Suppose, a student left a negative comment about a professor in the university's confidential review page. Somehow the professor guesses who the student was.

What can the student do if the professor intentionally gives the student bad grades?

Can the student file a request for a exam paper review to the dean?

How would the whole situation work out for the student?

  • 2
    Generally, the professor have access to the reviews only after entering the grades in some system / after the grades due date. Also, paper filling for review is worst as far as anonymity is concerned: I personally can't guess who the writer of a review is from the style (except for a few exceptions), but I definitely know how to identify my student's handwriting. Also, as long as the student is not insulting, the vast majority of the professors knows how to deal with (and actually cares about) negative criticism, they help us to improve our teaching!
    – Clément
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 20:46
  • 3
    In most institutions in the U.S. and, I'd guess, elsewhere, you can always ask that a dean or department chair review an exam. It isn't necessary to mention a review or any other reason. "I don't believe my exam was graded fairly; would you please look at it?" is likely to be enough.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 21:25
  • 4
    A good rule of thumb, especially in small departments/programs, is to assume that the instructor can pinpoint exactly who is saying what in the end-of-term evaluations.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 0:08
  • @Clément Your "generally" is too strong. Where I am the evaluation results are available before the course even finishes (see also the comment by Hdidi on their answer). Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 6:33
  • 1
    If a student is going to post a negative review then should not give enough detail to be identified. Professor should still not penalize the student for a negative review.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 13:42

3 Answers 3


The student needs to establish that the the work submitted is better than the grade received.

  1. Understand the grading distribution for the class (should be in syllabus)
  2. Collect the assignment/exam requirements, what you submitted and your grade
  3. Honestly evaluate what you submitted and see if the grade matches the work
  4. Check a classmate's submission and grade to get a sense of what was right or wrong
  5. Ask the professor for clarification about the assignment/exam grade (within a week of the assignment grade being given)
  6. Check that the final grade is calculated correctly based on the weights in the syllabus
  7. If you still feel like you met the requirements, you can contact your student advisor, student support services or the head of the school. Be very clear about your concerns of bias, and offer to have others review your work.

Number 7 is a bit tricky. You should take local culture into account. All of this assumes you are at a university that does have some support systems for students.

Communication is really important. Sometimes the Prof makes a mistake in grading, sometimes the student didn't understand the assignment. Once you rule out both of those, then you could consider a review.


This totally depends on country, culture etc. (unfortunately, no country tag is given).

A student can of course always file a request. However, this situation sounds so unlikely (how should the student know that the professor guessed and takes revenge) that, without any more evidence, this request will always certainly be dimissed. (And there are also places where no stuff members cares at all about any requests, even if there was proof given.)

  • 1
    Well, the first step would be to talk to the professor, look at the exam (if possible/allowed) and then ask the professor why your grade is not as expected. However, if the professor has an explanation (may it be a true or false one), it is very likely that the higher ups believe her/him and not you.
    – Hdidi
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 20:57
  • 1
    @Clement: Unfortunately I cannot comment above, so I must do it here. This is not universally true that professors only have access to reviews. In my university in Austria, the reviews are given back as soon as they are evaluated - sometimes before grades are given. And in most courses, you do not have to register and can do the exam at any time (eg 30 years after the course). It would not be good to wait for the evaluations until then. Again, a country tag would be useful.
    – Hdidi
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 21:01

In the US, at least, in general: there should be some mechanism for disputing the grade; and there will likely be something in your university policy about retaliation not being permitted.

The important thing is to check your university's online catalog and conduct policy, to find out how you're supposed to proceed when you wish to file a grade dispute.

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