Top students get great marks for everything from assignments to presentations and exams. It can seem really irritating and you may just think it is due to how clever or lucky there are. However, there are probably good reasons why they do so well and there is a list below of things that it is likely they do in order to be so successful.
Although there are many aspects to writing a good assignment or essay, being able to write really well is key. This is not just forming sentences correctly, spelling things well and using correct grammar but vocabulary seems to be really important. The higher marks seem to be awarded to those people that use a broad range of vocabulary, particularly with less well known words, that many people may have to use a dictionary to find out the meaning of. This is because academic writing needs to sound knowledgeable and if you use language which is unusual and only used by academics, it will give the right feel to the piece of work. This is not something which you are usually told about when doing academic writing; it just seems to be something that people that get high marks have in common when doing written work.
Use too many words
If you have a word limit it is really important not to be too far below it. With word counts on word processing software, there is no excuse for not having enough words or for going over, but tutors tend to prefer it if you write more and give higher marks for longer pieces of work. Some may be very strict and only mark up to the word limit and ignore anything after, but most tutors will ignore the word limit and give the highest marks to students who have written the best pieces. If you have more words to play with, then you should be able to get more information in and get better marks.
Go beyond the textbook
Many students will read the relevant parts of the textbook and then rewrite this to answer their essay or assignment. However, your tutor will be looking for evidence of much wider reading than just the textbook and although you could use it a little, it is best to use other books for the main basis of your work. Having a varied reference list is great, but make sure that you do not put things in just to make a good impression, but actually use them and refer to them as well. The tutor will really appreciate having something different to read as most students will just rewrite the textbook or lecture material and so if you do something different they will enjoy reading it more and it will make them in a better mood when they decide on the mark.
It is so important to do your references properly. Different departments will have different ways of doing it and so you need to be sure how your tutor wants it done. Some will like footnotes, some a numbering system which is referenced in the back, others just an alphabetical list of the names referenced within the piece. Some like a bibliography as well and others instead. It is therefore really important to make sure that you know exactly how to do it as sometimes even a wrongly placed comma in a reference list can be picked out. Although marks may not be taken away for incorrect references, it will save the marker a lot of work if they are done correctly and will also help you to learn to do it correctly.
Strive to do better
However, you do in your work, it is always worth striving to achieve more. Even if you are getting top marks, then it is good to keep pushing yourself. Find out where you could improve and work on this for next time. This will be really useful if you find that you have an assignment you cannot complete due to illness or are not feeling up to scratch in an exam. If you have worked really hard up until that time, then you will have good previous marks to fall back on.
If you have exams then it is worth working really hard. Without parents pushing you and peer pressure to enjoy your new freedom, it can be tempting to let things slip. However, exams are just as important at this level and you want to make sure that you do the best that you possibly can and this means revising just as hard as you did at school. You need to be as organised but make sure that you push yourself as there will be no parent to push you and the tutors may not be so pushy either as they expect you to have more responsibility.
Hand work in on time
It is really important to hand work in on time. Often tutors can be very slack with deadlines and will allow extensions for all sorts of reasons. This means that it can be easy to get an extra few weeks for many pieces of work. This might seem great as you will get longer to do things, but it will mean that you will have less time to do the next piece of work as you will have used up some of the time you should have spent on that. Then you will be playing catch up. You may get an extension on that too, but eventually, it will be the end of the academic year and there will be no catch up time then.
It is really important to make sure that your work gets proof read to check for any mistakes. If you read it to yourself in your head, you may still miss a lot of errors, so either read it out loud or ask someone else to check it for you. You could swap with someone doing the same piece of work but make sure that you leave some time as you may find that you want to change yours after reading someone else’s! Of course, they may not have got it right, so be careful. It may be better to ask someone who has not done the piece of work to look at it for you instead.
Attend all lectures/classes
It is really important to go to all of your lectures, classes and seminars. It can be tempting to not go and pick up the notes from someone who did go but there is more to it than getting notes. You have the opportunity to ask questions, interact with others and make notes on what is being said. It is very normal for more to be discussed than is in the notes and you can gain a lot of extra knowledge.
Choose the right classes
If you have a choice as to which classes that you can attend, then it is really important to make sure that you choose the right ones. You need to pick the ones that you think will enable you to get the qualification that you need. This means picking things that will benefit you in your future career path as well as things that will give you the best opportunity to get high marks.
Contribute to discussions
It is really important to get involved during tutorials and contribute. This is because you get a chance to discuss topics around the main subject and therefore expand your knowledge. It also helps your understanding and this will all be of benefit when you are writing pieces of work or sitting exams. You are expected to think beyond the basic texts and so discussions can be a great way of getting you to do this.
Ask for help from tutors
The best students ask for help when they need it. It can be a really good idea to speak to a staff member when you are close to submitting a piece of work in order to make sure that you have included all of the key points and are on the right track. They may have specific guidelines for those wanting to do this, perhaps that you can only show them a plan so they do not have to read something long. Find out how much help they are prepared to give you and make use of this help as it could have a significant effect on your grade.
Look at past papers
It is always wise to look at past papers if you can. This is normally associated with sitting exams and can certainly be really useful for this. You may be able to get the papers from university staff or find them online. However, it can also be useful to do this when writing essays or assignments. You may not find identical papers, but if you take a look at pieces of writing similar to what you are expected to do which are of a high standard, it will help you to understand what is expected of you.
Memorise things as they go along
If you have an exam at the end of your course, then it is worth trying to memorise things as you learn them. It can save you a lot of time at the end and can also help you to get better exam results. It can help you when you are writing things too as you will not have to look things up, you will just be able to remember them. You will be able to spend your revision time learning the things that you had trouble memorising as well as practising answering questions, rather than just having to commit all of your notes to memory.
Take own notes
It is important to take your own notes, both when you are reading things and when you are listening to tutors. You will know what things you need to write down, that you will not be able to remember and what you can leave as you already know it.
Do not get distracted
It can be really easy to get distracted by university life. There will be lots of extra-curricular activities to get involved with, the new freedom of being away from home and a new town to explore. However, it is key that you do remember that the main reason that you are at university is to learn new things and so you need to concentrate on that.
Eat and sleep well
It is really important to eat and sleep well to help your brain to function properly. Make sure that you sleep at regular times and get enough as well as eating regular meals. Although you may be on a strict budget, you should still be able to eat healthily if you try hard with it and prioritise your spending properly.
Do not procrastinate
It can be so easy to leave your studies until the last minute. Many people think that they work better if they have a looming deadline, but this is not true. It is far better to be well prepared and have everything done early. You may find that your tutor will give you guidance on how to write the piece of work they want just a week before it is due, so do not prepare too early as you may be on the wrong track. However, it is wise to have gathered up all of your resources and evidence, got the piece of work planned out ready and done everything apart from actually writing out the final version, so that you are well prepared.
Do not believe other students
Other students may tell you that it is best to leave work until the last minute, that you can easily hand things in late, do not need to go to classes or that your marks do not matter. Do not believe them when they say things like that. At the end of the day you are paying for an education and so you owe it to yourself to work hard, attend everything that you can and get the best possible grade.
Get to know lecturers well
It is well worth getting to know your lecturers and tutors really well. When you need help they will be more willing to help you and you will feel more relaxed asking them. You will feel that you can ask them the questions that you need answers to and should do better as a result of this.