Friday, 7 August 2015

Is There Such a Thing As a 'Perfect Essay'?

Almost every other week a student will send me a message or come and see me asking what they have to do to write the 'perfect essay' - what will set their work apart from all the rest so as to make it stand out and get the top mark in their course. For me the answer is always the same: make sure that whatever subject you are studying in you principally adhere to a ten step strategy -
(1) understand your question;
(2) plan your research;
(3) be strict with your results;
(4) use up to date materials;
(5) plan your work;
(6) express yourself clearly and succinctly in accordance with your subject;
(7) reference your work effectively;
(8) read your work through and check your grammar and spelling carefully;
(9) use effective paragraphing; and, most importantly of all,
(10) make sure you have plenty of scope to take your time.

Even then, however, this cannot guarantee you a 'perfect' result as there is still another unknown factor to be accounted for - the 'human factor'.

You can take every precaution possible in planning and writing your work, but you cannot effectively and absolutely judge as to how your assessor will look upon your work as you are not (unless you are someone like Derren Brown!) able to read your assessor's mind and know what they consider to be the 'X-Factor' that will take you into the top marks.

Occassionally, you may get lucky and be assessed by the same person that has taught you a subject so that you will be able to pick up on some of their idiosyncracies regarding their likes and dislikes in essay writing and in the essays that they mark (like block paragraphs, not just telling a story, writing short, sharp sentences, and not using 'But' to start a sentence). However, whilst these points are no doubt useful to your essay writing process, there is still a great deal left open to chance. This is because even if you cover all of the points that you know have to be covered because of the meticulous way that you have been taught the subject and the way in which you have studied does not mean that you are guaranteed a 'top mark'.

At the same time, however, in spite of this line of thought that has come to be prevalent amongst educators and students that is not meant to be defeatist; it is only meant to lead students like you to question whether they are pushing themselves hard enough to achieve the best results. This is because, whilst the possibility of someone achieving 100% in some subjects at certain institutions may be a once in a blue moon occurrence for essay writing as a 'Holy Grail', if one aspires for 100% of the marks in any given essay writing assessment (or any other form of assessment for that matter) then you are more likely to achieve the top marks.

Of course, for those of you who are currently uninitiated in the ways of educational establishments that may be something of an oxmoron. To say that you will achieve top marks - ergo the 'perfect essay' - and yet do so without achieving 100% of the marks may sound a little strange until you consider that there are thresholds for the achievement of your grades. For example, a 'C' grade could be awarded for any mark between 40% and 55%, a 'B' grade could be for anything between 56% and 69% of the marks, whilst an 'A' grade is anything from 70% of the marks upwards. This may seem a little unbalanced on the face of it but I guarantee you that this is the grading system that many institutions that I have worked with look to work according to and, in terms of weird systems, it is just the tip of a very, very large iceberg!

So, back to the 'perfect essay' . . .

In effect from the nature and scope of this article's discussion we are looking to argue that whilst 'perfection' is very difficult to achieve in its purest form - i.e. 100% of the marks available - the 'perfect essay' is still achievable if you think of perfection as 'only' the top grade (e.g. an 'A' or, as we in the UK and many current and former British Commonwealth countries still consider it, a 1st class) and this is very easily obtained if you look to account for those ten points I previously alluded to when carrying out your essay writing.

Let's go over them one more time . . .

When writing your essays follow this process -
(1) understand your question;
(2) plan your research;
(3) be strict with your results;
(4) use up to date materials;
(5) plan your work;
(6) express yourself clearly and succinctly in accordance with your subject;
(7) reference your work effectively;
(8) read your work through and check your grammar and spelling carefully;
(9) use effective paragraphing; and, most importantly of all,
(10) make sure you have plenty of scope to take your time. Then, once you have gone through each of these points, you should be well on the way to producing an excellent essay with every chance of achieving a top grade for your work.

Also, you can help yourself even more if you think about it because, rather than looking at your essay as a strenuous task whereby you start with nothing, why not look at your work as you starting with full marks already. It is then your job to look to protect those marks with all that you have in your arsenal. Many students that I help on a daily basis find this to be a more effective way of looking at the work that they have been set: they find to be more of a motivation 'protecting' something that they already have, rather than trying to 'gain' something that they want - just a thought because it depends on the student as you may find the converse true.

This is, of course, a very short hand approach to looking to achieve the 'perfect essay' as there is much more that you can look to do to help yourself with your marks. However, this article should still hopefully get your mind thinking in the right way so that you are then able to expand on the ideas here with the other resources at your disposal - next time you are in class you may even want to ask your teacher or lecturer about what they consider to be the 'perfect essay' . . . more often than not it will be something of an ambiguous response that you will receive that means very little but, on occasion, you will receive information that will prove golden so take notes!!

Remember that there are a lot of resources and materials available to students like you that are either free or very inexpensive including 'The Secret Guide to Academic Writing & Study' via [http://www.academicfx.co.uk/page5.html] that provides many practial examples and walkthroughs as well as further ideas for developing your studies and enhancing your academic potential and, as a result, your future career prospects.

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