Communicating About Grades


When it comes to grading, finding a comfortable turnaround time is important. After students have submitted an assignment or taken an exam, you should try to get these materials graded and returned as soon as possible. Some teachers pride themselves on having a turnaround time of only 1 week. But graduate student instructors, who are often balancing the courses they are taking with the courses they are teaching, may not be able to get things graded that quickly. Two rules of thumb may be helpful here:

  • Give students a reasonable timeline when they turn in assignments or take exams. You will be surprised to see how long students are willing to wait for their grades, so long as they know when to expect them. Giving students a timeline also helps keep you, the grader, motivated and accountable.
  • Give students enough time to benefit from your assessment before the next assignment or exam. For example, if you have assigned more than one paper, make sure that you grade and return the first paper well in advance of the second paper's due date. It is important to get the first exam back quickly, as this assessment may prompt changes in students' engagement with the course material.

When it comes to returning graded papers and exams, it is generally best to hand things back at or near the end of classtime. This will prevent distraction and disengagement or hostility from students who are unhappy with their grade.


There are a number of different techniques for preserving confidentiality when returning graded materials in class. You should:

  • Return quizzes and exams face down
  • Put the grade on the last page of a written assignment
  • Avoid hanging materials out in the order of grades (high to low or low to high)

If you are posting exam grades instead of returning exams, use student ID numbers or student-selected identifiers instead of names.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.