Getting an A
To get a grade within the A range (A- / A / A+), you need to fulfil more than just the necessary requirements to pass. In other words, you need to produce a piece of work that is over and above an accepted standard.
Below is a list of details expanding on each of the four marking criteria commonly displayed in marking guides for an acceptable and competently executed assignment. Such an assignment may receive a grade within the B range (B- / B / B+), however this will depend on the marking style and preferences of individual markers.
You have provided an acceptable interpretation of the topic, which may mean that you have developed a logical response to the assignment task.
“Acceptable” is likely to involve a subjective judgement, unique to the individual course requirements and marker preferences. Nevertheless, if your response to the assignment differs from mainstream views, you should still be able to attain a grade of value by ensuring that you have referred to examples, explanations, and research evidence from the literature.
It is also important to ensure that you have covered several different aspects relevant to the topic, and not just one. In particular, a balance in views may be useful here where you have considered and acknowledged different or opposing points of view from different authors. This demonstrates to the reader, who is also your marker, that you have thought widely about the topic and are less likely to take a biased position.
This is entwined with scope in that it expects you to have read and referred to relevant literature, typically in the form of the readings and/or textbook chapters as part of the materials for your course.
This criterion also requires you to have accurately constructed a list of references at the end of your assignment that meets the standards of the referencing convention used in your discipline/course, such as APA, MLA, or Harvard.
The structure of an assignment relates to how you present your ideas.
This covers having a logical sequence in which to order your points, ideally, with each paragraph indicating a separate main point. It also means that you need to create additional structure through an introductory section, which may take the form of a paragraph or a few sentences. Likewise, you should also have an ending section where you summarise your ideas and briefly restate your argument in a few sentences or a whole paragraph.
Finally, structure may also entail clarity in expression. Hence, it is useful to consider explaining definitions and terms where relevant. Remember that while the reader is likely to be knowledgeable in the topic you are writing about, they want to see that you have understood the issues and ideas. It is often good to imagine yourself writing for your peers, rather than the expert marker, which allows you plenty of room to elaborate and highlight your comprehension of the topic.
This is usually allocated the least amount of marks in any assignment. However, it is also an area where you can gain the most marks out of the total allocated for this section because it typically requires you to follow instructions, which, hopefully, have been clearly laid out. Some common formatting requirements are listed at formatting and layout.
To get an A requires you to go that extra mile (or kilometre), beyond a competent and acceptable standard. The following list demonstrates some of the extra features that may be included in an assignment awarded a grade within the A range.
- Integrating additional references beyond those assigned in the course. These are included in your assignment to demonstrate new points, or extend and reinforce other points.
- Including some critical reflection and evaluation of the topic and/or the points used to support your argument.
- Including some original analysis of the issue or integrating the ideas in an original way by, for instance, adopting a broader framework in which to position your points.
- Providing two or three pieces of evidence from the literature to back up all or almost all your points.
- Integrating many points that are relevant to the topic, including sub-themes and further sub-themes and / or points from alternative angles that may not necessarily be mainstream.
Overall, getting a grade within the A range is difficult and involves a lot of hard work.
Nevertheless, achieving a grade close to an A demonstrates that you have also done well to achieve a competent standard, with potential and promise for even greater work in the future.
Some common mistakes can also contribute to the lowering of a grade:
- Relying too much on quotations and not using your own words to explain others' ideas. Remember, when you explain information in your own words, this demonstrates to the marker that you have clearly understood the topic.
- Providing too little support from your readings and/or textbook to back up your points.
- Covering only a few points related to the topic, rather than the full scope of issues and sub-issues.
- Including details about the topic which are too brief, and which require more explanation through examples, details of events, and / or evidence from theories or studies.
- Providing too little explanation of the ideas in your readings and / or textbook that relate to the assignment topic.
- Failing to follow accepted standards in acknowledging the work and/or ideas of other authors in your text and in the reference list at the back of the assignment.
- Providing a structure to your assignment that is very difficult and / or uninteresting to follow, such as having points that do not lead logically on from one to another.
- Having too many presentation errors.