The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Rate My Professors website is inaccurate and unreliable

6 min read
Two hands type on a laptop keyboard. On the screen, the website Rate My Professors shows the name of a UMW professor.

Reviewers can rate their professors on a 1-5 scale. | Abbey Magnet, The Weekly Ringer


Staff Writer

During course registration, there are several factors that influence which classes students enroll in, but for many students, the main factor is knowing who is teaching the class. To get a better understanding of how professors lead their classrooms, students visit Rate My Professors, the anonymous review website. 

However, since the identity of the reviewer is never revealed and the descriptions of the professors are merely personal opinions, Rate My Professors is an unreliable source for students to use when choosing which classes to take.

As the name of the website suggests, reviewers rate the quality of professors’ teaching alongside the difficulty of the courses they are instructing. The ratings are based on a scale of 1–5, which spans from “poor” to “good.” Alongside each rating is a review that describes the professor’s teaching and grading style, helpfulness, character and their accessibility outside the classroom.

When students see that a professor’s rating is low, many decide that they are better off not taking a class, and if a professor has a high rating, then students are eager to spend the semester with them. While it makes sense that a student would want to take a good professor, the inaccuracies of the ratings are not a good benchmark for the experience of having that professor, especially since not all of the reviews fairly represent the class objectively. 

According to their guidelines, Rate My Professors is “unable to provide any data or personal information about the submitter of a review.” This means that anyone can write a review, even those who haven’t taken a class with the professor being evaluated. It is also possible that the reviewer is someone who doesn’t even attend the University of Mary Washington.

Danny Tweedy, an associate professor of English, spoke about the anonymous user feature on the platform.

“I hate anonymity. I do not like it. If I’m gonna say something to you or make a critique, I come to you,” Tweedy said. 

For Tweedy, not only is Rate My Professors inaccurate, but it’s also not a credible source.

“When you talk about Rate My Professors … that’s someone’s personal opinion that they have about somebody that’s coming from one perspective—and generally from one jaded perspective or way too happy perspective,” Tweedy said. “Either way, it’s a personal statement. It has nothing to do with what actually took place; it’s a personal statement. So I don’t look at it as being credible.” 

According to their guidelines, Rate My Professors encourages students to write about negative and positive qualities when reviewing classes and professors because it “leads to much more credible and constructive feedback” for their peers.

However, listing the pros and cons of professors doesn’t enhance the credibility of the review, especially since many reviewers offer little to no evidence to back up their claims. Furthermore, even if students do provide examples, their personal experience is not always one that other students share after having taken the class.

Adria Goldman, an associate professor of communication, spoke about reviewers being able to post anything on the website.

“It’s the same thing that we talk about with social media, right, that you can say anything and you can post anything,” Goldman said. “There’s no accountability, there’s no consequences if it’s incorrect and there’s no real fact-checking.”

Goldman believes that Rate My Professors is unreliable from a research perspective, though it may be helpful when taken with a grain of salt.

“I would say from a research perspective, it is unreliable,” Goldman said. “But I understand why students use it. Peer feedback is very valuable; even when we shop, we want to know what other people are saying,”

Professors are not the only ones who view Rate My Professors as an unreliable source of information. 

From a student perspective, senior history and Spanish double major Ruth Curran also believes Rate My Professors is unreliable.

“I think if a student is coming to the source with a perspective of ‘I’m gonna get on here and I’m gonna decide if the teacher is good or not based on the material that’s on here,’ then I would say it’s not reliable,” Curran said.

Because of its unreliability, Curran explained that students should use the platform with caution. 

“I think it’s something that has to be used carefully,” she said. You can’t just jump on there and think whatever is on there is accurate because some of my favorite professors have had poor ratings.” 

My personal experience with Rate My Professors also speaks to the unreliability of the source. 

During my sophomore year, I wanted to work towards completing my general education requirements. While registering for classes, I found Biology 121 with Dianne Baker, department chair and professor of biology. The course agreed with my schedule and fulfilled the natural science general education requirement, so I was amped up to take it until I saw Baker’s reviews on Rate My Professors.

On the website, her overall rating is 1.9 out of 5. To explain this low rating, one reviewer writes, “Baker is condescending, does not like it when you ask questions, and expects you to know what she is talking about despite you being in the class to learn that material.” 

Upon reading this, I began to question if this class was the right one for me. In the end, my desire to complete this biology class outweighed the comments other students made about Baker. 

After completing the course, I can confidently say that the negative reviews about Baker are inaccurate. She is not condescending and values students’ curiosity about biology, and I discovered this firsthand. As a result, I’m grateful that I didn’t let the inaccuracies of Rate My Professors deter me from taking the course. 

On the other side of the debate are students like senior biomedical science major Nandi Davis who values Rate My Professors and has used it throughout her time at UMW.

“Coming into college in 2020, I actually saw a TikTok on using Rate My Professor to figure out what professors you wanted for your classes and just making sure, especially as a STEM major, you want to make sure you have the best professors, so that was my introduction to it,” she said. “And then from there, literally all my semesters here, I’ve used Rate My Professor and I’ve even wrote some just so people know, because sometimes they’re reliable sometimes they’re not.” 

While many students use Rate My Professors to consider how their grades will be affected by the difficulty of the class, Davis uses the site to gauge certain qualities about her professors that would best suit her needs in the classroom.

“I am very much a person who if I feel like I can’t go to my professor, I’m going to suffer in silence,” Davis said about her class and professor preferences. “So I think really emphasizing how the professor is; if they’re passionate and really want to teach the subject—I think that should be emphasized in a Rate My Professors because that’s how I picked a lot of mine.” 

When students visit Rate My Professors, they should keep in mind that the website is an unreliable source to use when choosing which classes to take. Students should also remember that each review is merely a personal opinion that cannot be proven.

After all, each reviewer is someone from the unknown. The reviewer could be someone who hasn’t taken a class with the professor they are reviewing, or the reviewer could be someone who isn’t even enrolled here at UMW. 

Tweedy offered advice from his grandmother when it comes to listening to others’ opinions about professors.

“My grandmother said, ‘Hey, you don’t listen to what people have to say about a teacher or a professor; it’s not their job to be your friend [and] it’s not their job to like you. Your job is to go in there and get the knowledge you need and successfully complete the course,’” said Tweedy.