Bad mark advice

Source: Jason Truscott via fickr

By Olivia Botting

Okay, so you’ve received a bad mark. It’s a crap situation to be in, regardless of whether you dedicated weeks to an essay, or whether you wrote it in a blaze of caffeine-fuelled glory. The important thing is that you want to take said bad grades and make them good grades (or at least less bad). Now the good thing for you is that I have a few ideas to help in your endeavour for a first.


I find essays to be rather difficult to gage. You’ve got loads of time to write them, but then you have too much to say, so you cram it into one sentence and confuse yourself and oh yes you forgot to reference—damn—and then you forgot which quote came from where and basically I’m not a fan of essays. The secret to referencing, firstly, is to reference as you go. So copy and paste, or write down the quote you want, and then write the reference next to the quote. Very simple. Then you won’t misattribute anything.

Secondly, in order to make the actual writing and content better, there are a range of services offered by the Uni. One suggestion from my personal tutor is to make a plan (always a good idea anyway) but then get your tutor who set the essay to look over it. That way they can tell you if you can cut sections out or need to add stuff in. There are essay writing workshops set up in almost all of the schools here as well, to help with your writing style. I have found that seminars are strangely useful for essays too, because that is where different arguments and opinions are debated. So pick up a couple of those to sneakily insert in, and you’re laughing.

Probably the most important thing to do, though, is to learn from your essay feedback. It won’t take much to work on your areas for improvement, and straight away a better mark is calling.


Honestly, the best advice I can offer for exam preparation is to start early. Revision in little but often chunks make the process a lot less stressful. Also, experiment with revision styles—maybe notes are your thing, or maybe you need to make it a bit more creative with mind maps or diagrams. Either way, beginning ages before your exam gives you time to work it out.

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