This is in the US. I have a professor (humanities) who grades everything with check, check plus, or check minus. Then, from these grades, she computes a numerical score and from there gives a letter grade.

I wanted to calculate my score in the class to confirm everything is being calculated correctly (don't trust English profs with arithmetic). The problem is that the professor has not disclosed to us what a check, check plus, or check minus represent numerically, other than to say a check is "in the neighborhood of a B plus".

Would it be fair/non-rude/appropriate to ask her what, exactly, these categories correspond to? Since the score is calculated numerically based on the syllabus weighting, I would like to be able to see e.g. check = 86, etc. (Also, this is a graduate class, but not sure that's relevant.)

  • I used to grade that way. Check got full points, i.e. 100%. Check-plus got full points with a smiley face. That is, full points and recognition of exemplary effort or performance. Check-minus got zero points, but with the opportunity to revise and resubmit for full credit. (Your professor obviously has different meanings, sadly.)
    – Bob Brown
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 1:08
  • "don't trust English profs with arithmetic" I have to say I find this statement troubling and I question whether you are reliable narrator.
    – marts
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 9:43

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is ok to ask and to say that you really need to know how you are doing. But, I'll guess that you won't get a specific answer, or, at least, not as specific as you like.

It may be that the "scale" is really just "preponderance of evidence" for the various grades. After all, the grading system in the US is fairly crude with only about five levels of grades. So, since you don't have a percentage score recorded at the end or a total this might be adequate for purposes of grading.

I would hope, however, that the instructor gives you some written feedback on what you write as well, so that you can see how you might improve.

But, yes, you can ask, and it isn't rude.

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