How to handle an unfair school mark

Hard done by? Here’s how to deal with the situation if you believe your mark isn’t right.

Student teacher unfair school mark
Mark Rohald Executive Deputy Chairman & Director, Cluey Learning BCom, BCom Hons (Economics) Wednesday, 5 June 2019

You worked really hard on that assignment and had every reason to believe that you were going to get a good mark. You followed the instructions carefully, fulfilled all of the requirements, did various drafts, and made sure that you edited and formatted everything oh so carefully before submitting.

Then you get it back and realise your mark is miles from the high honours you envisioned. So, what gives?

Your friend’s assignment doesn’t look any better than yours, but she got a much higher score.

No, really, what’s going on?

It’s easy for us to know that the mark we’ve been given isn’t fair, but much harder to know what to do about it. The only way to tackle this situation is to speak to your teacher and ask her to review the assignment and reconsider the final result.

But before you go in, guns blazing about your unfair mark, bear in mind a few of the pointers below.

Your teacher might not be out to get you

The first thing to have clear in your mind is that even if the mark is unfair, there’s no reason to assume that it was awarded with malice. Just because your teacher gave you a mark that you believe is unfair, doesn’t mean she has it in for you.

Given the number of assignments any teacher has to mark in one sitting, with the best will in the world, mistakes really are possible. Even if you do suspect she doesn’t like you, there’s nothing to be gained by coming at this problem from that perspective.

The best approach is to be honest. Say that you’re disappointed with your mark. Explain that you’d like to better understand where you went wrong and what you should have done to get a better result.

Ask your teacher if she wouldn’t mind sitting with you and going through the assignment. Ask her to explain her approach and suggest improvements.

It may well be that, looking closely at the assignment and being required to articulate her thought processes, your teacher may herself come to the conclusion that she has given you the wrong mark.

If, however, she doesn’t realise the grave error of her ways, you’ll need to ask her directly to reconsider the mark and be prepared to justify your request. It’s very important that you approach this delicate question with respect. Try something like, “Thanks so much for spending this time going through my assignment with me — I really appreciate it. Even though I understand much better than I did before, I still feel that the mark you’ve given me is a bit low. Is it at all possible for you to have another look at it?”

She might still say no. This is when you have an important decision to make. You have to balance how much you’d like a better mark with the possible fallout from pushing for a review.

Nobody likes to feel that they’ve been treated unfairly. But sometimes one mark just isn’t important enough to jeopardise your relationship with your teacher. As strongly as you may feel that the mark is unfair, she might think that it’s absolutely accurate. She might also believe that if she changes your mark this time, you and the rest of the class will constantly be asking her to give them better marks for the rest of the year. What kind of precedent will it set?

“I’d like to speak with your manager”

If you do decide to pursue things further, there are still options you can consider. You can go to the head of the relevant department and ask them to look at the assignment for you. The risk may be that they give you a lower mark, of course, but if you’re convinced that you’ve been robbed, it’s probably worth the risk.

The other way to approach the situation is to accept the mark this time, but make sure you get as much input as possible from your teacher in preparing for your next assessment task. Make sure you check your understanding of the questions. Ask her to read a draft. Submit a practice test. Do what you can to understand her expectations, consolidate your learning, and demonstrate your commitment and application.

Sometimes you need some extra help

If your aforementioned teacher isn’t giving you the clarity you need, or if you’d like some extra help meeting the requirements of the assignment (the one which you very clearly understand now), it might be useful to seek out some outside support.


Visit Cluey Learning or call 1300 182 000 to speak with a Learning Advisor today.

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