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Grades Are Important All Semester, Not Just Before Finals

It’s less than three weeks to final exam time. Every day I am getting student emails requesting updates on class grades and asking “is there any chance I will pass your class?” As I wade through these anxious pleas, I can’t help but wonder why class grades are not a matter of concern for many students until it’s too late to do anything to change the outcome.

For every class I teach, my syllabus provides enough information about what each assignment or test is worth and the total points available for the class that students can easily track their own grades as the class progresses. Even if students don’t do all the math to figure out whether they’re passing or not, it’s pretty straightforward to get a feel for where you stand. If you know you earned a D on the first quiz, an F on the second and third quizzes, a D on the midterm, and you missed 3 of the 5 in-class assignments so far — well, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out that, with three weeks left in the semester, you aren’t too likely to pass the class.

Sometimes students will tell me “okay, I know my grade right now is really low, but what if I study really hard and get nothing but A’s on the next quiz and the final. Will I pass then?” Even if it is mathematically possible to pull this off, it’s highly improbable that it will happen. A student who has consistently earned D’s and F’s earlier in the semester is not particularly likely to suddenly finish up with a blaze of glorious A’s.

Keeping track of your grades throughout each semester will allow you to have a better sense of which classes might need some extra study time, whether you should consider tutoring, if you need to meet with the instructor, and where you might need to apply different study techniques. Most of all, it will save you from the stress of learning that you are failing a class as you prepare for final exam.