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

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.

Grading Judgements

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.

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 immediately as appropriate, and no further action will be taken.

However: 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 resources.

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 Error?

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.

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:
  1. 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!).
  2. 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).
Your work will then be regraded, as described above. (Note: for the final exam, a different Faculty-wide process should be followed instead.)

Final Reminder: 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