Getting a first in an assessment does require critical thinking and a nice structure and blah blah blah. But there are very easy ways you can trick your marker into thinking that you're the type of person who gets a first (read: has a big vocabulary, so is upper class and therefore a genius). Exploit this!
Getting a first in assessments can require a lot of work, but thankfully, markers will often be extremely bored and tired by the time they get to your assessment. They'll often be marking a whole load of essays answering the exact same question, and chances are, they are no longer interested in what you have to say. But don't worry! You can use this to your advantage.
Because these people have marked so many assessments before, they have a few things that they look out for to indicate whether this student is a 'smort' student. Some of these tips will take literally 2 seconds, and can be done after the essay is finished right before you submit it - like font changes and line spacing adjustments.
If you want to go the extra mile and make changes taking upwards of five minutes, you can also whip out the thesaurus. Exchanging the word "shows" to "demonstrates" can do a lot of the heavy lifting in getting a good grade (stupidly), especially when your marker is knackered. Markers call this ridiculous linguistic peacocking "academic voice", but we all know they really mean "entrenched classicism". Exploit your university's disgusting prejudice to bump up your grade!
Tip #1 - Change the Font
Most universities want assessments that are in the fonts Times New Roman or Arial. For some insane reason, these are 'professional fonts' (?!)
That's right, academics have successfully realized that gender is a social construct, but still believe that there is a legitimate, innate difference in the content of your essay by the different fonts you use. Capitalize on their total lunacy.
They also like the font size 11. Apparently anything over that is ostentatious and anything under that is annoying for them to read.
"Essays using a combination of popular features (Times Roman, double‐spaced unjustified text, and a line‐space to denote new paragraphs) gained significantly higher marks"
- Hartley, Trueman and Brodie (2006)
Tip #2 - Change the Line Spacing
Markers do a ton of essays and their wickle eyes get tired. On a word document, line spacing is automatically set to 1.0, set it to 2.0 (this is called double spacing) because it makes your work easier to read.
Apparently when you make it easier for them to read, they give you higher grades. I wish this wasn't the case - as you'd think that they could just change the line spacing on the copy they're reading - but no, this is actually true.
Don't worry. You only spent £27,750* to be here.
*With an interest rate of 6.3% per year as of 2022 (GOV, UK 2022). Thanks for that.
"[Although] academics might wish to believe that it is the quality of thinking that is assessed in student work … work which is well presented will stand a better chance of being awarded a higher mark"
Tip #3 - Thesaurus Time
Apparently, if you use the word "elucidate" instead of "clarify" then you are a smart person. Congratulations. You made it.
This seems pretty weird, because elucidate and clarify are synonymous - they mean the same thing. So why would using one give a marker the impression that you should get a better grade?
Well, academics claim that when you use certain (upper class) language, that you are being:
This is bullshit for the following reasons.
This is the idea that while there are loads of words that mean the same thing, all these words have very slight differences. For instance, the words 'reject' and 'spurn' mean the same thing. But because the word 'spurn' has been used in the context of 'to spurn a lover' for so long, the word spurn now has more romantic, emotional connotations. So some academics argue that it's important for them to use words like 'summation' because it means they can be super accurate with what they're trying to say.
But I don't think that such as intense level of accuracy is worth it. When we all adopt these weird ways of communicating, we are more likely to exclude people that are is lower to middle class, and people that haven't been to university. Which is pretty grim.
What's even more haunting is the idea that we all learn to speak like this to intentionally exclude people who don't go to university. In this way, universities ensure their own continued existence by making sure no one can read the things academics discover unless they also attend university. Gross.
So sure, having a gigantor vocab does mean you can be more accurate, but I don't think it's worth the cost of excluding so many other people. Especially when tax payers fund our universities - so tax payers should at least be able to access the things academics learn, right?
Sometimes this can be true. In the paragraph above I used the word 'synonymous', because that takes up fewer words than 'words that mean the same thing'. When you're writing an assessment with a stingy word count, saving words in this way can be helpful.
However, a lot of the strange words academics use are words that can be replaced with one other word. For example, using the word "aggregate", when the word "total" or "whole" would be fine. Or using the word "contemporary", when the word "modern" or "new" would have the same effect. In this case, it seems that the only reason to use these big words is that only upper class people used to attend universities, and they all spoke like that, so now we all have to speak like that.
Either way, if you want a good grade I'm afraid you will also have to become a weird upper-class imposter and use the word 'homogenous' like it's normal thing to say. To bump up your marks whip out a thesaurus, or even better use websites like EAP Vocabulary or Academic Phrasebook - these are websites that give you fancy academic words to insert in your essays.
Tip #4 - Reference List
I included this one here becuase I think it's one of the simplest ways to bump up your grade. This too, of course, is classist and weird.
