Five Grade Recovery Strategies

Uncategorized Mar 12, 2013

Even though you may have or be a great student, most students will occasionally suffer through a setback in their grades at some point of their scholastic career.  This can be traumatic or just annoying depending upon the disposition of the student at the time this occurs.  And the range of setbacks can vary from performing poorly on a quiz to having not realized they are halfway done with the term and it looks like that hoped for ‘B’ might be closer to a ‘D’!  So what do you do?  Below you will find five grade recovery strategies.

1.   Take Ownership.

“A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” – John Burroughs

The first grade recovery strategy in recovering from a poor grade is to own it.  Don’t waste time blaming your teacher, parents or anyone else in your life for a poor grade.  The grade is yours – accept it.  Now that you have understood the grade is yours, you can begin to take the steps to figure out how to NOT have that kind of grade again.  What should you have done to avoid this result?  Make a list.  For example, your list might include: review the materials with classmates; double check with the professor to ensure understanding; list all homework required, etc.  No one else is going to get the grade or the learning, so accept that it is up to you.

2.   Positive Inner Dialogue.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Stay positive!  The best way to learn something is to fail.  When asking students the areas that they remember the best, it is those areas that they initially failed at.  No one expects you do know everything right out of the gate, if they did, there would be no reason for school.  When you fail or fall short of your expectations, recognize that this is a necessary step in the learning process, and better yet – it is likely that it is the very material that you are struggling with that will become a strength to you.  View a poor performance as the very next step to your success! (Because it really is, if you will stick with it – even Churchill agrees.)

3.    Understand the Material.

“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” – Peter Drucker

Now that you are aware that you don’t fully understand the material – it is time to learn it.  Don’t be satisfied that the exam or quiz is over and in the past – learn that material.  Imagine that you might do poorly on this material (this shouldn’t be too hard, because you have…) and then think about what you could do to make sure you understand the material completely.  Would you redo your homework assignments?  Look for other resources outside of class that might present the material in a different way?  How about working with classmates to see how they understand the material and if their way of looking at it might offer you a different insight?  Don’t give up on learning the material.  Ask yourself how this material might be applied in your daily life, either now or in your future.  Not only is it likely that the material will appear again later in your learning adventure, but the very fact that you will work to master the material will enable you to see how to master other new material when it is presented in your future.

4.      Communicate with your Teacher. 

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

When you have not performed well on an assignment, quiz or an exam, now more than ever it is important to communicate with your teacher.  Let me let you in on little secret.   Every teacher I have ever met did not get into the business of teaching because they wanted their students to fail.  They are teachers because they want their students to learn.  If you come to your teacher and open a conversation with “How can I get rid of a my bad grade?” you are sending the message that the grade, not the learning is the most important thing to you.  Rather, go to your teacher and state something like, “It is clear that I didn’t understand the material as well as I thought.  I have tried (list what you have done from step 3 above), but would appreciate your help in better mastering the material,” and then listen for her suggestions on what you might do.  Additionally, I find it VERY helpful to attend the study sessions or office hours that the professor provides on a regular basis.  This demonstrates that you are committed to learning and helps solidify you in the teacher’s mind as one who cares about their topic.  If the first time you talk to your professor is when you have a problem, you will be fighting an up hill battle to gaining any leniency.

5.      Ask for Options.

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” – Tony Robbins

In this last step, you actually ask for options.  Leaving this step for last is critical, as the previous four may have already provided ideas on what options might be available to you.  However, if at the end of meeting with your instructor, you are still unsure of how to recover your grade – ask if she can suggest a path to recovery from the poor grade.  Many teachers will provide extra credit, retakes, a drop grade, or several other options, but it is human nature to want to help those who are striving to succeed, not just expecting a do-over like a video game with no more effort than just pushing a button.  Ask without expectation, but with hope.  “Mrs. Wheeler, thank you for spending some time and helping me better understand the material.  I wish I would have taken this time prior to the quiz, but I feel confident that I could perform better now, so thank you.”  And as you are leaving the office, pause, and turn to ask as if an afterthought, “Mrs. Wheeler, are there any options for recovering from this quiz I failed?  A retake or make-up assignment I could do?”  Now it is time to wait, and see what is offered.  Whatever is given be grateful for it – even if there are no options, thank your professor for considering some options.


We all have times when we fail – it is how we face failure that determines who we become.

“Learning is the process of failing and striving again until we don’t.” – Dr. John W. Mitchell

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