Since the beginning of time, I always had an issue scoring for my essays. My grammar was bad, the ideas & content were weak, and my handwriting definitely didn’t help make it any better. It was only till I reached NBS that I forced myself to improve. As NBS students, we had essay assignments for almost every module. Whether they were individual or group essays, it is no doubt that poorer writers were at a disadvantage. If I wanted myself (and my project groups) to do well, I definitely had to find ways to improve my essay writing! After consulting many seniors and research, I found 2 brilliant hacks that can help anyone improve the chances of scoring for his essays.
Just like my previous article on how I got an A for Statistics from a C at Math, this post is for students who are generally weaker at essays only. Enjoy!
Plan and create a structure
As cliché as it sounds, planning the structure of your essay can help A LOT. It helps to clarify your thoughts. It helps the marker to understand your argument better. Of course, many people plan their essays, but in a haphazard and rushed manner. However, what I would advise weaker students to do, is to have an absolutely clear idea of what you want to write in your entire essay even before starting. This helps you to fully focus on writing itself once you start, rather than constantly planning for your next paragraph over and over again.
Sure, it sounds really “GP-ish”, but it is important to have a structure inside each paragraph as well. They include:
- The Topic Sentence which is essentially, the main point of your pargraph.
- An explanation of your point. It does NOT have to be a complicated one.
- An example, which could be an analogy, facts or just a quote taken from the passage (assuming you need to refer to a source)
- Substantiate with facts, examples etc.
- Mini Conclusion which you should refer your main point to the entire scope of your essay
If necessary, add in a possible Counter Argument (possible objections to your point) and a rebuttal (Why that counter argument is invalid) before ending off the conclusion. Of course, this itself will not work all the time. Edit it whenever you have to. However, this is a general guide that you can use to start with. One thing is for sure, it makes your stand clearer, which makes it easy for the marker to grade and evaluate.
Bug Your Tutors
Ultimately, its your tutors (well, most of the time) who will be your markers. MAKE USE OF THEM. Consult your tutors at least once for each essay assignment, and email them once in awhile with questions. KEEP PROBING. When consulting your tutors, you should look to achieve a few things.
Firstly, take note of what they are looking for in a good essay. Some tutors like direct and short sentences. Some like flowery language. Some like multiple examples. Some like multiple solutions. It would be really beneficial if you can tweak your style to the tutor’s preference.
Next, get your tutor’s opinion about that topic. However, you are very likely to be unable to get a straight answer by asking directly. Try to get a discussion going by asking what your tutor thinks about YOUR opinion. This includes doing some background knowledge! Whether you agree with your tutor or not, make it a point to raise their opinions/views on the topic in the essay. It will help to engage them and make it more likely for them to give good marks.
Lastly, assuming you had an B+ grade or below for your previous assignment, consult them by asking what you could have done to make it better. Doing this allows you to understand your tutor’s point of view and thought process when marking essays. KEEP PROBING. Be absolutely clear on what your professor is looking for so you can use that information to your advantage in the future. Since it was a past assignment, the professor has no excuse to refuse answering all your questions (Unless he/she is lazy). Also, if you do this long enough, it would make the tutor think twice before marking you down again.
Bonus Hack: Read model essays
If you want a fast track path to improving your writing and ultimately, your essay scores, find seniors’ model essays pertaining to your assignment (With at least an A- grade) and keep reading them. It does not have to be the same exact question. Doing this will help you to get an idea for content to write AND on what makes a quality essay submission. You can use these essays to guide your style of writing when you are first starting out. Like what many of your seniors will tell you, this is why getting to a FOC or CCA in university is so important.