If you want better marks, there are plenty of things you can do.

You can:

• present a structured, logical argument
• write clearly
• proofread like a maniac, and
• reference your sources.

Chances are you already know about these techniques.

But there’s one more little trick that’s often overlooked.

You should be doing this one thing first and foremost. It’s a key way to improve your grades. Here’s the secret…

You must directly address the assignment question.

Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? Maybe. But are you actually doing it?

Because when you write an assignment, it’s really easy to get distracted. Especially when the topic is new or interesting. It’s like taking a shiny, new convertible for a test ride – before you know it, you’ve gotten way too excited, and you’re now 300 km from home.

But when you start moving away from the core assignment question, it’s easy to get lost. And your grade will reflect that.

An assignment question is never asking you to take a joyride to a random destination. You’re being asked to address a specific topic, and you must fundamentally do that.

Let’s look at an example.

Say you’re doing a marketing course. The first assignment asks you to:

"Discuss how the XYZ marketing strategy works".

How would you approach it? You could:

• Briefly explain what the XYZ marketing strategy is.
• Give some relevant examples of it in action, talking about how it works – this is what the question is asking for.
• Summarise your key points.

An approach like this will automatically improve your grades. It shows you’re addressing the question and staying focused.

But what if you get distracted and head off in another direction? Instead of the logical approach described above, you might decide to cover:

• The background of the XYZ model
• How the XYZ model compares with the ABC model
• Marketing in general, or even –
• What kind of marketing you think is the most effective.

Yes, all of these topics are about marketing in a broad sense. But they’re only distantly related to the core assignment question. At this point, you’ve sped off in that shiny convertible – far, far away. The GPS isn’t working, and you’re not sure how to get home. Oh, and now you’re out of petrol as well…

Get better marks by staying focused on the question

As you draft your work, keep asking yourself:

Am I answering the question? Or have I taken off on an unplanned road trip here?

You’ll improve your grades by getting back on track, and sticking to the prescribed topic.
It’s the secret foundation of getting better marks.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Liz Hardy is the owner of ElearningTrainer.com and the author of E-learning 101, the friendliest online study guide around. Dr Hardy takes a unique approach to online learning. Blending simple e-learning strategies with a little humour and pictures of friendly dogs, she presents accessible e-learning advice that works.