Do you want to know the secrets of writing like an HD student? You may feel like it’s impossible to score a high distinction in your assignments. And the ways to go about it may vary among the different areas of study at your university.
But it is possible to ‘train’ yourself to get closer to scoring an HD. The ‘tips and tricks’ I’m about to share are not top management secrets; sometimes, they are hints and prompts from your course materials! Most of them will sound quite obvious. But you can’t imagine how many people forget about them when writing up their assignments.
Often, it all lies in the core of your assignment writing habits.
Before we dive into it, here’s a disclaimer: I can only relate to essay writing and lab reports because I’ve studied psychology and the arts. Therefore, the tips and tricks below may or may not apply to your field of study, although I’d say they can be generalised to some extent.
Here’s how to write an assignment like an HD student.
1. Your marking scheme is your bible.
Every assignment comes with a marking scheme or guidelines of some sort. Print it if you need to. Refer to it in every step of the way to completing your work.
Check out the specific requirements that are graded the most. Is it the content? The theories applied?
WHAT!? 10% of your grade goes into your reference list? Well, it’s time to get serious about that. You wouldn’t want to miss a chance to score 10/10 over a particular aspect of your work.
Often, you’ll notice the ‘introduction’ and ‘conclusion’ parts of your essay only make up about 20% of the grade, as compared to the body which could go up to 50%! It means you don’t have to make a fuss out of that first sentence. Focus on what matters.
2. You’re obsessed with flawless grammar.
Do you hate Grammar Nazis? Well, that’s too bad, because you’re about to become one. That is if you really want that HD.
My lecturers used to say grammar plays a huge role in your final grade. And it’s not only because it makes your paper look professional and ‘enjoyable’ to mark, but also because it is so easy to proofread your assignments. Come on, even Microsoft Word has its own grammar and spell-checker!
If Microsoft Word isn’t your cup of tea, I have 3 alternatives for you:
I’ve loved using all of them. Each one has its own pros and cons, but it also depends on what you’re looking for.
Grammarly is a browser extension that will correct every one of your sentences online (yes, even your Facebook status). ProWritingAid is a web editor equipped with a lot of editing options, from checking your writing style to the readability of your assignment. Finally, the Hemingway app has a beautiful yet simple interface for quick edits.
3. You pay close attention to formatting.
It’s not only about writing. It’s also about the presentation. Again, every subject has its own formatting guidelines. In certain cases, the format of your assignment can account for 10% of your grade!
I’ve heard from some lecturers that, despite everything, many still make the mistake of using the wrong reference and formatting style. For instance, if it’s APA, don’t confuse it with Chicago. Yes, if it’s MLA, it’s MLA; I know, I hate it too (hello, film students!).
It doesn’t take that long to adjust your document to the right formatting: from the font to the type of headings. In fact, work on your formatting whenever you feel like procrastinating! You’ll be working on your assignment with the false impression that you’re not.
4. You know exactly where your argument comes from.
Whether it’s an essay or a report, you have to justify your points. Learn how to do it well. Focus on knowing exactly how you have come to these conclusions. What are the sources you read? What was your logical thought-process?
Then, explain it like you would explain it to someone who doesn’t know anything about your area of expertise (in an academic voice, of course).
Often, marks are given for originality. What it means is exactly that: a logical train of thoughts, written clearly with backed up evidence, like data or recognised theories.
So, are you ready to earn those extra marks?
These tips may seem small and insignificant at first. But if you combine them all and accumulate the number of marks you could get just by doing the easy bits… well, yes, you’re increasing your chances of getting a high distinction!
Do you have any more tips to level up to a high distinction? Maybe one that all fields of study can relate to? Let me know in the comments below!
D. K. Waye.
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