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Auditing the Grade Book

As the end of the semester approaches, we often encourage students to ‘audit the grade book’ as part of a proactive approach to final exams. Far too many students take a passive approach to their grades; they accept late grades and zeroes in the grade book as set in stone. While we don’t encourage or condone late grades, if they happen, we want students to work hard to minimize or eliminate their consequences. This is by no means a call for students to circumvent the teacher’s policies on late work. Rather, it is encouragement for students to rectify their mistakes, develop social capital, and (hopefully) gain a point or two come final exam time.

Of course, we always want students to minimize the need for grade auditing by turning things in on time. We encourage students to use a planner and a binder to keep track of assignments and ensure that they get turned in on time. Too often, students depend on the online portal to their detriment. Failing to use a planner to translate the deluge of information from the online portal into actionable goals is the leading cause of missing assignments. The second culprit is disorganization. Our tried-and-true binder system helps students make sure they get credit for all the work that they do. It’s so incredibly frustrating to complete your math homework and lose it before you can turn it in. Using a binder in combination with a rigorous planner system should prevent students from needing to conduct a grade audit, but nobody is perfect.

So, what do we mean by auditing the grade book?

Auditing the grade book is when a student goes class by class to identify any missing assignments or late grades that need to be addressed before final exams. We encourage students to conduct this audit early in the second half of the semester, instead of waiting until the day before exams to start this process. In December and May, teachers become inundated with desperate requests for grade change clemency. By starting earlier, students can show responsibility and maturity rather than desperation. Being proactive and taking the time to clean up any missing or late assignments can also help students feel more confident and prepared going into exams.

First, it’s important to know how the grade book works and how your child’s grades are being calculated. Also, students should familiarize themselves with their teacher’s late work and missing work policies by reviewing the syllabus. Never email your teacher something that can be answered by reading the syllabus, especially with college professors. Some teachers keep detailed assignment titles and comments on grades as they come in. Others have a cryptic list of assignments with varying point assignments. Some teachers drop the lowest quiz grade and lowest homework grade at the end of the semester. Others don’t drop any low grades. The point is that every teacher and every class differ in terms of grading policies. Understanding these policies is crucial to the second step in the grade auditing process.

Second, figure out what grades are pulling your average down. For instance, if a student has stellar exam grades and an average homework grade, but they still can’t break into the ‘A’ range, there’s something wrong. Maybe it’s a biology class where the lab grade is worth 30% of the overall average, but there are only two grades in the lab category. If you got a low grade on the first lab because of a misunderstanding of the policy, that individual grade might keep you from reaching your goals. Likewise, you might have a few missing assignments or late grades from an especially hectic period in the semester. Or maybe you had an off day and bombed one of the weekly vocabulary quizzes. Look for these anomalies in your grade book and see if there is a reasonable explanation for them.

Next, think about how to approach the teacher. Teachers are not robots – they have feelings, understand mistakes, and, most importantly, they want you to succeed. Teachers understand that students aren’t robots either. Sometimes students misunderstand the directions on an early assignment or forget to turn something in. Teachers understand that. However, it helps when that student learns from his or her mistakes. For example, if the student bombs the first lab report but does very well on the next two, it’s easy for the teacher to help the student get some credit back. Think about how you can talk to your teacher about your grades and how you learned from your mistakes. Then, stop by your teacher’s office; it never hurts to ask.

We hope this blog helped you or your child earn some extra points before exams. For more ideas on how to succeed in school, visit our blog page. To learn more about our one-on-one academic coaching service, reach out today!

Evan Weinberger


Staying Ahead of the Game offers unique academic coaching & tutoring services to help good students achieve greatness.

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