ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Making the Grade: How to get an A in Subjective Subjects

Updated on October 10, 2019

Give them what they ask for

Unlike math or science classes, assignments in the humanities are not always black or white. So what’s the grade based on? Most teachers will provide some sort of grading system. Whether it is a rubric, a comment on the syllabus, or an assignment sheet, there has to be a method to the madness.

Obtuse as it may sound, the key to getting an A is following the assignment. Pay special attention to the language, and be sure to understand the purpose of the project before beginning.

Say you are given an essay prompt: Thoroughly explore and analyze the use of symbolism in Animal Farm. Before turning in your essay, ask yourself: did I explore? Did I analyze? Was it thorough? It may even help to look up the definition of analyze. Know exactly what your professor is asking for.

Sometimes an assignment will be vague or unclear. In this case: ask questions! Get a straight answer out of your professor, before you get caught with a low grade.

Good old fashioned eye-contact

Another way to guarantee a fair grade is to make sure your professor knows you. If you are part of a big class, make sure to introduce yourself. Look him straight in the eye. Better yet, go to office hours. One-on-one time with your professor will show that you care about the class.

In addition to stroking your professor’s ego, getting to know him will help him attach a face to your name. When he sees your name on top of the page, he’ll know that he’s dealing with the charming go-getter that you are. This makes him much more likely to give you a high grade.

Always be respectful, and try to make a connection. You may find that your professor can be a friend and mentor as well!

Use the first assignment as your guide

So maybe the first grade you get back isn’t perfect. But it is a perfect guide for your future assignments. You now know exactly what your professor does and doesn’t like. Carefully read the comments. Do more of what succeeded, and don’t make the same mistake twice.

If there aren’t comments—or if the comments are sparse—ask. Make a meeting with your professor and find out exactly what wasn’t ‘A material.’ Not only will this help you in the future, but it will also make your professor justify his grade.

Asking how to improve will, naturally, help you get better. But it will also hold your professor accountable: he’d better have a good reason for taking off twelve points. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get your grade adjusted! Best of all, when your professor is grading your next project, he will know that he can’t take off points without good reason—or he’ll have you to reckon with.

Get it in writing

Sometimes, you need solid evidence. Keep the assignments, rubrics etc., as well as the comments on your first paper. You should always have a physical copy of your expectations in front of you while you work.

It’s also a good idea to communicate via email. When you go in to talk to your professor about a grade, use his own words as a guideline. Show him that you’ve done just what he wanted. In an extreme situation, you can even go above his head to question a grade that seems unfair. If you have the proof, you’re bound to get the A.

Office Hours

When do you meet with your professors?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Many good ideas here.

      We'll written and helpful advice.

      One other suggestion is to write your paper as early as possible.

      When you are not rushed you think better and you write better too.

      And when you reread your paper the next day you'll be more likely to spot the ways it could be improved.

    • profile image

      Professor Smith 

      7 years ago

      Nicely done fcoveno! Good writing skills and advice! Really enjoyed reading your article!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      WOW best advice I've ever received!!! Can't wait for more from this fcoveno!!!! Looking forward to getting straight A's next semester!

    • vandynegl profile image


      7 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Very interesting article! I have been on both sides, as student and teacher, so I know what has worked for me and what hasn't. As a past online instructor, we didn't have the "eye contact," but the students who were most involved, and showed the most effort, were more likely to get the better grades. However, it wasn't because I liked them any more or less, but we had a pretty clear cut rubric to follow, so it made the subjective seem less so.

      I can remember as a college student, an instructor had a grading curve that he gave students as an "option" at the beginning of the semester. I was the only one to NOT choose the grading curve. I decided to just get my own grade in a traditional way. Believe it or not, I was the only one to get an A in the class. Weird.

      Good information and thanks for sharing!

    • Man from Modesto profile image

      Man from Modesto 

      7 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

      There have been studies which proved out known concepts. Instructors give better scores to the students they know.

      If you visit a professor, and politely challenge a test score, you will get a better score. If you've been doing well all along, you will receive a better score for the same essay as a poor-performing student who submits the same essay.

      When submitting job resumes, ethnic names get less respect than European sounding names. The same is likely true for treatment of subjective grading. When I was at SJSU, English papers were graded anonymously. Each student had a number.

      When I was at UPenn, I learned this very quickly: virtually ALL the students made their way to the professors' office hours. There were lines. These high-performing students made a practice of arguing points and of knowing the professor and developing a friendly relationship. To compete, I had to take up the same practices.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Good advice, but you made it too adversarial-sounding, as if all professors get their kicks by trashing student work. Most of us, don't.

      What you did not emphasize (you should go back and add it to your hub) is that, along with being determined and forceful and holding professors to their words, you need to be polite, respectful, ask questions and try to resolve your issues, before escalating to the demanding stage.

      I totally agree with you that you should save all papers, notes, comments, records. Students should get to know their prof in person and sometimes you do have to go over their head. Nice Hub.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)