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Is there a word/term in English that describes a student that has bad grades, weak performance...

I am writing a PhD thesis so I need a word that can be understood by native and non-native English speakers.

Example:

The heuristic model gives to better students an opportunity to find possible solutions, whereas weaker students are encouraged to locate at least one, from many, to the problem.

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  • I've met a number of people who would describe the process of completing their PhD as writhing ;-)
    – long
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 22:58
  • @Mari-Lou A: Thanks for pointing out the typos. PS: I am not writing a thesis on strong vs. weak students :) Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 6:52

5 Answers 5

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Alternate terms for "weak student" are "underachiever" (consider this Ngram), and "underachieving/low achieving student."

For your example, consider "lower achieving students."

The heuristic model gives higher achieving students an opportunity to find possible solutions, whereas lower achieving ones are ...

Consider also "lower performing students," "low scoring students," and "low graded students":

The heuristic model gives higher performing students an opportunity to find possible solutions, whereas lower performing ones are ...

The heuristic model gives higher scoring students an opportunity to find possible solutions, whereas lower scoring ones are ...

The heuristic model gives higher graded students an opportunity to find possible solutions, whereas lower graded ones are ...

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  • I've modified the example sentence. You might want to edit your answer accordingly.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 7:18
  • @Mari-LouA Thanks for letting me know, Mari-Lou. But what still makes me cringe in the example is "gives "to" better students an opportunity..." I'm pretty sure the phrase could work just as well, not to say better, without that redundant "to." books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Elian
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 8:22
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The term struggling learner, or struggling student, is often used to describe a student who has difficulty in keeping pace with their classmates or expected learning benchmarks in a developmentally appropriate environment. They are separate from students who may have special needs or who have been identified as at-risk.

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  • I think struggling is really good and the others aren't but still +1. Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 20:28
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nonachiever (or non-achiever)

a student who fares poorly in the classroom or has failing grades.


Other than that, "weak student" is correct also and more common.

weak: Lacking aptitude or skill: a weak student; weak in math.

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Dunce, but probably not in this context ;)

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"Slow learner". A term for those students who simply take more time than others to learn something.

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