There is one professor whom I wanted to ask for a letter of recommendation for grad school, but I just learned that I got an 80% on the final exam. This is a first-year graduate course, and the exam had simple questions (mostly computational), yet I still managed to mess it up. Very dumb mistakes. Now, it appears that I will still get an A+ in the class due to other things (HW, midterm, etc), however, I do not feel comfortable asking for a rec letter after messing up the final like that. I had this professor for other graduate classes where I got an A+, although I also did not do very well on the exams (about 82-83% on average, yet better than the average student in the class). The professor knows me well since I always asked questions and went to office hours, but because I didn't do well on the exams, I feel like they might decline to write a letter.

Is it still okay to ask for a rec letter after a poor performance on the final?

  • Do you have a better alternative? Apr 28, 2023 at 13:45
  • 4
    Is 80% low?????
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 28, 2023 at 15:17
  • 1
    You got an A+. Seriously? You passed the class with flying colors. It sounds like a great reference to me!
    – learning
    Apr 28, 2023 at 15:51
  • Sounds somewhat like imposter syndrome to me. Apr 28, 2023 at 16:04
  • 1
    What is the reason for the downvotes here? If they're misled about their grade's value, state that in an answer! Apr 28, 2023 at 23:06

1 Answer 1


You want letters that can confidently express your likelihood of success in grad study and beyond. This might be that professor or not, but I doubt that even your supposedly bad grade on the final would be the determining factor.

If you have a good relationship with them and have impressed them generally with your skills, then there shouldn't be a problem. However, personality enters in to it so it is impossible to predict from this distance.

If they decline, they are doing you a favor. Better that than a lukewarm letter.

Everyone has a bad day occasionally.

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