It can be difficult to ace your university assignments. What assignment hacks could help? I hear you ask.
Well, assignments are always a little different: a report, an essay, a review.
It’s hard to get generalised tips that can help to improve your writing across multiple styles of assessments.
However, getting good grades (regardless of the assignment) relates to two key things: understanding what the marker wants and making it clear to them that you’ve included it.
You can take my word for it. As a PhD student, I’ve marked assignments for undergraduate courses multiple times.
There is limited time that can be spent marking each assignment, so it’s important that you are clear, straight-to-the-point and hitting the key sections of the rubric.
Here are 3 assignment hacks (from a university marker!) that you can use for any courses and subjects, to improve your grades.
Assignment Hacks 1: Be Clear on the Content
Understanding what you need to include in your assignment is the first big hurdle to getting a good grade.
I always thought this was a simple thing: include in your assignment what your lecturer/professor wants you to include.
However, I’ve marked some reports that have introductions going completely off-topic things (discussing literature/information that’s never been talked about in the course) and losing themselves a bunch of marks.
Being mindful of exactly what the content should be is so so important.
There’s a couple of things to be aware of here.
- Is there a clear format to the assignment (paper, essay, report)?
- Do you need to include specific topics/information from the course/lectures?
- Do you need to include certain authors/papers in your discussion?
- Do you need to write from one perspective? Or is it an argument/debate?
It’s crucial to be clear on the information you have to include.
For example, if the lecturer says that your introduction needs to discuss the ‘factors that influence attraction’ and you’ve had a lecture on ‘factors that influence attraction’ then you should be writing about those!
Don’t go and find a new set of different factors of attraction, or discuss the philosophy of attraction, or why you are very attracted to the course – you were asked to introduce the ‘factors that influence attraction’ so do just that!
Often, students will make it harder than it is.
if you’ve been asked to include something, then include it.
You can of course slightly extend yourself here and there. There could be alternate perspectives to factors of attraction but this would only be a couple of sentences just highlighting how there are alternate theories too.
The assignment should include what you have been asked to include.
Make sure that you are clear on what that is.
Assignment Hack 2: Make it Flow
It is so so hard to mark an assignment when a student doesn’t know how to write a clear sentence. It’s hard to follow their train of thought and know if they’ve actually hit the points in the rubric or if they are just rambling.
I know that writing is a developed skill. You have to put in the time to understand how to be clear, concise and straight-forward in your writing.
But – you really should put in the time to hone in your writing skills, because it’s easy to lose marks when your flow can’t be followed.
When I say ‘make it flow’ what I mean is writing with straight-forward sentences.
My key tips here would be:
- The longest sentence isn’t the best sentence. I believe students often think they sound smart and fancy including overly wordy sentences. This isn’t the case. It often sounds like you don’t understand punctuation, and the writing comes across like talking. Have a look here at how varying your sentence length is so important.
- Follow the instructed format. For example, introduction, body graphs and conclusion. If you need to know what each should include, have a look here. Give the marker a clear structure.
- Each paragraph should have an opening ‘topic’ sentence, and a concluding remark on why it’s important to the current writing. It’s important to keep each paragraph discussing only one topic, so that you can adequately cover the points you need to, critically analyse the evidence and address the reason why you’ve included the information/why it’s important to the current argument. This is something that I often don’t see in undergraduate writing.
Assignment Hacks 3: Read the Rubric
You’ve heard me mention it a couple of times now throughout this article.
Read the rubric.
I say this because it is seriously the most crucial thing you can do while writing any assignment to make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance of a high grade.
When I am marking, I will have the student’s essay open on the left of my computer screen, and the marking rubric on the right.
Marking involves comparing the student’s work with the rubric and determining if they have correctly, effectively and extensively covered what the rubric is asking of them.
When you are in the process of writing, keep the rubric in mind.
When you’ve completed the assignment, do exactly as a marker would do: put your document and the rubric side by side.
Go through the list of items, and see if you’ve ticked each box.
It’s also important here to be mindful of how many points each section is worth. For example, you don’t want to have one sentence to conclude your essay (albeit a great sentence) if the conclusion is worth 35% of the essay. It’s likely that you need to go into more depth, make more connections to the external world and re-highlight the importance of your work.
If you’ve got an essay that you need to tackle, read my essay specific writing tips here.
If you need a little help with staying focused and concentrating, this might help!
All the best!