The Truth About Improving a Low Grade
It happened every year without fail – the week before school ended, a student came to me. “Ms. P – my grade is real bad. What can I do to improve my low grade?” One week before school ended.
My response usually went some thing like this, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, kiddo, but nothing at this point. If you came to me a month ago, you could have pulled it up. Let this be a lesson for next year.”
Everyone hates low grades. But many times, after sitting down with a student (and their parents!) and giving suggestions, students were often unwilling to do the work to improve their grades. (Exhibit A: asking at the last possible moment.) Students don’t put the work in for a variety of reasons. Some are lost and just don’t know where to start. Others are scared or overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of them.
The truth about improving your grades: it takes MORE work on your part and it won’t happen overnight. Your grade will not magically rise because you wished for a higher grade. You will actually have to put in the time and do the work. Typically, grades don’t drop because of a single assignment. They slowly sink over time. Well, it takes time for it to increase again as well.Your grade will not magically rise because you have wished for it.Click To Tweet
Additionally, you will have to change your habits. (Psst -they clearly aren’t working for you.) This is where the rubber meets the road. Many students ask for suggestions, but don’t actually want to change how they take notes, organize, or study. If you won’t make the necessary changes, you are saying that you are fine with your low grade.
Notes: Parents – this is something you can help your teen with, but he or she needs to take the lead. Ultimately, they are responsible for their own grades. When that grade does improve, they will feel a sense of pride they were able to accomplish it mostly on their own.
Students – get ready to take stock and get some work done! Before we jump in, grab the free checklist I created for you. (Hint – click below!)
Ready? Let’s go!
How to Improve a Low Grade
Analyze your current grade
To improve your grade, you need to know your academic strengths and weaknesses. Don’t bother spending time improving something that’s already good. If you turn in most of your homework, clearly the problem lies elsewhere.
Get a copy of your grade report and print it out. Make sure you understand how your grade is calculated – point value or weighted categories?
Highlight all the low grades, however you may define that. Look for patterns in the grades. Do you mess up on quizzes? Always forgetting homework? Patterns are a hint of bigger problems and possible solutions.
Gather as many past tests as you can and look for patterns in your performance. How are you doing on multiple-choice questions? Short Answer? Essay questions? If you’re rocking the multiple-choice, but failing essays, you need to work on essay-writing strategies.
Talk to your teacher
I cannot emphasize enough that you need to talk (not just e-mail) your teacher. Plan a time to meet before or after class to discuss your grade. Your teacher can also help explain your grade report if it’s confusing!
Questions to ask your teacher:
- What do you think I can do to improve my grade by ______ (date)?
- Will you accept late work?
- Are there any assignments I can redo?
- What major assignments are coming up and how should I prepare for them?
- When is a good time for me to stay after for help?
Accept their answers with grace, even ones you may not want to hear. If for some reason the teacher can’t or won’t stay after, find another teacher in the same department who might be willing to help. Your teacher from last year will probably help you out. It might also be time to call in a professional – a tutor that is! If you’re struggling in Social Studies or English, I would love to help you!
Under no circumstances should you ask for extra credit. If the teacher offers it, great! If not, don’t you dare ask! (My last 2 schools had a school-wide policy against extra credit – it simply didn’t exist.) Complete all your required work first, stay after for help, and grab some new study strategies.Under no circumstances should you ask for extra credit.Click To Tweet
Make a plan to improve your low grade
After talking to your teacher and analyzing your grade, you should have an idea of your challenges and how to improve. Now you need to put your solutions into place.
If you never seem to complete work on time, get a planner and start faithfully using it. Be sure to include not only school assignments, but all your non-school commitments as well. For help setting up and using a planner, check out my post on Teenage Planner Use.
If your teacher allows you to make up missing work, DO IT! I’ve given students this option in the past, but many never took me up on it. Set due dates with your teacher and put those due dates in your planner.
If your current study strategies just aren’t getting you the grades you want, try out new ones. Also, you should create a study plan for the next big test. Grab your planner and my study plan worksheet to get started.
Plan small rewards for yourself for completing assignments, using your planner, or trying new study strategies. These rewards should be fairly immediate and inexpensive – watching an episode of your favorite show, getting an ice cream cone, or playing a video game for 15 minutes.
So many students want to improve their grades without doing any actual work. That’s wishful thinking – a higher grade will really only come with more concentrated work in the class. Stay after with your teacher for help. Complete all missing assignments and redo any assignments you can. Implement your study plan and start using those new study strategies.
Check your grade on a weekly or biweekly basis and analyze it again. Don’t expect your grade to increase overnight; you want to see gradual improvements. If your new strategies aren’t working after at least a month, find some new ones. If they are working, keep using them!
Be sure to grab the free checklist, if you haven’t already!