Grades matter more than ever. Employers place so much emphasis on education. Attaining higher grades increases your chances of netting your dream job. But scoring highly on difficult assignments can seem like a distant dream. Anyone who tries hard enough can get the top grades. All it takes is knowing what you’re talking about and paying heed to essay technique.
Here are some tricks to get higher grades in essays.
With every essay, there’s a maximum word count. It’s important to never exceed this word count because tutors will deduct marks, no matter how good it is. Whilst there’s no minimum number of words, you should always aim for the recommended limit. It’s set at this limit for a reason.
Only write if you have something new to say, though. Padding the essay just to meet the word count only dilutes the quality of a piece of writing. If you have to pull up a few hundred words before the limit, consider whether you’ve missed out an important point. If not, just stop.
2. Structure and Organisation
High-scoring essays all have one thing in common. The reader can jump around the different points quickly and easily. There’s a simple structure in place which anyone can use to navigate to the right part of the essay.
In a research project, you would include a contents page in your booklet. In an essay, add some subtitles to break things up. Most tutors have no problems with implementing subtitles, although occasionally some assignments might prohibit this.
These are the ‘hard’ structural tools to use. Even taking these away shouldn’t make it impossible to navigate the piece. The writing itself should have a logical structure where one point cleanly links into another.
During the planning stage, don’t just plan the main structure. Plan the structure of each individual paragraph. Make sure each paragraph has a clear point stated, followed by evidence to back it up. Finally, link it back to the title or through to the next point.
3. Clean Writing
Tutors would all say the worst essays submitted are nearly always from people who have problems with basic grammar and spelling. An essay is a professional piece of writing. The occasional grammar mistake is acceptable. Having a piece of writing littered with basic spelling errors and misplaced capital letters is one way to descend to a new academic low.
It doesn’t just highlight the writer’s immaturity. It detracts from what they’re trying to say. What authority does someone have when they can’t even express themselves in a coherent way?
Whilst drafting, there’s no need to worry about your grammar and spelling. Leave this until the end. Teachers see correct grammar and spelling as a standard skill, therefore they expect to not have to swim through a sea of mistakes. Content always comes first. Concentrate on grammar and spelling on your final few edits.
4. Be Specific
Even though you’re a student, you should still pretend as if you’re an authority on your subject. Authorities are confident about what they say. Unless they’re talking about something which is still highly ambiguous, there’s no reason why you should waste space on being general.
Never be general. Assume you’re the master of your subject and give specific, concrete examples for each point. It doesn’t matter if the reader disagrees with what you’re saying. That’s not the point of an essay. Tutors mark based on how you argue your point and the makeup of the piece.
Pick examples which illustrate your point completely. Cut out any sentences from quotes which only add padding to the context. Apply this to the side opposing your point of view. Choose solid examples which highlight their points, and counteract them in the same manner.
5. What’s My Point?
Every essay must have a point. To illustrate this example, take any essay you want and remove the introduction. Writers illustrate their points in the introduction. Now you just have a jumble of random information.
Whenever you confront an assignment, ask yourself “Who cares?” or “Why are you telling me this?”
This is the keystone to your work. Build everything around the point. If you’re trying to prove Stalin signed the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact out of paranoia, make it clear this is what you’re trying to do. Highlight how it’s a long-debated issue.
Use this rule when picking your topic and point of view. It must have some controversy or debate surrounding it. Unless you’re constructing an informative essay, it’s meaningless to talk about something everyone already agrees on.