pinpoint areas you are concerned with so that you can gain small marks that build up.
Some students argue that instead of fighting for every mark professors should bell curve the marks, especially when the class average is very low. Bell-curving is very controversial, and although I think it shouldn’t be imposed regardless of whether it favours the students, it is an argument that students put forward. Do you think bell-curving should be allowed?
Regardless of how you think marks should be adapted, you should remember that you do have a voice. You have control before you hand in an assignment and you have the opportunity to fight for your mark after the assignment. The important thing is that you pick your battles. When you are truly deserving of a better mark, you should consider putting your paper in for a re-mark.
Would you be willing to take that leap?
* Ouch Mark: personal term for a mark which not only stings momentarily, but is surprisingly painful with a dull throbbing ache hours afterward.