If you have a bad grade in a class and you’re NOT fine with it, then you must do something to bump it up. The last thing you want to do is sit around and feel sad, guilty or even wronged that your grade is low. You have control over the situation, and there are many steps you can take to improve your bad grade.
First things first – getting a low grade on a single test is different than getting a low grade in an entire class. A failed test can sometimes appear to have come out of nowhere: You take a test, think you did okay, and are totally shocked when you get your grade back. These moments suck, but they happen and you can deal with them. If you simply bombed a test, but the rest of your assignments and exams are otherwise fine, then you probably only need to take one or two of the steps I’ll be discussing to improve your situation.
A failed or nearly failing class, on the other hand, never comes out of nowhere. You’ll know long before the semester or year is over if you’re spiraling downward. So the idea is to stop the spiraling as soon as you become aware of it. So if your entire class grade is low because you consistently bombed tests or assignments, then you’ll want to cover as many of the steps below as possible.
How to improve your bad grade
1. Complete and turn in any missing assignments.
If you’re uncertain if you’re missing any assignments, ask your teacher. We all miss assignments now and again – but it should only be for a good reason, like you were sick. Complete every single assignment that you owe your teacher, even if that part of the lesson is over. The benefit of doing this is that you’ll a) hopefully earn those points back and b) show your teacher that you care – and don’t underestimate the power of showing your teacher that you care.
2. Participate more in class.
Some people are naturally more inclined to raise their hands, ask questions and join the class conversation. But even if you’re not that person, be that person for the sake of getting your grade up. Many teachers work a class participation grade into their class grade – so milk this one! There is absolutely no reason why you can’t raise your hand at least three times in class to ask a question or contribute a comment. Even if you have to make up a question, do so. This is an easy one, guys.
3. Show up.
Yes, another easy one. You want to improve your bad grade? Show up to class. Every day. No exceptions. And stay until the very end, every time.
4. Take notes in class.
Taking notes has 4 main benefits: 1) you’ll learn the material better because you’re interacting with it 2) you’ll have awesome notes from which to study for exams, so you’ll get a better grade on your exam 3) you’ll focus more in class, and 4) your focus and note-taking will impress teachers and show that you do indeed care.
The most effective way to take notes during class is to use a simple bullet format. Use abbreviations and symbols for words and concepts are frequently repeated, and be sure to edit and re-type your notes the same day you took them. For a detailed explanation of an effective note-taking strategy, watch my note-taking video.
5. Ask for extra credit.
Not all teachers offer extra credit, but if they do, take it! And do it all. And even if your teacher has never offered extra credit before, ask him or her if they’ll make an exception for you. Teachers don’t want you to fail, and it makes them happy to see that you’re actually trying to improve your situation.
For extra brownie points, you could always offer your own version of extra credit if your teacher doesn’t have any prepared. Offer to read an extra article, make a short presentation or write an additional essay. Take the initiative.
6. Get help.
Chances are good that you’ve failed a test or a class because you didn’t understand the material. If you don’t understand the material, then you must find a way to understand it. Stay after school, get a tutor, find another teacher who can explain it differently than your teacher, watch videos about the material, revamp your study techniques – just do something different from what you’ve been doing. Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Hm. That means it’s time to try something new.
Asking for help — either from your teacher, another staff member or even your parents — is an important school habit that will eventually become a key career and life habit. When possible, always try solving the problem on your own first (don’t underestimate you!), but then recognize when it’s time to solicit someone’s help.
7. Own it.
Harsh truth alert: If your grades are poor, it’s no one’s fault but your own. (Important side note: I get it — maybe a C really is the best you can do! In that case – good for you, really. Keep doing your best, and you’ll be awesome.) But if you have a C and you’re not happy with it, don’t blame the teacher, or the test, or the cat. “The test was hard!” actually means that you weren’t prepared for it. “My teacher is unfair!” actually means that you don’t like his/her teaching style (deal with it). “I have no time to study!” actually means that you’re not prioritizing your time well enough. The sooner you recognize that your situation is your situation, the sooner you can get started fixing it.
It’s not the end of the world if you bomb a test, or if you get a B- when you really wanted an A. And you certainly shouldn’t beat yourself up over the occasional crappy grade. (Crappy grades happen to everyone.) But my message here is that there are many ways to improve your bad grade if you want to. And the sooner you make that deliberate effort to improve, the more time you’ll have to get that grade up. It is possible. But only if you do something about it.