A student requested to meet marker(me) to talk about midterm. He thought the mark was unfair. But we met, he just told me to point out why he was wrong. He got 0 for that question and I had no idea why he thought the mark was wrong. I was unable to give a very clear explanation. And the student just got angry, like I owed him. After this unhappy experience. I decided to let students state why they think the marks are wrong and attach snapshot in emails. If I think the reason is unjustified I will just point it out and refer them to the instructor. Is that a good policy?

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    I am confused by your question, and you might edit to clarify. Do you not understand what was wrong with the student's answer? And is there any subjective component to the grading?
    – Anonymous
    Jul 16, 2017 at 20:12
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    Just so I get this right: You are checking exams, wether the given answers match some reference sheet you have, but you have no clue why an answer is right or wrong? Never taken that exam yourself? I'm sorry, but that sounds very wrong.
    – Karl
    Jul 16, 2017 at 20:56
  • @Karl That is not the case. In my view, the student's answer didn't even make sense to me. I don't know what to explain because I didn't see anything correct in his answer. Maybe the student just totally disagreed with my marking in the first place. I just wanted to say to him that I can do nothing if you cannot even figure it out yourself by reading the sample answer. But I couldn't say that as a TA. Jul 17, 2017 at 6:28
  • @Karl The student seemed not take marker's words seriously. When we were talking about another, he just annoyingly claimed that his answer was right, which turned out to be the opposite. If he told me in the email that he just disagreed with my marking then I should just tell him to meet the instructor but not me. Jul 17, 2017 at 6:39

1 Answer 1


Short answer:

It is expected for an evaluator to give appropriate reasons for the reduction in marks. However, I welcome your new policy -- it portrays openness and trustworthiness.


Evaluation of answer scripts can be a tiresome work and it is only human to make mistakes at times. We usually take extra care when evaluating the final exams, but most would not pay that level of concentration for a mid-term assessment. It is only natural for some students to doubt the marks awarded for some of their answers. In such cases, I believe the students have their right to claim for the marks which might have been overlooked.

When asked why the answer is wrong, it would be the duty of the evaluator to state the reasons clearly. Only then the student can correct the mistake in future. The whole point of assessment tests is not only to measure how much the students have learned but also to set them on the right path and know where they are going wrong.

The following approach sounds more diplomatic for a student when asking for marks:

"Sir/Ma'am, may I know what is wrong with my answer so that I could give a better answer next time?"

When the evaluator explains the answer, the student can then point to where the explains concepts appear (if they do) on her/his answer. Then, the evaluator can make the necessary correction in the marking.

Politeness is the key. This approach is what I have adopted for my whole life as a student and expect the same for my students too.

Your approach seems quite new yet attractive to me. Usually, clarification with marks are done in office hours outside class. You never really know how this might work until you put this to practice. But it does give the impression to the students that you seem to be a more open and trustworthy evaluator (IMO).

  • The students are given sample answers, so they should know what the correct way is before asking the marker. Jul 16, 2017 at 5:01
  • What is stated above is a general guideline for any written exam, @Tony. What might seem obvious to us may not be so obvious to them.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Jul 16, 2017 at 5:06
  • There was a case that a student came to meet with an answer that didn't even make sense to me. In this case, I don't know what I can do to him. I think the student is just a trouble. But the instructor just keeps saying that meeting students is necessary, shrug. Jul 16, 2017 at 6:11
  • @Tony Yes. It happens all the time; there are some genuine requests and many others like the one you just stated. You might explain what is missing in the student's answer or make him/her explain what's right about his/her answer. But all this might be straight forward with your mailing idea. You could just forward such troublesome requests to the instructor if he insists on meeting up with such cases.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Jul 16, 2017 at 6:19
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    Sample answers are not enough, because every problem has multiple correct solutions. (Even for problems with unique correct answers, there are multiple correct paths to those answers.) You do need to explain where and how the student is wrong. That said, "This sentence is grasmmatically meaningless." and "Your first sentence is inconsistent with the definition of X." and "You are solving the wrong problem." are prefectly legitimate explanations (if true).
    – JeffE
    Jul 17, 2017 at 19:13

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