Producing first class work isn’t easy. Even if you scored highly in college, bear in mind that anything that scores over 70% at undergraduate level is considered first class work – wherever possible, aim for this. Follow these five tips to achieve the top grade.

Understand What’s Required

All first class work features the following:

  • special signs of excellence such as unusual clarity, excellence of presentation, originality of argument
  • comprehensive knowledge of the subject
  • excellent understanding of issues and debates
  • confidence in the selection and interpretation of materials/authority
  • logical and convincing development of an argument
  • written style appropriate to the level of the work
  • fluent and articulate expression
  • correct use of academic referencing
  • evidence of independent thought and judgment in answering the question

Plan Ahead

Advice which continues to pop up throughout this series, planning ahead is a large part of your academic career and an essential part of producing first class work. If, for example, you want to demonstrate an excellent understanding of the issues and debates, this requires extensive research and, in short, lots of time. Similarly, constructing a logical and well developed argument relies on drawing ideas from several sources, including journal articles, which are frequently overlooked.

Write Your Own Question

Many students don’t realise that their lecturers are happy for them to decide on what they want to write about. The key to this is leaving enough time and approaching your lecturer with your request – ideally in person during their office hours. Never write your own essay question without consulting your lecturer! Of course the question will have to cover an aspect of the course’s syllabus and be sufficient in depth to achieve a first class grade. This will also help your uk essay to stand out: if yours is the 100th script your lecturer is marking, they will be pleased to come across something original. If you’ve selected something niche to write about, you may even teach your lecturer something they didn’t know and as a result are likely to do well.

You lack originalityFind Fault

If, on the whole, you are using other academics to support your arguments, you will make it harder to achieve the highest grade. Ideally, you want to find fault with an academic’s reasoning, and back this up by drawing on the work of other academics, as well as venturing your own arguments. Be aware that essays which simply regurgitate the work of other writers will score in the region of a 2:2 at best. These are what we call 'descriptive' because they offer no analysis of the material or how it applies to the question, and no originality.

Question the Question

Sometimes it is worth questioning the premise of the question you’ve been asked to answer. For example, an essay question which asks you to “explore the inherent problems of illegal immigration” might be turned on its head. Instead, you might argue that the way the question has been phrased has been designed to elicit one type of information – problems associated with illegal immigration. As part of your essay, perhaps towards the end and before the conclusion, you could highlight this, and also draw on many positive outcomes of illegal immigration. Do this carefully, of course, but bear in mind that any questions which appear to have been written subjectively have likely been done so deliberately. Many lecturers like to be disagreed with – even if they do not share your point of view, it is more likely they will award your confidence than penalise you for disagreeing with them.

Finally, bear in mind that if your lecturer awards you 69% they’re not being mean – a score of 69% means you’ve done really well, but your work hasn’t quite reached first class standard. Read their feedback closely and, crucially, act on it next time.

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