Achieving higher essay grades may seem like a bit of a mystery.
You need to:
- understand the topic/question
- plan a coherent answer
- conduct great research
- write clear logical arguments
- apply good examples
- write in an academic, professional style
- think critically
- create powerful introductions and conclusions
- demonstrate good editing and proofreading skills
- reference/cite accurately…
It IS possible to learn and master all of these skills, but just not at once, and not all in one blog post or training.
What I can teach you is ONE thing you can do right now, that only takes ten minutes, to start yourself on the road to higher essay grades. If you know you want to achieve better marks, but you’re not sure how, this is your best starting point.
But first, sign up to my free resource library where you can download the worksheet for this lesson. You’ll also get access to TONS of other printables and worksheets to help you become a happier, more confident and more successful student.
Learn my method and repeat it with every essay and you should see your marks rise with every essay (to a point obviously!).
You should always be aiming to improve in your studies. Whether that’s indirectly by enhancing your study skills, or by making direct increases in your marks and grades. The way to do this is through continuous improvement.
‘Practice the philosophy of continuous improvement. Get a little better every single day’ - Brian Tracy
Learning from feedback is the first step and is a vital skill all students need to develop.
I study with the Open University where essays are returned with tutor feedback. This feedback normally includes comments on what I did right, remarks on what I didn’t do so well, and suggestions for how I can improve.
Some critiques I’ve had in the past are:
‘Your referencing is incorrect. Look at the module handbook for the rules’
‘You seem to lose your focus here and end up adding in some irrelevant points’
‘You wasted words on details and could have gone deeper’
‘You didn’t refer back to the module material enough. Try to back up all of your points with theory and evidence.’
Now, some of those make for uncomfortable reading right? It’s never easy to receive negative feedback. Even if you know it’s good for you. It can feel like a slap in the face to read negative comments when you were actually pretty happy with what you submitted.
But here’s the difference between a low grade and high grades student. A low grade student will glance at feedback and put it aside, or read it, feel upset or angry and ignore it. A low grade student will miss easy opportunities to achieve higher essay grades and will end up making the same silly mistakes multiple times.
On the other hand, a high grade student uses their feedback as an opportunity to learn. They see the potential for higher essay grades in those comments and they pay attention to them – even if they don’t want to. With every essay they fix errors and make tweaks here and there; their study skills develop and their marks start to climb.
Receiving negative comments can make you feel like a failure. But remember this. A mistake is not a failure. A mistake is part of being human. But making the same mistake over and over when you have the capacity to change is a failure.
In one of my modules I was told early on that my referencing was incorrect. That was my mistake. But I didn’t want to hear the feedback so I ignored it. For the next three essays I lost marks every single time for my referencing. That was a failure. I finally took responsibility for my grades and spent a little time reading my feedback and learning how to reference properly. My next essay I got it right and my marks increased.
I hope you can now see the value in learning from feedback. But what if the feedback you get isn’t enough?
If your university doesn’t provide much feedback – ask for it.
Email or visit your tutor and tell them that you want to improve your grades with their help. Ask them for specific, tangible examples of where you lost marks and brainstorm with them some ideas for improving in those areas.
The worst thing that can happen is they say no when you ask for help, but I can’t imagine that would happen as it’s their job to support you. They probably don’t have time to help you develop those weaker areas, but they can point you in the right direction so you can do the work yourself.
Ok, so now I‘m going to share with you my method for learning from feedback to achieve higher essay grades.
7 steps to higher essay grades using your tutor feedback
1. Print a copy of the tracker, and grab your marked essay and all tutor feedback.
2. Scan your feedback for positive comments from your tutor. Look for things you did RIGHT and note them down as a reminder to continue doing those things.
3. Next, look at your feedback and note down where you lost marks – what you didn’t do so well.
4. Then I want you to reflect on your own performance. First think of the things you did right in your essay e.g. ‘I spent time planning my essay before I started writing’ or, ‘I took really good notes so my essay writing was easier’. Next think of the negative points e.g. ‘I started writing too late so I didn’t have time to review my answer’ or ‘I misread part of the question so went off on a tangent and lost marks’. Note down these elements alongside your positive and negative tutor feedback.
5. For your negative points – think of action you can take improve these areas in preparation for higher essay grades next time.
6. File this sheet with your marked essay and guidance and use it as a checklist when you’re working on your next essay. You want to make sure you’re still doing the good things, and that you’ve taken action to resolve or improve the not-so-good things.
7. Pat yourself on the back and get the wine in in anticipation of higher essay grades in the future.
Don’t forget to sign up to my FREE Study Success Resource Library to grab your assignment feedback tracker, that also reminds you of these steps.