Masters Insights: The journey from Fail to Distinction

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I have three exams starting in a week from now, so this month I am going to write on an important aspect of student-being, which is essay writing. Being an international student it was quite a different system of education I faced here initially, and I thought this blog could be a help not just for international, but all students in general.

In the initial days of joining my course, there was practice essay writing to gear-up students and make them familiar with marking procedures. I loved writing, being an undergrad college editor (even continuing in MBS as well) I was always in the notion that I will easily get essays done. Confident as I was, I submitted the essay even two days before deadline and soon all my confidence crumbled down when my tutor gave me a score of 40%, failing miserably. Thankfully it was just practise essay writing and not for real grades. I spent the next few days reading self-help books on how to write essays, whilst wondering, ‘am I that bad that a college student editor failed in his essay?’

Soon came the time to submit real essays and I nervously wrote and submitted my first essay for a real assessment. To my utter surprise when I was hoping to just pass, thankfully I scored a distinction with 70% in that essay, and by now I have submitted 4 essays in all and have three distinctions (on and above 70%) and one merit (on and above 60%) under my belt. So I think I can now give some tips to all on essay writing because I managed to travel from being failed to achieve distinctions.

My first advice is to dissect the essay topic and clearly understand what is asked, once this is done it will help to gather exact information from journals or articles or books. The second advice is on framing the essay, so clearly think what aspects can be written on the topic depending on the information gathered. For example, an essay of 3,000 words can generally have one introduction, four sub-topics and a conclusion, which I mostly followed. The third advice is essays must be coherent, to do this in the introduction always introduce the topic generally at first, then issues related to the question of the essay, finally what aspects will be discussed in this essay related to the topic and then begin the sub-topics next. In the conclusion write briefly on all the important points that were written in the essay and draw a conclusion statement as required, but do not introduce any new points in the conclusion.

My final piece of advice is on referencing – use important articles, journals or books and to do this use extensively the rich libraries of the University. Always use Harvard style of referencing or as advised by the tutor and do not ever copy lines or points directly and be a victim of plagiarism. Understand the points well that are mentioned in articles/books/journals, use your own ideas or views to develop on those points and this will not only prevent plagiarism but also make the essay argumentative and reflect your own thoughts on the topic.

Some general advice will be to always follow word limits, be careful with English grammar, always focus on the essay question and do not deviate from the topic because when long essays are written we tend to write more and deviate from the central point of the essay.

So this was all the ingredients you require to write essays and score distinctions. However, I will always say use the available help as and when required through tutors/professors or guide books or peers because it is always good to learn and there is never an end to learning.

Good luck for your next essay and wish me luck for the exams!!

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