Obviously putting a comma before or after some guy's initial makes no difference to how hard it is for someone else to find the book you just referenced. And the only reason you have to put a comma in this specific place? Becuase that's how they do it in Harvard.
However, learning your universities referencing guide honestly takes about 5 minutes, and then you can use it in every assessment and get points for doing references right.
So a referencing guide is a guide that shows you the proper layout to reference different sources. For some universities their referencing guide is a big ol' pdf (like this one), and for some universities it's a website (like this one).
So if your referencing guide is a PDF, then you'll have a Contents Table at the very start that has every different type of source. You flick to the page it tells you, and then it'll give you a layout for refrencing (where the authors name goes, whether the date it was published needs to be in brackets or not, whether the name of the text needs to be in italics or not, etc), and you just copy that layout.
I think most universities are moving over to website guides like Cite Them Right, so I'll walk you through how to use that - you might not have this exact reference guide, but they'll look like this:
It'll have a navigation bar called something like Browse Categories. Click it, and you get all the different types of sources. Click the type of source that you are trying to reference.
Click on the style of referencing your university uses, and it'll give you the order you need to reference in.
The good news is that for sociology, the only types of sources you'll ever use are
2) Chapters from an edited book
3) Journal articles
And that's it. So you only need to learn 3 different ways of organising where the name of the article goes and whether it's in italics or apostrophes (if you're unlucky you might have to do an occasional Act of Parliment).
This tip is honestly one of the easiest ways to bump your grade, you spend 10 minutes learning it and then you're set for the rest of uni.
Tip #5 - Structure
This is the hardest/most timing consuming one, but still something I think you can do in 10 minutes. To get a really good grade, you need to structure your essay in a way that lets the marker know what you're doing every step of the way - like they're an elderly relative that you're trying to set up with online banking.
This means that in your introduction, you tell them what you're going to say in the same order that you're going to write it. For example, if I'm writing an essay where my overall argument is that crime is bad, I might use these 3 points to make that argument:
Crime makes people sad :(
Crime is spenny for taxpayers
The way we define crime allows the state to focus a disproportionate amount of it's resources on the lower class and those from ethnic minority groups into order to systemically maintain a status quo that benefits the ruling class
If I were going to write the introduction for that essay, I would say:
"This essay will argue that crime is bad because it makes people sad; this will be demonstrated using (insert an author or theory that I'm going to use to support 1st point). Next, (insert author/theory I'm going to use to support my 2nd point) will be utilised to illustrate that crime is spenny for taxpayers. Finally, definitions of crime and who they serve will be examined using (insert author/theory I'm going to use for 3rd point)."
So it's important that you keep the order the same. Introduce the points you're going to make in the same order that they'll be in the essay. It's also important that you say what academic sources are going to support the points your making. Signpost the marker to what you'll be referencing.
In the conclusion, you want to again say what you've just done. So if I was writing the conclusion for that essay, I would write this:
"In conclusion, this essay has demonstrated that crime is sad, as (insert author of 1st point) has shown that (insert what they said about crime being sad). Furthermore, (insert 2nd point author)'s exploration of (insert what they said about crime being spenny) has shown that crime takes a huge financial toll on the taxpayer. Lastly, (insert 3rd point author) has illustrated that (insert what author said about definitions). Considering these points cumulatively, it would be difficult to come to any other conclusion than that crime is sad."
So you're saying it again in the same order, you're saying the authors/theories you've used, and then you're finishing off with some final sentence about how all these points work together to prove your overall argument.
Ta da! Now the marker knows exactly where you're going, and we all know that a happy, comfortable marker is one that gives you high marks. Because remember, it's not about your critical thinking, or even the points you're making, it's about how comfortable they are.
If you follow all of these tips, you have a good chance of getting decent grade. Don't forget that this is all pretty meaningless anyway, and the idea that academic intelligence is the 'most important' or 'most impressive' type of intelligence has been fraudulently shoved down your throat since the moment you were born.
Using the word 'tautological', or using 'then' as a one word clause does not make you a smart person. Getting a first in an assessment does not make someone smart. And if you're not good at essays and writing stuff down (aka following these utterly barmy rules) you are not a dumb person. The way this stuff has been glorified and perpetuated is wrong. You're not.
Saying that, exploit this bullshit. Why not? If academic institutions are going to insist on being idiotic and discriminatory, you might as well make the most out of it. Good luck!
GOV.UK (2022) Repaying Your Student Loan. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/repaying-your-student-loan/what-you-pay (Accessed: 25 January 2023)
Hartley, J., Trueman, M., Betts, L. and Brodie, L. (2006) ‘What Price Presentation? The Effects of Typographic Variables on Essay Grades’, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(5), pp. 523-534
Kangis, P. (2001) 'Presentational Dimensions and Marks Awarded to Assignments', Quality in Higher Education, 7(3), pp. 199-206