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Sample Essay on Poor Grades: A Kind of Motivation or a Way to Frustration

sample-on-poor-gradesEvery student tries to do their best to earn the best possible grade on a paper. But, how these grades actually influence them. In this sample essay, we will discover the real impact of poor marks and how they motivate or, on contrary, make them upset.

There has continuously been a debate about the positive or negative effects grades have on students’ motivation. Do they boost inspiration and flame frustration? Some argue students can be constructively motivated to learn from a ‘mistake’ by using feedback or scores and adjusting accordingly (Veraart, 2016). While others believe the opposite. They claim that grades promote the importance of destination rather than the journey, reaching a grade rather than learning (Crouch, 2013); or worse.

Those not in favor of grades suggest they encourage learning based on top rankings rather than material understanding; which de-motivates, possibly demoralizes, lower-level students (Schwartz & Sharpe, 2011). These feelings can cause students not want to learn or try to gain more educational understanding since they might feel that there is no reason to. Thus, modern grading systems negatively reinforce motivation because of the judgmental foundation by encouraging those who do well to achieve higher grades rather than perceptive learning. Thus, a strengthening class divides between high and low ranking students (Thomsen, 2013).

Overall, a poor grade encourages motivation by showing that a student’s performance did not meet required standards without demonstrating what they should have done or need to do for the future assignments (Gooblar, 2017); promoting ideas of wanting to give up or not improve. However, others believe that punishments and rewards do progressively influence the behavior (Schwartz & Sharpe, 2011).

Low grades, especially on one of the first big assignments, can be a wake-up call for a student (Gooblar, 2017). First, it allows them to reevaluate themselves. A bad grade can inform the student that their current approach is not appropriately working (Gooblar, 2017). This is important for supporting advancing motivation to change actions.

Successful assessments are based on learners having a perception of the gap between where they are and their desired goal with actions taken to fill the gap (Gooblar, 2017). If a student cares about receiving a bad grade, they will perform techniques to improve.

A study of relative autonomous motivation (RAM), the measure of motive origination within an individual and external source, concluded that RAM positively correlated with academic performance (Kusurkar R. A. et al., 2013). This means that motivation can be correlated with grades. The study is a big support in believing grades produce inspiration. However, some take a stance on the idea that both opinions have a bit of truth.

Rewards are necessary for motivating students to achieve academic goals but they need to be correctly used and given in moderation (Mehta, 2014). This idea generalizes that grades give students a nudge in realizing that there is a problem but over-focusing on scores deters them from wanting to fill the gap between their present level and where they need to be.

There is no definite answer to whether grades are more of a motivation or frustration as it can substantially depend on the person and circumstance. However, it is clear that the education system needs to recognize that the current grading system is not a one-size-fits-all and has both positive and negative effects on the student motivation.


  • Crouch, C. (2013). “Grades Do More Harm Than Good.” The Huffington Post. Web. <>.
  • Gooblar, D. (2017). “Can a Failing Grade Motivate a Student?” ChronicalVitae. Web. <>.
  • Kusurkar, R. A. et al. (2013). “How Motivation Affects Academic Performance: A Structural Equation Modelling Analysis.” Advances in Health Sciences Education1 (2013): 57–69. PMC.
  • Mehta, A. (2014). “Rewarding Students for Grades: Advantages and Disadvantages.” Educational Connections. Web. <>.
  • Schwartz, B., Sharpe, K. (2011). “Do Grades As Incentives Work?” Psychology Today. Web. <>.
  • Thomsen, M. (2013). “Get Rid of Grades.” Slate Magazine. Web. <>.
  • Veraart, R. (2016). “The College and University Experience: How do top students react to bad grades?” The College and University Experience: How do top students react to bad grades? Quora, Web. <>.
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