How accurate is RateMyProfessors.com?

RateMyProfessors.com is a review site that allows college students to anonymously assign ratings to professors and campuses. Users can post ratings on aspects of a professor’s teaching style such as easiness, helpfulness and clarity along with a personal review of up to 350 characters. Professors can also be rated based on their attractiveness via the “hot chili pepper” feature.

Despite the biased sampling, RateMyProfessors.com can actually be a useful tool when it’s time to register for classes.

“I use it all the time and it seems perfectly accurate from my experience,” said Tuyen Tran, a UWT student and business management major.

The best way to utilize the site is to read the reviews and make note of class features like long lectures or necessary readings. As with all reviews, sample size does matter; it’s better to rely on ratings with 50 reviews, rather than five reviews. Pay close attention to grammar; an inarticulate post will give you an idea of how serious that user takes academic standards. Also take note of the tone and focus of the post. Does the user sound angry? If so, what are they angry about? The work load? Or unclear instructions? You can usually weed out lazy reviews that only mention “too much writing” or “too much work.” Most honest reviews tend to list both positive and negative aspects of the instructor and course.

Need help extra tips for deciphering reviews on RateMyProfessors.com? Check out our list of the good and bad the site has to offer.

THE GOOD

Finding professor recommendations from other students can be difficult.
Tri Tran, a UWT information technology major, agrees that other students aren’t always a great source for finding the best professors when class registration rolls around. “I sometimes struggle searching for recommendations from my friends because we’re not in the same major, so they haven’t taken any of the professors from that certain department,” Tran said.

No one wants a “bad professor.”
No one wants to just listen to an instructor read straight out of the textbook when you’re capable of doing that on your own, especially when you’re dishing out hundreds of dollars per week on classes. I look for professors who consistently give quality feedback and don’t take forever to grade my work.

It gives a glimpse of what to expect.
I recommend reading all the reviews, the good and the bad. It’s nice to get a sense of what the class structure will be like, what to expect from the instructor and, of course, their teaching style. It’s the little things that make preparing for the first day of class more comfortable.

The reviews can be viewed from anywhere at any time.
Students and professors are able to access the evaluations digitally, unlike those official end-of-the-quarter course evaluations that you fill out and never see again.

Creates a platform for students to check in with each other.
College can be tough. Luckily your peers are here to help. By leaving informative ratings and reviews that are relevant to the course, you are helping other students find instructors that fit their academic preferences so they are able to reach their full potential.

THE BAD

Similar to sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, these voluntary responses can be quite biased. Just keep in mind that you’re reading someone else’s judgment.

Encourages laziness.
Sometimes students seek easy professors rather than good professors — there’s even a rating category for easiness. Those “easy A” instructors tend to attract lazy, hand-out seeking students. Due to this, a unresponsive and dull classroom environment may be created.

Reviews can be biased.
There are professors who try to get their students to rate them on the website for extra credit. There are students who flunk the course and post negative ratings because they blame the teacher instead of holding themselves accountable for their performance. There are professors that rate themselves, pretending to be a student. There are students who may resent a professor, and post multiple negative reviews using different computers or spoof IP addresses. Students who have complaints usually post more online, while students who liked the class or are neutral are underrepresented in the ratings.

It’s anonymous.
This can be both bad and good. With the site allowing users to generate reviews anonymously, you never know who it’s coming from. It could be a complete stranger who doesn’t even go to the university. The fact that anyone can give a rating calls the website’s credibility into question.

Hot or not feature is creepy.
I personally don’t see a use to this feature. When I’m looking at ratings and reviews, I care more about their teaching styles and class structure rather than their appearance. In addition, the feature encourages students to make appearance-related comments, which is unnecessary as faculty members’ appearance should never be a topic for evaluation. Some professors agree that there is no use for this feature. “Of course there are drawbacks to the site, but the one thing that I definitely wish they would do away with is the stupid chili pepper,” said Alexandra Nutter-Smith, a communications professor at UWT.

Professors read the reviews.
This can be either good or bad. Professors may be able to learn from positive and constructive feedback on the site. However, reviews can sometimes be brutally honest or harsh and it may upset the professor. This type of review could potentially affect their future teaching or self-confidence.

ILLUSTRATION BY BRUNO MARQUEZ
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