Would professors raise the grades?

Are you dissatisfied with your grade? 5 ways in which you can improve your exam results afterwards during your studies

by Tim Reichel

Your heart is racing. With shaky hands you open the website of your university. The exam results are online. Now is the moment of truth. Of course you have a rough premonition, a gut feeling. But that can be deceptive. In a few moments you will have certainty. How did you do Have the sleepless nights at your desk been worth it? How did the exam turn out?

You purposefully search for your matriculation number, find it, look at the grade - and you can't believe it.

You hoped for more. Much more. Disappointment spreads, then anger, then sadness. You are dissatisfied with your grade. You assessed your performance much better. How could you be so wrong? What happened? But the train has left - there is nothing more you can do. Correct?

Not correct.

During your studies, you have various options for adding your grade afterwards improve. Your options are limited and only promising under special conditions, but at least you can do something. Or at least try.

I will explain how to do this in this article.


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So you can improve your grade afterwards

Subsequent grade improvements are not impossible. Through my work as a study advisor and coordinator of several examination boards, I know a few ways that can lead you to better grades. Not all of them are suitable for every situation - some only work in exceptional cases. Still, you should know her.

These are your options:


1. Negotiate with the examiner!

Many students accept their exam results without blinking an eyelid. They are annoyed, but wordlessly swallow their dissatisfaction instead of making the slightest attempt to get a better grade. Don't get me wrong: Your grade is not a non-binding proposal from your examiner that you can discuss and haggle about in a relaxed atmosphere. If your grade is fixed, then it is fixed - at least most of the time.

As a rule, however, you have the opportunity to review the assessment of your examination performance and then to submit an opinion on it. But first things first: After each examination you have the right to inspect the examination documents (the so-called examination inspection). After that or during that time, you can ask questions orally or in writing about the assessment and present your view of things. At some universities, students are even allowed to speak and “negotiate” directly with the examiner in certain modules.

Why the quotes? Because you shouldn't really be bargaining. An exam inspection is not a bazaar. It is a legally relevant procedure and you should proceed objectively and analytically accordingly. Watch out for correction errors or appeal to the leeway your examiner has in some assessment situations. This strategy is more promising than hypocritical used car sales tricks.


2. Object to the grading!

If your communication skills don't pay off and your negotiating skills come to nothing, the next step is to file an official objection to the assessment of your exam. To do this, however, you have to present valid reasons and be able to objectively prove why your test result should be reevaluated. It is not enough to explain that the grade was unfair and that you actually had a stomachache during the exam.

You usually formulate your objection in writing in the form of an application to your examination board. Your examination board is an official control body of your university - each degree program typically has its own committee that has to ensure that examinations are carried out in accordance with the law. In your application, you should clearly state what you would like (a new assessment or a new examination attempt?) And justify this request in such a way that the examination board agrees.

To do this, you should first read your examination regulations carefully so that you know the legal requirements and requirements for the examination procedures in your degree program. Based on this, you formulate your application, describe the situation and explain objectively and precisely why your application should be granted. In this article, I'll explain what a strong reasoning is all about.


3. Challenge the test result!

If your application is not granted and your objection is rejected, you can take legal action against the evaluation. That means: You are suing your university. Normally, the rejection letter from your examination board is accompanied by a so-called legal remedy instruction. This is a short legal text that explains what you can do now and what deadlines you have to observe.

You usually submit your complaint to the competent administrative court. However, it is advisable not to do this completely by yourself, but with the help of a lawyer. Legal counsel is not free (unless you have lawyers in your family or friends), but the investment can be worthwhile. Firstly, legal procedures are complicated and opaque for laypeople, secondly, the process takes a lot of time if you are inexperienced, and thirdly, your chances of success increase if you get professional support.

If your lawsuit is successful, there will either be a reassessment of the examination performance or a repetition of the examination. You should note that legal proceedings can take a few months - sometimes even a few years. Under certain circumstances, a lawsuit in this time horizon is not worthwhile for you.


4. Make an attempt to improve!

The now seldom attempt at improvement is much less complex and time-consuming. In some courses of study, it is possible to repeat exams that have already been completed in order to subsequently improve the grade. You can read more detailed information on which rules you have to observe when attempting to improve or whether this option is even suitable for you in your examination regulations.

If you cannot find any information on this, it doesn't hurt to ask your examination board or your student advisory service explicitly about this option. You might get a tip from your student council or another institution at your university. Before you overlook a regulation and thus waste valuable potential, it is better to ask. Better safe than sorry.


5. Substitute the module!

Similar to the attempted improvement, only a little more radical, is the substitution option that is practiced in some courses. It works like this: The number of modules and the associated exams is fixed for each course. In some universities, however, there is no upper limit to this number. That means: You can take more modules and complete more exams than you actually need to complete your studies.

And this constellation can benefit you - precisely when you can replace an exam that you have already passed (with a bad grade) for another, "new" exam. But be careful: not all examination boards allow this. Either the chronological order of your exams decides or a binding election takes place in advance. However, sometimes you can substitute bad grades this way.

This option of improving grades could be of interest to you, especially if you can choose subjects from elective catalogs or choose between different areas of specialization. Be sure to coordinate with your course administration beforehand or, if in doubt, submit an application to your examination board for this as well.


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In summary, I have some very good news and some less good news for you. The very good ones first: You don't just have to accept bad grades. You can defend yourself and improve your exam results afterwards. These five options are available to you:

  • Negotiate with the examiner!
  • Object to the grading!
  • Challenge the exam result!
  • Make an attempt to improve!
  • Substitute the module!

The less good news is that the options vary greatly depending on the university and degree program. And even if the framework conditions look similar, the procedures can differ significantly from one another. There is no nationwide uniform solution.

Therefore, you should plan your measures well and especially coordinate the legal steps in the form of a lawsuit with a lawyer. Otherwise there is a risk that you will get lost and end up wasting an unnecessary amount of time, money and nerves.


Image: © Cynthia del Río / unsplash.com