How To Deal With Rude Professors (And Crush Your Class Anyway)

Med school, college, high school, it doesn’t matter where you go, sometimes there are professors you simply dread being around.

Studying is hard enough, despite the abrasive personalities.

So, how do you deal with rude professors?

Do your best to ignore their arrogance or rudeness and concentrate on the task in hand. Treat the scenario as practice for dealing with condescending or disagreeable people later in life. File a complaint or give them a bad rating if you really feel it’s deserved.

But of course, none of that stops you from feeling affected and your studies impacted.

So I’ll discuss how best you might try overcome all that in this post.

Because a professors rudeness should never impact your grades.

We’ll cover:

  • How to handle rude or unfair professors
  • How to excel (or pass) a class despite them
  • Why so many professors are bad in the first place
  • What formal actions you might take

As a med student who’s had their fair share of rude professors I know how bad it can get!

Ready? Let’s get started.

How to handle an unfair professor

Rude or unfair professors are sadly still a thing in many institutions.

Case in point: my first anatomy class in med school. Two of my colleagues (first year students) were kicked out for not knowing the name of a tiny hole in the skull. And only in their second ever class…

Talk about brutal!

Still, how can you handle unfair professors like this who are unduly harsh with your grade or take sadistic pleasure in making an example of you in front of everybody else?

Here are a couple of pointers:

  • Ask to speak to them privately: see if you can speak to them openly about your feelings and ask them what their motivations are for their behavior.
  • Look into formal channels: if they refuse to talk to you or don’t satisfactorily justify their unfair treatment, make an appointment with the department chair, the dean or student services.
  • Keep records: document everything that happens surrounding the incident. Keep detailed accounts of times, dates and things said or done. Be prepared to show this (including your graded papers) as a reference during each step.
  • Consider leaving an honest review: relating your story on websites like can help future students choose their professors more carefully. It can also serve as a deterrant for bad behavior in the first place.

It’s really important to be fair and balanced throughout this whole process. And not let your emotions get the better of you.

Sometimes things can be cleared up in that first initial chat. A rude or unfair professor can sometimes be one who’s simple trying to push you to a new level.

People have different ways of going about things just as they do reacting to things.

But other times the only way you can resolve things is through following the above steps!

Related: 4 Best Self-Help Books For Medical Students (Break Out From Imposter Syndrome)

Finally, this TEDx Talk has lots of useful and practical info. The main lessons being; to take a deep breath, remain calm and move forward with a clear head.

As well as separating the person out from their own behavior…

All these tips can be applied to your relationships with your professors!

How to pass a class with a bad professor

The best way to pass a class with a bad professor is to take responsibility for your own learning.

Recognize, first and foremost, that you’re in charge of your education and how you study.

That might include:

  • Depending on other study resources to learn the material: resource books, YouTube, websites, online learning platforms etc
  • Disciplining yourself to study consistently
  • Learning how to study efficiently (there are a ton of tips here)
  • Doing a ton of practice questions: especially to cover any potential curve balls that could be thrown at you

Working with your colleagues and reaching out for help can also be an effective step. Just make sure you return the favour.

Finally, if things really get bad, why don’t you request changing classes so you can switch to another professor?

Whatever happens don’t let a bad professor stand between you and a top grade.

What about professors that grade subjectively?

Sometimes you’ll take a class where there’s no standardized marking and what a professor says goes. These classes can be very unfair. Especially when your grade is marked on something like an oral examination (a discussion forum with your professor) or an essay.

So what you can do in this scenario? Here are a few pointers:

  • Prepare effectively so you approach the whole scenario with confidence (follow the tips above!)
  • Complete the task with professionalism: dress, act and respond patiently and appropriately
  • Detach yourself from the outcome: just go in with the reassurance that you put in enough work to deserve a good grade

Despite all that you still might come out with a grade you’re not happy with.

It’s then up to you to either accept it and move on, or follow a complaint through more formal channels (the process explained earlier in this article).

Why are so many college professors bad at teaching?

Not all college professors are bad at teaching but some do slip through the net. One important thing to remember; just because a teacher appears “bad” to you doesn’t mean it’s universal.

Maybe their teaching style just isn’t one that goes well with you personally!

As for reasons why some college professors are bad, here’s a few:

  • They have little passion for the job: or their motivations lay elsewhere (in research, training etc.)
  • Teachers don’t recieve their jobs on teaching ability (as theorized in this Psychology Today article)
  • They don’t work hard enough to understand the needs or concerns of their students
  • They aren’t staying up-to-date about effective teaching methods and evidence-based learning (or applying these techniques)
  • They’re stressed by extrinsic factors: everyone has problems in life!

Of course, some teachers are just a little boring and uncharismatic also.

But that’s where the beauty of choosing your own study resources comes in!

Just sit in their class and tick the attendance box but do all your “real” studying elsewhere…

Can you report a bad professor?

You absolutely can report a bad professor and should if you’re disatisfied by their professionalism. Follow the protocol set out by your institution or go the Dean of Academic Affairs.

What you need to consider is that you reporting a professor does not necessarily mean anything will be done. Sometimes that person has good standing with their employers, or there’s a lack of evidence on your behalf (why you should keep records).

Do not expect reporting the issue to actually solve your problem (although it sometimes can).

This is one of the more frustrating sides of being a powerless student but also a good reason why it pays to select a good school (with solid student representation) in the first place.


No student should have to deal with rude professors but sadly that’s life. Not everybody in a position of power will be warm and receptive.

Hopefully the article above has helped show you that you’re not entirely powerless in the matter though.

It’s up to you to choose how to respond.

It’s also up to you to kick yourself into gear and succeed despite your circumstances rather than because of them!

If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following articles useful:

Image Credit: @Ashton Bingham at Unsplash