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May 2016

When you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into an assignment, the last thing you want to see is a disappointing grade scrawled across the paper. After I saw the final mark and comments for my Income Tax Law assignment, I will admit to being completely devastated. But more than that – the comments I'd received didn't match up with the paper I'd written, and neither did the mark.

Applying for a remark is a long and arduous process, and not one without risk. I decided to take the plunge, but it’s worth considering a few factors before you hit ‘send’ on that – admit it – slightly passive-aggressive email to your course coordinator.

Sometimes we know, deep down, that the essay submitted 2 minutes before the deadline wasn’t the greatest. It’s important to differentiate these times from those instances where you truly believe that the marker has been unduly harsh or unfair. It’s always best to genuinely consider the feedback given on your assignment, and whether it accords with what is written on the page. If it does, a re-mark might not be your best port of call.

It's also an unfortunate reality that, occasionally, the effort we put into a paper doesn’t translate to the mark received. We might have spent too long stumbling down the wrong line of argument, or misinterpreted a key decision or principle. It happens – and if it has, it’s possible that the mark is justified in the circumstances. Keep this in mind if you’re still angling for a higher grade.

A good idea is to compare your work to others – especially if your papers are on the same question or topic. It will normally be clear by this point whether your paper was treated similarly to others, or if it was on the bottom of a large pile assigned to a particularly harsh marker.  

My last recommendation is to book an appointment with your marker, if permitted by your university. The marker may be able to explain verbally the reasons why your paper received the grade it did – even if the comments scrawled on the paper didn’t make much sense, there’s a good chance that the mark was fair in the circumstances. 

Finally – remember that your grade can go down after a remark. This tends to be the most important factor weighing on someone’s mind when they’re about to apply for their paper to be graded again, and rightly so. Think about how this mark fits in with your overall grade for a subject, and if your paper slipping down a few points could cost you more in the long run.

So what did I do about my paper? I applied for a re-mark and, thankfully, my grade went up significantly. This happened to inch my final subject grade into HD territory – a win-win situation. Of course, a remark doesn’t always lead to a happy ending, although I was very grateful it did in my case! A remark is definitely worth considering if you truly believe your mark isn’t fair, and you’re happy to take a risk along the way.

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