One of the highlights of my time at UVA was working as a teaching assistant for the computer science department. In this capacity, I proctored labs and exams, held office hours, created exam questions, and even graded homework and exams. Due, in part, to the large class sizes of our introductory courses and the necessity of multiple graders for each assignment, most professors have a “regrade” policy – if the grader has made an error in grading a student’s work, there is a formal process for the student to request a second look at his or her work.
For CS 2150 (the course I TA’d), I was one of two or three TAs who processed most – if not all – of the regrades for exams in the past two semesters. Although grades are ideally determined solely by the answer’s merit, there are a few simple ways you can make your grader’s life easier. (And that’s always a good thing, right?)
Graders for every course, even technical ones, read a lot of student-generated text. In a class of around 300 students, we may receive 60 to 100 regrade requests per exam. (This is not to say have a 1/6 to 1/3 error rate in grading, but rather that we receive a lot of frivolous regrades – more on that later.) If every student writes four or five paragraphs explaining why they got
101101 instead of
101100 as the base-two representation of some number, it becomes hard to separate important points from unimportant ones. Thus, my first recommendation is to be brief.
Of course, there is a difference between “brief” and “short.” Receiving “regrade plz” is just as bad, if not worse, than recieving two pages on how you forgot a trivial detail of a problem. My Science, Technology, and Society professor put it well: when you hear brief, think economical. Maximize the “signal to noise” ratio of your regrade request – bullet points are your friend!
Many courses have a grading rubric that describe how many points each part of an assignment is worth. Exhibiting familiarity with this document by referencing relevant parts is great when writing a regrade request; this helps you be brief and shows the TA that you have some understanding of how many points your answer should be worth. It’s surprising the number of students, puzzled over their denied regrade, I’ve spoken with in office hours only to find that they never read the grading guidelines. Knowing what each part of the question is worth is invaluable in discussing regrades.
I realize that we are humans and make mistakes. I also realize that it’s very stressful and can feel insulting when one of your assignments has been graded improperly – believe me, I’ve been there! However, venting this frustration in your regrade request does not help the grader sympathize with your cause. Insulting the person who originally graded you, acting “entitled” to points (regardless of whether or not you actually are), and other forms of complaining do not endear yourself to your grader. Acting humble (but not overly so, of course) goes a long way in getting the grader to subconsciously want you to get a higher grade.
No, I’m not going to give some cheesy advice about not missing the question in the first place. What I mean by “don’t be wrong” is really “don’t be wrong a second time.” Double and triple-check your work before submitting a regrade – nothing is more embarassing than writing a long explanation on why your answer is correct, only to be disproved with a short response from the TA! Consult your textbook and discuss with your friends (or possibly the TAs) before submitting a regrade to reduce the likelihood it gets rejected.
While getting an “wrong” regrade can be mildly frustrating to a TA, we don’t really mind; after all, everyone makes mistakes and things like that occasionally slip through. However, one of the few ways to actually make a grader upset is to knowingly submit wrong work and act as if it’s correct. Please don’t do this. (I won’t write more; since this takes conscious effort to perform, I’ll assume those who are doing it can stop without much instruction.) Also in this category is “grade grubbing;” if your work is wrong and you’ve gotten what the rubric says you should get, don’t submit a regrade request asking for more points than your answer merits!
This is a lot of words to basically say: make your work quick to grade. We (your graders) are busy. We’re either students with coursework and/or research to do, or we’re professors who have lectures to prep, office hours to hold, and meetings to attend. The fact that you’re requesting a regrade means that we already saw your paper once. Considered together, these factors mean that the less time we have to spend handling regrade requests, the better off everyone is.
Yes, as graders it is our job to grade your work correctly. Yes, if we messed up your grade, we do want to fix it! But, if you can make it so it’s really fast and easy to see why you need points back, it makes our life so much easier.