Let us assume that a professor is handling a course on statistics for undergrads.

They conduct exams and evaluate the answers and award marks to the students.

Suppose that the professor committed some mistakes, unknowingly, during the evaluation of a student's answers in one of the exams, and as a result, there is an error in the final grade of the student in statistics, and it is not noticed by anyone, including the student.

If the student realizes the mistake done by the professor in the next semester, then is the professor still responsible for the mistake that was committed? Or is the professor not responsible for their actions since the student was calm throughout the semester?

If the professor is responsible, then what is the action they need to do if the administration does not allow to edit the grades after freezing them?

Assume that the professor distributes the answer sheets after their evaluation for clarifying doubts of students regarding her evaluation. And the student can approach them at that time in case of any issues i.e., wrong marking.

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    Rules on grade changes very a lot between different institutions- there may or may not be a formal process to appeal for a grade change in this case, but if there is one, the details will be institution specific. Commented May 4, 2020 at 15:46
  • (1) Personally, I find the hypothetical way of writing unnecessary and irritating to read. (2) You may be able to avoid closure by cutting off after "...that was committed?" Since the institution-specific questions are unanswerable here, but the general question may be on-topic Commented May 5, 2020 at 16:10
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    At my university, I can request a change after submission (even years later), but I have to fill out several forms that detail exactly why a change should be considered. Like @BrianBorchers said, this will vary by institution -- you need to ask them.
    – Kathy
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 16:26

3 Answers 3


Yes, the professor is responsible for mistakes she made. Not noticing a mistake doesn't excuse it. But the current situation is no longer under the control of the professor as you state the question. It is up to the administration to correct the error.

Of course, the professor should make an appeal, along with the student, for an exception to any rule.

So, in giving an evaluation to the professor you can validly complain about the mistake, but not about the rules made by others. For that, you need to complain elsewhere.

In general, people are responsible for their own actions and omissions, but not those of others. But they should also work to correct past mistakes however they can.

The lead question has been edited, so let me add:

While the professor should try to help the student fix any errors that were made, the rules might not allow it. However, I would consider systems with inflexible rules, not permitting errors to be repaired, as unethical. It saves someone a bit of work to forbid such changes, but the accuracy of the record and the fairness to students are values that far outweigh such considerations.

  • 1
    Let me add that there are often regulations like "Students have X time to make a complaint" or, similarly, "after X months, the exam has to be (securily) trashed". Then, it might or might not be possible to appeal the grade (or maybe possible for the prof, but not for the student).
    – user111388
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 15:32
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    @user111388, and a sensible system will permit exceptions to avoid unfairness. Overly rigid systems serve no one and lead to injustice.
    – Buffy
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 16:30
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    Sure. But the OP did not say that they are in a sensible system.
    – user111388
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 18:10

At my university, professors are "obligated" to post their final grades within a certain deadline. I said "obligated" because this has generally been my experience, but I have heard stories about how some didn't post their grades until the start of the next semester.

That said, there is a possibility that there could be a grading mistake. When professors do upload grades, they upload them into a central database. However, they make sure to get it right the first time since it is not as easy to change the final grades once they have been entered. In the rare situation that a grade does need to be changed, professors can submit a "grade change request" form to our registrar, which will allow a grade to be changed in the central database. One example I saw first hand, was that in an undergrad distributed systems/cloud computing course, the professor had extended our final project deadline to essentially coincide with the ending of our semester, but he still had to get grades in by a certain deadline. To compensate, he submitted whatever grades he had before a certain day, and any grade changes necessary after that day he would fill out forms to submit to the registrar.

So yes, professors CAN change grades, but they will likely have to go through a process that is more tedious than it may seem.

  • 1
    I think the level of tedium varies from place to place. If I need to correct a grade after the semester ends, I only have to fill out a simple web form: semester, course, student (picked from the final roster), new grade. Before it was electronic, it was a simple paper form. Formally, the form is only a request, but in 20 years, I've never seen a grade change request denied, sent back for more information, or take more that a week to take effect, including one change seven years after the course ended. (To be fair, I've never tried to change a grade downward.)
    – JeffE
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 19:00
  • To clarify, I did mean that it wasn't as simple as changing a test grade or something the way they would normally do since they upload final grades to a central database as I had mentioned. But yeah, it does vary by the institution but it takes time, that is what I meant.
    – Daveguy
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 20:32

My impression, at least at the universities that I've been involved with, is that grades can be corrected after the fact. The procedure would be something like the following:

  1. The student contacts the professor, says "I believe there was a mistake in my grading, for the following reason: [Reason goes here.] Would you be willing to double check this?"

  2. If the professor agrees that he/she made a mistake, then the professor follows an official process and requests of the administration that the grade be changed. Generally, I would expect this request to go through.

In particular, I would recommend (politely) contacting the professor as soon as possible, but whenever the mistake is noticed.

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