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How to Score High Marks in Postgrad Essays

When you receive the news that you’ve earned a place on a postgrad course, you may feel you want to put that extra effort in to achieve the magical ‘First’. And while it’s all very well talking about correct spelling and grammar, to really achieve top marks there are a few other things to consider…


Thorough Essay Plans

Use detailed bullet points to note down the essay structure in chronological order.

This way you’ll be able to see how your argument will flow and areas needing extra research.  The most important things you should be asking are whether your argument is answering the question, if key points are covered and whether additional ideas could be included.


Ask Your Tutor

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Visit your lecturer to see what you can do to score high marks too. If you’re keen to improve your grades, they’ll be happy to help. 

Like James Bond, you want all the best gadgets to succeed, so your lecturer can tell you which bells and whistles are required and specifically target this towards your essay. They may even have previous students’ work for you to read.


Enough Sources

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Ten sources is the recommended minimum by many universities but include more if you’re aiming for higher marks.

You don’t have to read everything from cover to cover, but find the relevant chapter and make notes. After all, unless you are Hermione Granger, no one has time to spend 24 hours in the library! You’ll also need a variety:  books, journals, online sources etc…


Original Ideas

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By all means use the textbooks recommended by your tutor, but broaden your research - don’t be spoon-fed.

Lecturers get fed up seeing essays that have exactly the same quotes and exactly the same ideas – imagine how dull marking is! Try to find sources students won’t have used before and look around for new debates or authors you can present.



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This isn’t about taking a toilet break - although by all means don’t wet yourself at your writing desk - this is your old friend Point Evidence Explanation, crucial when essay writing. 

The main reason why low marks occur is because there isn’t enough explanation. But remember, you must always clarify why your evidence supports your argument. If not, it just reads like a story: Dr X discovered this, Henry VII did this…. but remember: what are you arguing and why does this support your view.



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Change the font colours on your Word Document draft, so the evidence is green and explanation parts are red. If each argument has a balance of colours, then you’re on the right track.

It’s always good to have a tad more explanation than evidence, but if one is seriously lacking, look for another source or strengthen your explanation.



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Clearly introduce new arguments and employ phrases that give an immediate indication of what the next paragraph is about, as well as its significance.

For example: “However, a contradictory argument would be…”; “A key piece of evidence that supports this theory is…” Meanwhile, in the introduction you should state what you will be arguing, briefly listing your main points.


Linking Ideas

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Group paragraphs together which support the same arguments and highlight this in your essay.

You should also indicate which the strongest argument is and explain why, as well as comparing long and short term factors (if relevant). If you know one or two arguments are weak compared to others, you should also point this out, explaining what would be necessary to make them stronger, for example, new scientific evidence. 


Well Explained Conclusion

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It’s no good writing a super essay if it tails off at the end like the sleepy dormouse in Alice in Wonderland.

Thoroughly summarise your main arguments, explaining why they answer the question, and don’t worry if your conclusion runs on for a couple of paragraphs.  To make room for it, shorten waffley sentences within your essay or remove any short, unnecessary points.  


Then You Can Be the Perfectionist

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Once you’ve made sure you’ve got a strong essay, then you can go all eagle-eyed and check you’ve correctly spelt and referenced everything.

Good luck and remember to take a break now and then!



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