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5 ways to get over *that* bad mark

September 18, 2018

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It’s bound to happen at least once in your degree (even if you have an HD average). You put hours and hours of effort into your assignment only to get it back and see that you’ve just scraped a pass. Your heart sinks. You don’t understand why they’d critique the genius that is your work. Then you think that maybe you are the genius and they just don’t get it. You feel a bit like this:

 

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Although it may seem like you'll never get over your bad mark, it is possible and there is light at the end of the tunnel that is your administrative law subject. There are surprisingly many parallels between getting over a bad mark and a relationship breakdown.

 

1. Reflect on your mark

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Our natural instinct when our work is criticised is to get defensive. My Federal Constitutional Law professor told us about a student who had sent him an angry email immediately after they had received their mark, before sending him an apology email the next day. Don’t be that person because you sound like a jilted ex-lover. Take some time to reflect on your mark and then decide whether you still want to contact your lecturer/marker. Maybe you had other things going on at the time, maybe you had misunderstood the amount of time you’d need to spend on the assignment or the amount of research you would have to do. Whatever it is, just take some time to think about your mark.

 

2. Read the feedback

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Read the feedback that’s available and where you sat on the marking rubric. Take the time to read and re-read your assignment a couple of times and then read it again against the feedback. Don’t just look at the mark and throw the assignment away - pinpoint exactly where you lost marks and work on improving in those areas. For example, it could be that you need to work on your critical writing skills, the depth of your research, time management during exams or acknowledging weaknesses in your argument. Whatever it is, seek out resources that can help you improve in these areas - maybe you can view past examples of essays, tackle more problem questions under exam conditions or speak to librarians about legal research tips. 

 

3. Create a study plan

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Create a study plan for the rest of semester or for next semester. It’s easy to be dissuaded by a bad mark and lose motivation but creating a study plan that you can stick to will mean you can plan out your study days/times in advance. Creating a study plan helps you to figure out if there’s any weekends where you’ll be particularly busy so you can make up your study throughout the week. When any busy periods in your social life or exam period comes around, you’ll be less overwhelmed this way and you’ll be glad you had planned this out in advance.

 

4. Form a study group

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Form a study group. If there's any concepts or legal principles you're not clear on, it's helpful to discuss it with your study buddies. Perhaps your lecturer went over a concept really quickly and you didn't understand it. Whatever it is, your study buddies can hopefully help you, or if they're also not clear, you can all work through it together. Going through problem questions together means you get different perspectives - they may come up with a possible answer you missed or notice something in the facts that you did not pick up on. 

 

5. Your mark does not reflect your abilities

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If you feel demotivated by your contracts law mark, it does not necessarily mean that you’re not good at contract law. You may find that you actually excel in a contracts law moot. Assessments can only test us on particular topics within the subject and only in a particular way - you may not do well in exams but you find that you’re actually much better at oral assessments. Unless you have a course coordinator who somehow manages to squeeze every topic into a problem question, chances are most of the topics are not examined. Takeaway point: doing bad in a subject is not reflective of your capabilities in that area of law. 

 

Getting over a bad mark is hard. We know this and we know it’s especially hard as law students are notorious for being perfectionists and hard on ourselves. Employers care more than just about your mark and fail marks can always be explained. You might be fretting over a bad mark - but it could also be worth only 20% of your overall grade for the subject. Focus on improving in the other 80%. Remember that it’s not the end of the world - every mark is improvable. 

 

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