An essay is for life, not just for the semester.
Yes, you thought you could put that essay at the back of your mind, especially now it’s been marked and you didn’t get the marks you were hoping for.
But the last thing you should do is shelve that work and forget it ever happened.
Those pieces of paper contain your own work. Your sweat and toil. So if you could have done better, or want to do better, then you need to pay attention to your previous labour and what has become of it. For an insight on your essays, look at these 7 tips:
- Digest the feedback from your tutor – It’s for your own good. Don’t just moan and tut at your grade. Don’t make excuses or tell yourself that the tutor doesn’t know what they’re on about. Now is your chance to see what you could have done better, or read where you didn’t apply yourself. Put your pride to one side and take in the comments. I gained a lot of valuable help by doing this throughout my degree.
- Keep an open mind and take it easy – While it’s important to take in your feedback, it’s not so important to obsess over your actual marks. The more you worry, the harder it becomes to push forward with your academic development. What you need to do is take a relaxed approach to the results. Were you strong in one area and weak in another? Was a particular sentence or theory highlighted with a positive comment? You shouldn’t just make note of areas for improvement, you also need to focus on when you did the right things. With a bit of balance, you’ll find it a lot easier to cope with the less effective parts of your work.
- Read your essay again and see what you think – When you take a fresh view of your work from your own perspective, are you happy that you handed the work in? Are you so impressed with certain passages that you think you can’t have possibly written them yourself? Do you want to give yourself a First, or a Third? Be as honest as you can. You will either come to a greater understanding of why you received the mark you did, or you will wonder why you’ve not been uncovered as the greatest writer in the world. If it’s the latter, then you need to take your head from the clouds and get a better understanding of what’s needed in an essay (and read the next tip!).
- Have a one-to-one meeting with your tutor for more in-depth feedback – If you can do it, arrange to spend some time with the tutor who marked your piece and see what they would suggest about improving your style, your ideas, and whatever they believe you can improve to pick your mark up. Some tutors actively encourage this, while others keep quiet and need a bit of encouragement themselves. If you can get them out of their shell, you may find out a lot more than anyone else on your course. Don’t give up, because a little bit of extra effort can make a big difference.
- Reasonably question your result/feedback – If you still can’t understand what on earth’s going on and you seriously believe your masterpiece has been marked far too low, why not ask for further information and clarification? But be reasonable. Don’t fly off the handle and don’t be cocky about things in the hope of making a point. Your reasons for asking why you got a particular result and feedback are more for you to get a grasp of what you missed and to understand the actual marking process a bit better. You can write the wittiest comments and funniest lines, but if it doesn’t cut the academic mustard, you’ll still not get the best marks possible.
- Enjoy your good grades, but keep striving for more – That is to say, don’t be lazy! If your marks improve and the essays grow in quality, that doesn’t mean you’re home and dry. I took my eye off the ball for one of my course modules and ended up with a rather poor mark for the last essay on the module. The rest had been corkers, so I stopped thinking about it as clearly as I should have been. Never wise!
- Make notes – Next time you’ve got an essay to write, will you remember what you learned from past feedback? To get the most from past essays, note down what you want/need to improve, make a plan of how you can enhance your essay’s structure based on previous, more muddled writings.