Why bother with feedback?

27 January 2021

Russian Studies MA student, Saskia Norman, gives a rundown of why it’s worth looking beyond the grade to get the most out of your assessment feedback.

Woman writing in a notebook and referring to book

We all know the feeling of waiting to receive your mark back for an assignment. For some, this is a time of excitement; for others, it’s a time of absolute dread! During my undergraduate degree and even now, during my Masters studies, I still get nervous.

Most of us are probably guilty of glancing at our grade, letting out a sigh of relief, and then moving on to the next task. But here’s the thing - what if I told you that reading your feedback is the ultimate key to improving your marks?

Here are five key things to remember when reading your feedback, in order to get the most out of it:

1. Celebrate your strengths

Before considering areas of improvement, it is important to congratulate yourself on areas in which you have made progress and are performing well in. Recognising your achievements first will put you in a positive mindset, and therefore in a much better position to approach the next steps.

2. Make your feedback into a checklist

This will be invaluable to refer back to while writing your next essay - when you receive feedback, you have been given a list of all the areas that you can improve on, and the areas you missed out on that could have increased your mark. Pull out all your areas of weakness and make this into checklist. Next time you approach an essay, you can use this checklist to ensure you have included everything necessary and stop yourself from missing out on easy marks.

3. Mark schemes are fun!

Okay, maybe not fun, but mark schemes are essentially your cheat sheet! We’ve all had the experience of receiving an assignment back that is one or two marks off the next grade. The way to avoid this is to put yourself in the marker’s shoes, and to question what it is that they are looking out for. Whilst it is already in good practice to proof-read your work before you submit it, why not try marking your own work using the same mark scheme your tutor uses? Tick off the points you have met, and take note of the ones you have not.

4. Communication is key

If you come across anything you don’t understand while reading your feedback, discuss it with your tutor. Make an appointment with your tutor or attend their office hours to review their comments on your assignment and clarify any areas of discrepancy.

5. Lastly, and most importantly - don’t be disheartened if you didn’t achieve the grade you wanted

The reason you are studying at university is to learn and improve, and making mistakes is the most important part of learning and developing your knowledge and skills. By learning to use criticism effectively, you will learn from these mistakes!

So there you have it. Feedback isn’t all doom and gloom – by using it correctly, you will have the tools you need to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, and to ultimately better your skills and improve your marks.

Saskia Norman, MA Russian Studies