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How to improve on bad grades

Sometimes to achieve success, we have to fail. Failure allows us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. This can be applied to University grades.

I received what I considered to be a bad grade, and even though it was a pass, it wasn’t what I wanted.

At that moment I could have reacted in one of two ways:

A. Dwell on it for days, feeling bad, with a total feeling of hopelessness.


B. Figure out what went wrong and use it as a stepping stone for improving.

My reaction was the latter.

The first thing I did was read my tutor’s feedback on Blackboard. It highlighted any problems and changes I could have made – all of my tutor’s notes were there to guide me from making those mistakes again.

I then outlined any problems that directly affected my assessment. These could be a number of different things, for example – struggling to cope with the deadline, not understanding the task, a lack of resources/research or even just a lack of motivation.  By thinking about solutions, you can already begin to improve and apply those in your future assessments.

The next step was to contact my personal tutor and discuss the issues I had with the assignment. We arranged one to one guidance with the goal of changing how I went about my next assignment. My tutor suggested that I have more contact my module leaders so I would understand what was expected from the task and complete it more efficiently. The most reassuring aspect for me from this meeting was my tutor saying coming to them was a great idea. The meeting was conversational and informal, which put me at ease and didn’t cause me any anxiety over the bad grade – I saw it as a chance to figure out where to improve.

This positive action showed that I wasn’t going to let that grade determine how I would do overall and that I was willing and courageous enough to get some help.

There’s no harm in taking time out of your day to work on your skills – even just practising writing intros or structuring your arguments in short bursts it will make a difference. If a lecturer is happy to, they could possibly even go through any drafts you’ve made.

A possible next step is trying again – although resubmission in some cases may not be allowed, so make sure you know your options.

The last piece of advice would be to not blame anyone for the bad grade. It starts with accepting you didn’t do as well as you hoped. Now it’s up to you to do as well as you can next time and not to dwell on it but to change for the better.

This article is featured on Learning at Lincoln.