Graduate Blog

How to get a 2:1 or a 1st class essay


Here are some tips for how to get the top grades in your coursework.

Don’t leave it ‘til the last minute

It’s a cliché but it’s true. Unless you’ve studied your essay topic in depth before, you need to give yourself around a week to dedicate to researching and writing every 2000 word essay.

Be a library geek

Statistics show that students who take out more books get the higher grades. Take a tour of the library and learn how to use the database computer- both are invaluable. You should collect texts for your essay a few weeks before your deadline to avoid them already being taken out, which almost always happens. If you’re tutor recommends a text, write it down immediately and head to the library straight after the lecture- chances are, that book will make your essay much easier. Basically, the library is your new second home. Embrace it. Love it. Hate it for a bit. Then love it again when your essay gets marked.

Use good sources

There is a reason why most universities give free access to online resources like JSTOR- they are the definitive texts if you can’t find anything in the library, and they’re usually the most up to date. Take advantage of these. Google should be used as a last resort, and even then, make sure the websites you use have a noted author with authority or are from a university. Other websites should be used with caution and usually aren’t very helpful in the long run.

Take digital notes

If you’ve taken books out of the library, there’s a chance somebody else could recall them at any minute, which is why it’s important to get what you need out of them as soon as possible. If you write them in a word document, you can copy and paste them into your essay, which makes things a whole lot easier. The same goes for e-resources- if you can’t immediately copy and paste from the website, see if there is an option to convert the page into a PDF. Make sure you write down the page numbers of everything you note down, too.

Don’t stress over your bibliography

Referencing seems to be the bane of most students’ lives. It has a bad reputation, but if you write it as you go along, it’s not so bad. Most universities have a style guide, so keep this open constantly. If you write down each resource you use in your bibliography before you even use it, it’ll make things a whole lot more stressful and it will make it easier to reference once you’re on a writing roll.

Make sure you know your subject!

It sounds simple, but there are so many students who attempt to write an essay without reading the book or attending the lecture and relying on secondary sources. As important as research is, your opinion and knowledge is the foundation of the essay. It’ll be easy for a lecturer to see if you skim over the ending, or just focus on a few simple passages of the text, and it’ll affect your marks badly. Being passionate about your subject is ultimate the difference between a 2:1 and a first.

It can take a while to get the top grades you want, and it’s important to not let a bad grade get to you. Listen to the criticism of your lecturers and be honest with yourself- the work you’ve spent the most time on will usually get the best grades.



About the Author

Jennie Ahern Jennie Ahern

Jennie recently graduated from the University of Essex with a 2:1 in English Literature. She is currently living in her hometown of Birmingham, and most of her spare time is spent reading and creating things. She has experience in Communications and is pursuing a career that allows her to put her writing skills to use.

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