Writing Better University Essays/Using feedback

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In many cases your essays are not only graded, but your markers give you feedback on the writing. In order to improve your essay writing skills, you should spend a few moments to read the comments and try to take them as useful criticism. Often it’s a good idea to leave the essay on its own for a day or so, after getting it back. This way you have time to cool down after receiving the mark. Marks are often different from what we expect, either better or worse. Coming back to the essay a day after, you’re able to make the most of the criticism: make it work for you.

A good idea is to go through the comments and identify three good points, and three points you want to work on. For example, your teaching assistant may comment that your overall structure was good. Make a note of it. Then again, maybe you didn’t include enough examples, so that would be something to work on. Even essays with full marks usually come with a few hints what could be done better.

Example Feedback Organizer

I use a table to collect the grade, three positive and three negative points. When writing the next essay, it’s time to dig out this table, and focus on the three points to improve. Probably you’ll want to choose only one of them, but make a real effort to improve on this one. When planning the essay, as outlined on page 3, you spend a few extra moments just focusing on what you want to do better. It’s by going through this process that you really learn from the feedback on your essays: this is how you develop writing skills.

Next: Common Essay Problems