Using feedback to improve your grades

Find out how to make the most of your tutor’s feedback

Teacher discussing work with studentWe all like to get feedback on something we’ve worked hard on. How well you respond to that feedback will often determine how well you progress throughout your time at University. Follow these five tips to make the most of any feedback you get.

Evaluate Effectively

Most students believe their essays end when they’re handed in, skipping out the evaluation process entirely. The drawback with this is that it’s easier to make the same mistakes again. When reading your lecturer’s feedback on your essays, don’t skip over the negative comments whilst revelling in the positive ones. Sure, it’s nice to get good feedback, but whilst finding out what you’re doing right is encouraging, it’s more important to learn what you’re doing wrong so you can improve on your next essay.

Comments on Structuring

Sometimes students get drawn off on tangents, or structure their essays too heavily on one or two areas (usually the ones they find most interesting, or know the most about). Remember you will set out the aims of your essay in the introduction so check you’ve covered all these points and summarised these in the conclusion. If you’ve found you’ve focused on just part of the essay question and you have time, write a question which matches your essay and go to see your lecture and ask to change the question. Most lecturers allow this so long as the question has enough scope for you to achieve a decent grade.

Comments on Grammar and Syntax

Always proof-read your essay several times so you don’t make any basic errors. If you’re making the same error frequently your lecturer will highlight this and hopefully show you where you’re going wrong. The incorrect use of the possessive apostrophe is a common error, as is the misuse of there, their and they’re; to, too and two and who and whom (see earlier blogs for more on this).

Comments on Referencing

Person studying with a bookIncorrect or sloppy referencing frequently crops up in undergraduate essays. Firstly, make sure you’re using the style as requested by your lecturer. Secondly, be consistent. If you’re listing the author’s name by Surname followed by an initial, do this for all your sources. If you’re placing the date after the author, do this in all cases, and if they’re in brackets, use brackets every time. If the title is in italics, all titles must be in italics, and the publisher and year of publication is invariably included.

Keep Feedback to Hand

Don’t forget about the feedback you’ve received. When you’re planning your essays, always bear earlier feedback in mind. If you’re writing, on average, just one essay per module per semester, you’ll still have at least eight pieces of feedback by the time you reach your second year – the time when your essays will start to count towards your final grade. Try to keep all your feedback in one place, in a binder or scanned into one directory on your PC so you can always easily refer back to it.

To get the most from the feedback you receive, you should plan time for reflective learning.

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