Analyzing Audience to Maximize Your Impact (and Grades)
Okay, so you want to know how to get higher grades on your writing assignments. You want to snag these higher grades as efficiently as possible, without putting disproportionate amounts of time and effort into one particular course or set of assignments. Maybe you’re an engineering major and your schedule is packed tighter than a dorm floor on hotel party night. Maybe you have a part-time job that eats up a lot of hours. Maybe you think that freshman writing class shouldn’t be a high priority—but still the course is required and the grade will go into your GPA.
Earning high grades in a writing class seems out of reach to some students, but the truth is that many students miss easy opportunities to bolster their grades. Audience analysis, for instance, is a big factor that gets overlooked. One great method to increase your grade is simply finding easy ways to please your teacher with your performance in the course—and this doesn’t mean kissing ass. It means, first of all, finding out as much as possible about what the teacher does and doesn’t want in a particular assignment or in the entire course.
There are certain elements of student performance that almost every English teacher wants to see. To some students these elements are obvious, but teachers will tell you that many students get lower grades because they don’t think enough about such things. Here are three of the easier ways to give teachers what they want—so you can get the grade that you want:
Attendance & Participation
- Woody Allen said that 80% of success is just showing up. There’s some truth to this in a college English course. The prof wants you to show up to class, pay attention and participate at a high level in the discussions. Yeah, this takes more effort than blowing off class or sitting in the back row checking out Facebook on your laptop. But for a lot of students, showing up and speaking up in the class discussions is easier than writing excellent papers—and consistent attendance and participation will boost your grade. If you help make the class discussions lively and interesting, that teacher is going to have a positive opinion of you even if your writing is not that great. And so what if you haven’t done the reading homework—you can do a little of it right there in class, at least enough to make an interesting contribution to the discussion.
Invest 3 Minutes More for 5x Returns
- One of the most common reasons students get lower grades than they want is that they neglect to do something that, on average, takes 2-3 minutes each time you do it—reading and re-reading the assignment. Whether the assignment you’re working on is taken from a textbook, handed out in class or posted on a course web site, you should read it a few specific times: before you start your essay, after you finish a first draft, and then again once you think you have a final draft. You can save yourself a lot of time by paying attention to all the assignment requirements in the first reading and during your composition process. Why waste energy doing a lot of work that the assignment doesn’t require? Why get a lower grade because you didn’t spend just a few more minutes making sure that your paper had everything the assignment did require?
Proofread as a Gift
- When it comes to writing papers, think about who’s going to be giving you the grade, and think about your prof’s working conditions—now you’re beginning the crucial analysis of your audience. A lot of English profs have tough schedules—four sections of 20-25 students per term, so for each assignment the prof is grading 80-100 papers, spending 15-30 minutes per paper. It’s a lot of work. Not many English teachers will tell you this, but most of them hate this part of the job—it’s lonely and tedious, and correcting hundreds of grammatical errors or slogging through essays with bad organization or garbled sentences can seem like some kind of karmic punishment.
In these conditions, showing that you’ve spent some time proofreading or correcting your grammar—even if you spend only 15 minutes on this—can be an efficient way to elicit gratitude from your teacher. Think about it—the fewer problems your paper has, the less work it is for the teacher to evaluate. And that gratitude takes the form of a higher grade for you. Profs regularly observe that 10-15 minutes of careful proofreading and correction that a student neglected to do could have paid off with a boost of a whole letter grade. You may not catch all the errors, but you’ll certainly catch the more careless ones that drive teachers crazy, and this is a time-efficient way to jack up your grade.