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Overcoming that disappointing grade

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At some point throughout our time at university, most of us will have experienced receiving a disappointing grade. Is there anything more disheartening than working hard on a piece of work, waiting weeks to get the grade back, then receiving it and not being happy with it? This recently happened to me; the mark wasn’t necessarily bad, but I expected and wanted to do better in my third year. However, bad marks aren’t the be all and end all – there’s still time to make it better. Whilst your mark cannot be changed, you can control the way you deal with it and, dealt with correctly, you can pull your overall mark up in future assessments. Here’s how I got over my bad grade, and hopefully if you experience the same thing, you’ll find this helpful!

Accept and acknowledge where you went wrong

When I got my grade, I was so disappointed – I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to sit and scroll through my feedback because I knew I wouldn’t take it in properly. Instead, I saved it and came back to it the next day with a clear mind. This really helped – when I came back to it I could clearly see what I had to work on and where I could improve. Only by accepting where you went wrong will you then learn to move on and deal with it in the best way possible. For instance, if you know the issue was with how you did your work (like if you left it until the last minute and rushed it) as opposed to the actual content in your work, then you know you need to improve your organisation. But, if like me the issue was with the content of your work (for example, the level of analysis), then you know what needs to be done and what to ask for more feedback on.

Get feedback

Even though lecturers provide written feedback via TurnItIn, going to see them for verbal feedback is invaluable. As one of my lecturers recently told me, anonymous marking on TurnItIn means that they are unaware of how to tailor the feedback to each individual student and their needs. When you go to see them face-to-face, you can receive feedback specific to you and the grade you are aiming for. For example, if you got a 2:1 and you’re aiming for a first, you can ask how to move yourself into the next boundary. You can also ask them any other questions on how to improve as well as to expand on written feedback.

Act on that feedback – here are a few ways to do so:

  • When you come to write your next assignment, have your previous feedback handy. When you’re editing and proofreading your work, do it with the feedback in mind and make sure you’ve done everything your lecturer told you to do to improve.
  • If you think you can improve in the planning stages of your assessments, you can always ask a lecturer for some feedback on a plan. Double check what they are allowed to see though – for my course, lecturers are happy to look over one A4 side of bullet points, but it may differ across courses.
  • Another task to try is rewriting part of the essay you got your disappointing mark on and incorporating the feedback when doing so. Then, get your lecturer to look over it and give you further feedback. This will ensure you fully understand your feedback and where you need to improve.

Turn the disappointment into motivation

It’s easy to feel down about your grade, which is perfectly normal when you want to do well. Just try not to spend too long dwelling on it as it can really get you down. Instead, turn your disappointment into motivation to do even better next time. Remember the feeling of disappointment, and let it motivate you to seek feedback and put the work in to act on it. You have to remember that a bad mark is just a bump in the road, and there’s plenty of time to get your overall grade back up if you’re willing and committed to do the work.

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