Ask a Professor: Is There Extra Credit in College?
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- Many college professors offer extra credit to help students boost their grades.
- Extra credit can come in several forms, such as additional test questions and assignments.
- While some professors avoid extra credit, it's worth asking about extra credit policies.
College students love extra credit. As a history professor, I learned this firsthand. From my first semester teaching, students asked about extra credit.
So, my second year, I started adding an extra credit question to my final exams. The final always ended with the same question: What was the most memorable thing you learned in this class? Students loved it — it was an easy way to get points! — and I loved grading it.
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But most college exams don't include extra credit questions. So how can you get extra credit in college?
Is There Extra Credit in College?
First things first, can you even earn extra credit in college? Yes, you can — but it depends on your professor.
Some professors offer regular extra credit questions on exams. They might also list extra credit assignments in the syllabus. Other professors never offer extra credit.
Since professors decide whether to provide extra credit, the ways you can earn it depend on your class. In an art history class, for example, visiting the campus museum might earn you extra credit. Other types of extra credit include attending a department-sponsored lecture, taking on a creative project related to class, or completing an extra lab assignment.
How does extra credit work? Students complete the extra credit question or assignment and submit it to their instructor. The extra credit, usually worth a set number of points, counts toward the student's grade.
On an exam, extra credit questions can boost your final grade. Take an exam worth 20 points. A 2-point extra credit question would make up for a wrong answer or two.
General extra credit assignments may count toward participation or the student's overall grade, depending on the class. Keep in mind that extra credit is always optional — students can decide to go for extra points or pass on the opportunity.
Still, some professors intentionally avoid extra credit. Instructors might worry that extra credit inflates grades or incentivizes students to study less. It also requires extra grading from the professor.
So what does all of this mean for students? If your professor doesn't mention extra credit in the syllabus, you can always ask for extra credit opportunities. Just be prepared to hear no.
How to Ask for Extra Credit in College: 4 Methods
If your class syllabus doesn't list a clear policy on extra credit, feel free to ask about opportunities to boost your grade. Here are some of the best ways to ask your professor for extra credit.
1. Reach Out Early
There's one wrong way to ask for extra credit in college, and that's after the final exam. Every semester, I received an email after the final asking about extra credit. Sometimes the email appeared after I'd already submitted final grades.
Rather than waiting until the last minute, reach out to your professor early. A simple email or question after class works: "Do you offer any extra credit opportunities?"
2. Go to Office Hours
You can also visit office hours to discuss extra credit with your professor. The same advice applies. Simply ask if they offer extra credit and accept their answer.
If your professor doesn't offer extra credit and you're worried about your grade, ask for advice for any upcoming tests or assignments. Your professor's guidance on how to improve your grade can be worth more than extra credit.
3. Suggest a Specific Assignment
Is there an upcoming exhibit related to your anthropology class? Or did you blog about a current event covered in your political science class?
Bring a specific extra credit assignment to your professor or ask if showing up at the chair's lecture mentioned in class might be worth extra credit. Some instructors also let students redo test questions or rewrite papers to raise their grade.
4. Take No for an Answer
Some professors maintain a strict "no extra credit" policy. Others will not offer extra credit to one student without making the option available to everyone else in the class. If your instructor says no for any reason, accept their answer and move on.
The Limitations of Extra Credit in College
As a professor, I offered extra credit on exams. Students also earned extra credit for attending the history department's annual lecture or the first honor society meeting of the year. In my classes, extra credit either went directly toward the exam score or counted toward participation.
However, there are limits to extra credit, even in classes that offer it. In my experience, extra credit never made the difference between passing and failing — and it rarely changed a student's final grade.
Extra credit has its uses. It can get students engaged in the material outside class and encourage them to think broadly about a subject. But it also has its limits. In the end, students shouldn't count on extra credit to outweigh their other grades.
Frequently Asked Questions About Extra Credit in College
What is extra credit?
Extra credit is an optional way to earn more points in a class, potentially raising your grade. In college, instructors may offer extra credit questions on exams or give students credit for work they do outside class.
Common forms of extra credit include creative assignments related to the material, enrichment activities like attending lectures, and allowing students to redo wrong answers. The extra points you gain with extra credit may ultimately boost your class grade.
Is there extra credit in college?
Students can earn extra credit in college, but each professor sets their own policy on extra credit. While many professors offer extra credit opportunities, some do not. Ask your instructor whether they offer extra credit, ideally at the beginning of the term. If they do, find out how they calculate extra credit into final grades.
How does extra credit work?
The points from an extra credit question or assignment add to your final grade in that class. Each professor measures extra credit differently, however. They may add a question worth a certain amount of points to an exam, or they might add extra points to the student's participation grade.
Ask your professor how they calculate extra credit in their class.