Some students believe grades are born from hard work and determination, some coast them in on a flying Frisbee, while others pull them from thin air. There is a magic to good grades and there are some secrets. These are the secrets that lecturers wish they could say, but can’t.
Your grade can depend on where your assignment is in the pile
Sure if you answer the question you will get the grade, but what if you are the tenth student to miss the point of the essay? What if you’re the tenth person to hand up a rushed piece of work at the eleventh hour (and we’ve all done that)? What if your essay is riddled with spelling errors and the lecturer is trying to get all of your assignments back before your exam in a fortnight and it's 11pm?
These factors can influence your grade. Let’s face it they are human and there is only a certain limit to their tolerance. Yes, this is what they get paid to do, but along with the planning, recording, publishing (yes, they need to publish notes and handouts), writing (yes, they need to write your exam), delivering lectures, answering questions (in person, by phone, and email), marking, and writing up reports. This is in addition to the professional development they are expected to undertake, business meetings they have to attend, research they need to undertake to keep their job, and travel they have to do to keep money coming into the University to help pay for your course. Everyone has their limits, even lecturers, if you want the grade you need to make it easy for the lecturer to give it to you.
They can tell you have rushed it
After proofreading a number of PhD assignments I can tell when a student is getting to their wits end. You make more spelling and grammatical errors, some of them are often quite silly. Your sentences are shorter. You don’t reference as much as you have earlier. Your tone changes to one that is quite abrupt. Plan your time, not just your essay!
Not answering the question is annoying
In the main, lecturers offer time up to assist students with their work. This could be through tutorials, contact time where you can visit and chat, and via email. In all of my years of study I have seldom come across a lecturer who will baulk at the idea of you bouncing your idea at them. Don’t get me wrong, they won’t give you the answer nor will they tell you if you are on the right track to getting a Distinction, but they will steer you in the right direction. Lecturers don’t want their students to fail, remember they too were students and can remember how it felt; they also get assessed on their pass rate. Make sure you plan your essay, check it against the question at the start and check your essay against it at the end.
Lecturers are happy to give reasonable feedback
Everyone has their own definition of reasonable, the one which counts here is the lecturer’s. Don’t expect a warm reception if you demand feedback on why you only received 90% on your assignment, when they have students who are scraping through who they know could do better. Conversely, don’t expect them to detail, chapter and verse, how you could have gotten that Distinction when you actually failed or scraped through. What they will do is point out some of the things discussed in this post, like, how you failed to answer the question, how your spelling made it difficult to read, how poor grammar made your assignment difficult to understand and therefore the lecturer was uncertain of the point you were trying to make, or the importance of references in backing up your argument and the consideration given to them professionally.
Lecturers have ears and do talk to one another
We all gossip and they are no different. They will compare students, they will whinge about students and they will wonder why you are doing well in one class but not theirs (they can be vain beasts). This means, don’t gripe about them in earshot of another. Don’t whinge to your tutor about your lecturer. Conversely, show them that you are an open, honest and willing to learn and see how that goes. All of these things will help to create a picture in their mind of the kind of person you are and rightly or wrongly, for some, that can influence your grade.
Lecturers do a heck of a lot. If you want the grades you need to make your lecturer’s job easier. (No one appreciates having stuff made more difficult for them) Here are the things you should do to improve your grades:
- Talk to them early if you have questions
- Make their job easy:
o Plan your assignment and check your question and work against it, and
o Have your work checked (we can help you with this)
- Try not to submit it at the last minute (they can spot a rush job)
- Ask for feedback if you are prepared to take on their recommendations, and
- Be considerate, they are human and have a life outside Uni too.