Professor Rosenthal's Regrading Policy
Students are sometimes unhappy with the grades they receive on assignments
(tests, exams, homeworks, essays, etc.), and want a regrade. This
document explains my policies about that. In brief, it distinguishes
between grading errors, and grading judgements. For grading
errors, a regrade should indeed be requested as soon as possible. But for
grading judgements, a regrade is not advisable and might well lead
to a lower grade. Further details follow.
Grading errors arise when the grader makes an actual mistake,
usually due to rushing too much.
Examples of grading errors include:
These are genuine grading errors, which should be brought to the
instructor's attention as soon as possible, to be corrected appropriately.
- Adding up the grades incorrectly.
- Copying a grade incorrectly.
- Thinking that the student did not explain something, when they had
actually explained it elsewhere in their solution, so their solution is
actually completely correct.
- Thinking that the student did not calculate something, when they had
actually calculated it elsewhere in their solution, so their solution is
actually completely correct.
Grading judgements involve the grader deciding, as best as they
can, how many points a solution is worth. Unless a solution is absolutely
perfect, and also perfectly explained, then some judgement is
required to determine how many marks should be awarded.
Examples of grading judgements include:
These are grading judgements, for which regrades should usually
not be requested, as I now explain.
- If a solution is correct but is not well explained, does it deserve
just one point off? Or two? Or three? Or more?
- If a solution is on the right track but contains some minor errors,
should it receive half marks? More? Less?
- If a solution has some correct elements, but many incorrect elements
too, does it still deserve some marks? How many?
- If a solution is mostly incorrect, does it still deserve one mark?
Why Shouldn't Grading Judgements Be Regraded?
Grading judgements do not have a clear right or wrong. There are no 100%
clear guidelines for how many part-marks a partially correct or poorly
explained solution should receive. The graders do their best to be
fair and consistent in their grading, but they will never be perfect.
Also, in my classes at least, explanations are very important,
so even a perfect answer poorly explained should not receive full marks
(but an incorrect solution with a good explanation of the method might
still receive part marks). Furthermore, the grader can only grade based
on what is written on the page, not what was going on in your head. You
might well have understood the material well and just made some mistakes
in your solution, but if there is no clear evidence of this in your
written solution, then it will not earn you extra marks.
In every assignment, there will always be some questions where you
feel you deserved a few more marks, and others where you were lucky to get
as many marks as you did. This is all part of the usual grading practice,
and is unavoidable. It is not a basis for a regrade.
What Happens if I Request a Regrade?
If you request a regrade, then the instructor (not the TA)
will examine your request carefully.
If genuine grading errors are found, then they will be corrected
appropriate, and no further action will be taken.
If it is found that there are no genuine grading
errors, but just grading judgements, then the instructor might regrade
your entire assignment, firmly and with a critical
eye. In that case, your mark might well go down rather than up.
Is It Fair to Lower My Mark on a Regrade?
Yes it is! By requesting a regrade, you are saying that you are not
satisfied with the judgements that the grader made when grading your
assignment. As discussed above, those judgements probably included some
questions where you feel you deserved a few more marks, and others where
you were lucky to get as many marks as you did. When a regrade is
requested, the instructor might discard all of the grading judgements made
during the original grading, and replace them by their own firm and critical
judgements, which might lower your grade.
What would not be fair would be "penalty-free" regrades, with
no possibility of a lower grade. Such regrades would confer an unfair
advantage on students who request a judgements regrade, and hence an
unfair disadvantage to students who do not. The only way to make that
fair would be for every student to get a regrade, i.e. for every
single assignment to be regraded twice and always count the higher grade.
This would be a huge waste of effort and resources, leading to slightly
inflated grades and no real benefit.
Instead, my firm policy is that regrade requests for grading
judgements might well lead to lower marks. Thus, regrade requests should
only be made for genuine grading errors, not for grading judgements.
Can the Professor Review my Assignment to Check for Grading Errors
Before I Request a Regrade?
Sorry, no. I wish I could help. But if every student were allowed to get
their assignment checked penalty-free for grading errors, then as above
that would be unfair to students who do not make such a request. And the
only way to make it fair would be to first check every student's
paper for grading errors, which again would be a huge waste of effort and
So, instead, you need to decide for yourself whether or not there are
genuine grading errors.
The following section might help to clarify.
What Are Some Signs that I Have a Grading Judgement, Not a Grading
Before submitting a regrade request, you should think very carefully about
whether it is a grading error or a grading judgement. Signs that it might
actually be a grading judgement include:
In general, if you are not sure if there is a genuine grading
error, then there probably isn't, i.e. it is probably just grading
judgement so a regrade request should not be made.
- Regrading requests for multiple questions. (It is quite
unlikely that a grader made so many different errors. It is much more
likely that you are repeatedly questioning the grader's judgement.)
- Requests like, "I know I didn't solve this problem correctly, but I
knew how to do it, I just messed up on the test." (That might well
be true, but again, the grader can only grade what is actually written on
- Requests that begin, "I know I got this question wrong, but I had the
right idea, and/or some of my solution was correct, so I
deserve more marks." (That is definitely a grading judgement, not
a grading error.)
- Requests that begin, "I got the right answer, so surely I
deserve full points." (As discussed above, explanations are also
very important, and the right answer does not necessarily deserve
full points. Again, that is a judgement, not an error.)
- Requests with explanations like, "All I did was write 3 instead of 2,
and 2 instead of 1, and lambda instead of mu, and ...". (You may well
have an idea in your mind about why your solution was "almost" correct,
but if that is not clear from the written answer then you will probably
not earn points for it. Once again, that is a grading judgement.)
So When Should I Request a Regrade?
The bottom line is that you should only request a regrade when you
are confident that there are genuine grading errors, not
just grading judgements or "wishing" you had a higher grade or
thinking that you "deserve" a higher grade.
What if I Want a Regrade Anyway?
If, after reading this entire page, you are convinced that your assignment
has a genuine grading error, then you should proceed as follows:
Your work will then be regraded, as described above.
(Note: for the final exam, a different Faculty-wide process should be followed instead.)
- Write or type a complete explanation of your concern (together with
your full name, student number, e-mail address, and telephone number) on a
separate piece of paper (not anywhere on your the actual assignment!).
- Give this separate piece of paper, together with your original
unaltered assignment paper, to the instructor within one
week of when the graded work was first available (not
counting Reading Week).
If it is found that there are no
genuine grading errors, then the instructor might regrade your entire
assignment firmly, and your mark might well go down rather than up.
Every year, there are a few students who ignore my warnings and request
a regrade despite no genuine grading errors, and their marks
nearly always go down -- don't be one of them!
-- Jeffrey S. Rosenthal,
Professor of Statistics, University of Toronto