How to Write an A Paper
You read the assignment carefully. You cite your sources perfectly. You stick to the scope of the class. You answer every last question. You submit your essay with pride.
You get a B. You feel, quite rightly, frustrated.
Just what the #@&! do you have to do, you wonder, to get an A?
If you’re like many students, you may decide to take it logically. The other grades are easy enough to quantify.
Basic Grading Scale
- F (fail): You did not do the assignment. There is little sign that you tried.
- D (barely pass): You tried, but you did not do the assignment.
- C (average): You did the assignment.
- B (good): You did the assignment really well.
- A (superior): Uh, looks like this should be “You did the assignment really, really well.”
The problem lies with the word “superior.” As with all the other terms, it is placed in relation to the task. While it’s true that A work is usually superior to the work of other students in the class, that’s not really the point. But A work isn’t just superior to B work; it’s superior to the assignment.
No matter how lovely and full of effort, if the best a paper can do is still limited to the strict instructions of the assignment, then it earns a B.
A work goes above and beyond.
A papers still follow the assignment. Going “above and beyond” while responding to an assignment to write an essay on the influence of global warming on US politics doesn’t include writing it as a haiku instead.
Polar bears all die.
Snowcapped mountains become myths.
I have an ice maker.
No. That’s an F for “did not do the assignment.” An A paper has to do everything a B paper does and more. And because a B paper completely fulfills the assignment, that means the “more” must come from within you.
At some point, A work stops being satisfied with following the directions and takes ownership of the assignment. Like the hitman on the trail of the guys who stole his car and killed his dog, it’s personal.
Let’s go back to the example of global warming’s effect on US politics. After getting to the B level by having an opinion on the topic and supporting it as instructed, your possibilities for A work include the following:
- Supplying (without being told to) a specific example from a recent political debate or hearing to demonstrate your thesis.
- Using (without being told to) a relevant personal experience to show how you saw your thesis in action.
- Using more than the required number of examples or sources to elaborate usefully on your thesis.
- Providing another level of analysis beyond what was asked of you to draw a more nuanced thesis.
See the pattern? You don’t just do more work; you do something with that work to make a better point. And what do you know? We can get a logical progression after all.
You Are Told to Provide Support for Point “Alpha”
- F (fail): You neither make Alpha nor provide good support for it.
- D (barely pass): You make Alpha or provide OK support for it, but you don’t manage to do both.
- C (average): You make Alpha and provide support.
- B (good): You make Alpha very well and provide excellent support.
- A (superior): You provide all the support needed to make Alpha and its logical follow through, Beta.
See? Now it’s easy as pie. Well, to explain.
The rest is up to you.
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