Once you get a paper back, odds are the first thing you’ll want to look at is your grade. But what’s more important to look at are the reasons behind the mark you got. It’s OK to take some time to reflect on the grade, but make sure to read through your paper for feedback! Here are some key things you should do when you get a paper back.
1. Don’t beat yourself up
Most first-year papers get average marks between C and B. So a 70% is not a low mark!
2. Don’t panic
If your mark wasn’t as high as you were expecting, try not to worry too much. One paper will not impact your entire grade in the course and there are lots of ways to improve! Any course that fulfills the writing requirement will have at least three papers. If a paper is worth 20% of your overall mark, the difference between getting an A and a B is only 2% of your overall mark in the course.
3. Read the feedback
The real story about your paper’s strengths and weaknesses is told in words, not numbers. If your introduction received 2/5 marks, the grader likely wrote specific feedback to point out any flaws. Some common mistakes may include a weak thesis, rushed introduction, or no outline.
Re-reading your paper with your instructor’s feedback is a great way to improve your writing skills. Be sure to reflect on how you could change a sentence or paragraph to make it stronger using the written comments.
5. Practice makes perfect
Use the feedback from your paper to make a list of things to work on (comma-splice, thesis structure, etc.), and then use online resources such as the Purdue Online Writing Lab to improve these skills. The Writing Centre is another excellent resource.
6. Talk to your prof
If you’re confused about a comment the grader made on your paper (e.g. awkward, more detail) or if you can’t read the handwriting (it happens!), set up a meeting with the instructor. They will be able to explain the comments and give you advice on how to fix any mistakes.
The more you pay attention to feedback, the more you will learn and improve your writing skills!
Ariel gets the best tips from her prof.