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Background: My course has three exams: I did really bad on the first, great on the second (97%), and I think well on the third. I regularly attended the professor's office hours and never missed class.

Question: I now estimate that my final grade could be at the cutoff. Is it appropriate for me ask if he can round up grades (or bump up..) now before the grade is out? Or after the grade is out..?

Details:

This professor didn't send out scores online for the previous two exams. He only allowed us to pick up the exam on the class. However, since everyone will be leaving, I don't know whether he is going to distribute the exam grade online or he is just going straight to put the final letter grade in the system. So, another option would be to e-mail him now and ask how he plans to distribute the exam grades.

  • Also I never missed any of his class. – Xiyu Yan May 17 at 18:56
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    Ah, the time of year when I pull out my grading bingo :) – ff524 May 17 at 21:08
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Consider asking for an appointment to review the final exam.

Preemptively saying "I might be below the cut-off and would appreciate free points" is obnoxious. It's likely the professor has already taken your improvement and other factors into account. Further, asking for additional points for any reason other than a grading mistake is really inappropriate, though it's so common that most professors accept it.

On the other hand, waiting until the final grades might be too long. Once the professor has made a decision about what grade you deserve, they are much less likely to reverse that decision.

So, a good middle ground is to ask for an appointment to review the exam. This is a good thing to do in any case; further, the professor will take extra care when assigning your grade, as he will anticipate having to justify it to you. This also does not put you in an awkward position if you actually earned the grade you wanted -- you can just review the exam and thank him for a good course. Note, if you do this, you should make a good-faith review of the exam and an honest assessment of what you deserve; this is not "one weird trick" to get free points.

  • I think this answer is fine, but I'm a bit worried the OP or others in their situation will interpret it as a way to ask to bump their grade via a bit of subterfuge which might be even worse than blatantly grubbing. – Bryan Krause May 17 at 22:12
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    @BryanKrause - good point, added a sentence. – cag51 May 17 at 22:16
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It depends on the prof, but usually this is inappropriate before the grades come out. It is "inappropriate" in the sense that you will either be turned away or ignored, not that anything seriously bad will happen. Instructors get students emailing them all the time to talk about the exam they are convinced they have just failed before even seeing the results. There are several issues.

  1. The instructor may not have graded anything yet, so he doesn't know whether you passed or failed.

  2. It depends on your professor's policy. My personal policy is that students get the grades they earn. However, if I see a student on the edge I will go over their exam to make sure that no unnecessary marks were taken off, and no mistakes were made. However, I will not bump a student up unless it's something absurdly close, like getting 59.9 when the passing grade is 60.

  3. Your prof may be intending to grade on a curve or some other adjustment anyway. Asking them will not be helpful.

Ultimately, wait until your grade comes out. Until then, there is not much you should be doing. For all you know, you passed the course, then it is a small embarrassment to admit that in your stress you asked for marks.

Now, what happens when the grades come out? As SolarMike said, it depends on your grade and the instructor. If it's a 58 when 60 is a pass, you might be able to convince the instructor to bump you. But yes, if it's much below a few percent or if the test was marked so that subjectivity doesn't count (as in: it's multiple choice or something), then it's unlikely that you will succeed.

I know that it is difficult to wait, especially if you think you failed. But you will demonstrate a far greater professionalism if you respect the timelines of things.

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Asking for a bump in grades is dangerous. There're many professors who will be offended. It doesn't matter if you're asking for a bump from a barely-failing grade to a barely-passing grade, or from an A to an A+. It can potentially kill your professor's impression of you if e.g. you need a recommendation from them. I suggest not asking for a bump unless you think there was a mistake in computing your grade. At the very least, it shows you're taking responsibility for your grade.

As for distributing the exam grade online, if by that you mean whether you'll be able to get your exams: that's something you can ask about. If it's the final exam and everyone has left campus already, then the professor can't distribute the exams physically, but you might be able to arrange an appointment to collect it (if you are allowed to collect it - it's possible they are archiving the exams for whatever reason).

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I don't think it is appropriate before or AFTER the grades to whine for a few points to get past a hurdle. If there is a legitimate mistake fine (and not just you scouring for some debatable trivia), fine bring it up. But that's not what you described.

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It may depend on what you mean by "bump up"?

An increase of a couple of points to get you from 58 to 60 out of 100 (or eqivalent scale) may be one thing that may be considered prior to or at the grades or exam board..

But bumping your grade from 25 to 60 is completly different and not likely to happen whether you ask before or after...

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