What to do when you get your marked essay back

Don’t assign that assignment to the back of your mind just yet.

Before you let go, give your work a bit more daylight. It’ll help your future study to shine more.

photo by Jerrycharlotte

photo by Jerrycharlotte

Here’s what you can do when the grade is set and the feedback is here:

Check the tutor’s comments (and grade). Let it sink in – The gap between seeing the mark and getting over the initial shock will take longer for some than for others. Especially if you’re unhappy. But don’t bother dissecting the feedback until you’re past the initial shock/joy/sadness/confusion.

Read your essay again – What sticks out? Do you remember it differently now? How do you feel about it as a reader? What feedback would you give yourself if you were marking the essay?

Note down areas you’d like to improve and what you want to do differently next time – This marks the start of preparation for your next assignment. The sooner you spot what’s holding you back, the quicker you can tackle the problem.

Note down what you’re especially happy with so you can work in a similar way for future essays – As with the weaknesses, it’s just as important to focus on your current strengths, otherwise you risk forgetting how to shine consistently.

List what you agree and disagree with about your tutor’s comments – If you still feel slighted by the feedback, briefly point out where and/or why you have been misunderstood so you can discuss with your tutor.

Speak to your tutor for extended feedback – One you have a list of points and questions to explore, why not ask the marker for greater insight? Discuss what’s missing. Find out how you can be better understood and how to move forward. This type of exploration is far more revealing than having an argument over what has already been said.

Engage as far as you can – Check my list of 20 ways to engage with feedback if you’re really serious about getting the most from your past assignments.

Take the matter further; but only if you must – When you’re adamant that something isn’t right, you may wish to speak with another academic advisor, appeal the mark, or even complain. But remember that your anger and disappointment must be justified through examples that you can highlight. There should be signs of heavy prejudice and/or misunderstanding before you can reasonably weigh in with complaints. Fussing over slightly lower than expected marks or getting bogged down with minor detail is rarely worth taking ‘all the way’.

Still have questions? – Clearly define any outstanding issues you want assistance with and arrange to speak with your tutor for more specific feedback. If they extend beyond the essay, your tutor should still be able to help take you further.

One comment

  1. Thanks for the reminder about reflecting on past weakness, but even more importantly on successes in preparation for future work. I think it is so easy to want to walk away from an assignment as soon as we get feedback – much to our own detriment.

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