Turning Mistakes into Progress

Seeing red ink marks smeared all over your work may not be what you want, but you shouldn’t let those mistakes get you down!  College is all about fixing those mistakes and improving your skills to help you in the workforce later.  So how should you respond to negative comments on your work?  The best thing to do with those red marks is to turn them into a positive and make them work for you.

Check the grading

Teachers make mistakes, too, so before you worry too much about the total score at the top of the page, try re-grading your paper with your textbook or online resources.  You may not know all the answers, but it could be that you catch a silly mistake belonging not to you, but to your professor!  Not only might this help you regain some points, but in the process you will become familiar with the questions you have struggled with.


Not every negative comment on your paper will be clear to you.  Make sure that you understand every problem that the teacher had with your work.  If you don’t understand the problem, then you are not going to be able to fix it!

Ask questions

Take a look at your work and see if you still have any questions about the material.  Write those down so that you can ask your professor as soon as possible.  Also ask questions to figure out what problems you are having with the material.  Are all of the mistakes the same? Is there a pattern to the mistakes? Do the mistakes occur because you didn’t double-check or take more time?  Find the pattern, and then work on some techniques to help diminish those mistakes.

Use comments as a springboard

Negative comments should first and foremost a springboard for your future study.  If you find that your essays come back with punctuation changes, you should probably break out a grammar book and redo that lesson about comma usage.  If you are struggling to set up formulas, you should make it a point to go back and study rearranging equations.  Every negative comment can be fixed.  If you are not sure where to start, you may want to ask your professor or tutor if he or she could assist you with a study plan.

Negative comments are certainly not the end of the world.  Pick up your feet and that bad assignment and make sure that the next one is better!