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Things that are tough: Getting 70%+“I felt like I worked really hard for that assignment. But in theend I got 62%. No matter how hard I work, I never quite hit a1st. What am I doing wrong?” WeThere are so many students are in this boat. getcha. Pushing your mark from a 2:1 grade to 1st class is about finding those extra points of excellence. If, no matter how hard you work, you‟re never quite hitting 70%, why not look back over your past essays and ask yourself honestly if you‟re doing all of these things:
1. Make sure you understand the question There are two main ways students commonly misunderstand the question set for them. First, you can go wrong by simply not As a result, students reading the question tend to…: properly. Pay no attention to any restrictions on the scope of Write everything they know the question (for about the topic rather than example, time answering the question. periods, jurisdiction or other specifics)
An example: ESSAY TITLE „Has Radmacher v Granatino affected the enforceability of pre nup agreements in the UK? Discuss.WHAT SHOULD GO IN YOUR ESSAY LIMITATION OF SCOPEBrief explanation of what is meant by a pre nup Jurisdiction: the question does not call for any detail on pre nups agreement in other countries beyond a brief mention such as „unlike the Brief explanation of their unenforceability Netherlands where pre nups are binding…‟. Key points from the caseHow these key points have affected the law as it Affect on enforceability: Only mention specific areas where there is stood previously a change between the old position and the new post-Radmacher How the area is undergoing reform position.
More clues“ELEMENTARY, my dear Watson…”Other clues on what is expected of you come from the wording of the question – for example, if yourtutor asks you to discuss an issue, you are expected to explain the issue, then give two or moresides of the issue and any implications. You can find out more about common words used in essayquestions on this page (scroll down to the lower half) : http://www.essay.uk.com/types-of-essay/ …then give two or more sides of the //and any implications issue… It‟s asking me to discuss… „blah‟ Secondly, there are many different essay types and each require different things. If you I need to explain the issue… miss something that‟s required by the type of essay you‟ll lose marks. Use the „Types of essay‟ guide to understand
2. Use your marking schemePay attention.Most unis issue a marking scheme with each assignment. This is a recipe for how to get ahigher mark so scrutinise it carefully before you start and then review your essay againstthe scheme after you‟re done. There is usually an assessment handbook too, whichcontains more general advice on achieving the different grade bands. I know what my It‟s all in the marking tutor is looking scheme for This is easy. Time for a beer… Okay, maybe I overdid it…
3. Avoid going off on a tangent There will be no irrelevant material in a first class essay. The way to avoid this is, as you‟re writing, constantly revisit the question and ask yourself why you need each sentence to answer it. Make sure you spell out to the reader exactly how each part of your essay answers the question. “So this example You do this by illustrates that…. (some point relevant to tying the point answering the essay back to the question)” question. Explain how each point youmake is relevant to the essay “Gulp…” question. “Clever stuff”
4. Be original and don‟t use too many quotes The mark of first class work is originality. This means ideas of your own that are outside of the material you‟ve been asked to read. You need to support these with strong arguments or citations to the material that led you to these conclusions, though – your opinion on its own doesn‟t count for much!. TIP: TIP: Take the topic and CUBING follow these steps: Cubing can You won‟t get a higher sometimes be useful • describe the grade if all you do is to help generate new quote other peoples‟ ideas around a topic words and particular topic. • compare the material, especially if topic to other your quoting (or things or topics paraphrasing) is • associate the particularly excessive and comes over as a topic regurgitation of your • analyse the topic reading material. • apply the topic; and • argue the topic.
5. Get your referencing right Go through this referencing checklist and make sure you‟re ticking off everyre, point. not just talking about citations. were • STYLE: Have you used the correct style specified for your course? For example, Harvard, Oxford, OSCOLA, APA… • FORMATTING: Have you formatted the referencing in the essay and bibliography properly? Check your university guide – there are many variations of the most common styles, especially Harvard. • QUALITY: Have you used quality sources that are considered reliable such as journals and leading text books? For law assignments, have you used primary sources as authority when they are available? • QUANTITY: Have you used a good number of references within your essay to support your arguments? For most essays, relying on just 1 or 2 sources won‟t be enough and high standard essays demonstrate that the student has conducted plenty of research.
5. Get your referencing right (continued)re• to check on your referencing….references up to date? For RECENCY: Where appropriate, are your example, don‟t use the 2004 edition of a text book if there‟s a 2012 edition out! • AUTHENTICITY: Are your references authentic? For example, if you find a reference to a journal within one of your textbooks, don‟t cite that journal as if you have a copy. Instead, refer to the journal as being cited in the book (each referencing style has a way to present this so check your referencing guide). • AUTHORITY: Have you provided adequate authority for all of the arguments you have presented? Even if they are original and your own opinion, you need to provide citations to material that helped you reach a particular conclusion.
6. Avoid generalities Sweeping generalities are clear signs that you don‟t know your stuff, and they really irritate lecturers. Avoid using statements like this: “Most people think that…” “It is commonly thought that…”For statements like: „It has been established that…‟, you can only use them if you back them up with a credible source that genuinely shows that a particular point has been established. Ifyou can‟t find such a source, try and use something such as „one
7. Makethe question isFor example, if sure you‟ve explicitly answered “Do we value only whatthe question. westruggle for?”, you can present So many students do a fantastic job of presenting all the evidence you like for very strong arguments , conclusive evidence and ove how we do and don‟t only a really impressive essay – but they don‟t tie what theyvalue what we struggle for but written back to the question. unless you reach a conclusion, you‟ve not answered the question. Make sure you‟ve got a paragraph that starts something like, “In conclusion, it seems we do ? Spell it tend to only value what we struggle for out! because (summarise the strongest arguments or evidence)”.
8. Present your work impeccably It counts for more than you might think…
Perfectpunctuation, choice ofPresentation includes spelling, grammar, presentationwords, tone, flow, signposting, a cover sheet and index where youhave been asked to provide one, and often referencing. There arethree points here.• First, your university will usually reserve a certain amount of PRESENTATION = BETTER MARKS marks for presentation, often about 5%. These are the easiest marks out of your whole assignment to pick up, so take extra care not to lose them. “The marking scheme we were provided with to grade our students‟ essays included a note on the final grade to• Secondly, the reality is that your presentation often influences far award. Did the essay feel like a 2:1 or a your grade far beyond the 5% allocated. A lot of the „feel‟ of the 1st? If a student‟s paper was a few marks off a grade band, up or down, we were paper comes from presentation. To get the best grades, your entitled to move that essay into the grade presentation needs to be impeccable. band where we felt it should sit” – Associate Lecturer.• Third, you might have the best arguments in the world, but it‟s possible your presentation could be weakening them. Punctuation and word choice are two examples that can make an enormous difference to the strength of your writing. If in doubt, consider
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