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Many of you have been accustomed to receiving extremely detailed feedback on your GCSE and A-Level work, with regular, clear targets for improvement and reference to assessment criteria and examples of writing at different levels. You may also be used to receiving a grade or mark for each piece of work. However, feedback at university can vary in form and frequency; the expectation is that you will begin to take more responsibility for identifying your own development needs. The pace of teaching is also much faster, often with more focus on content than more general writing and study skills.

Don't be surprised if some supervisors do not grade your work at first; this is normal during the initial transition period, during which you adapt to university life and its academic expectations. The most important things are that you:

  • request and receive specific detailed feedback on your work
  • ensure you understand this feedback
  • act upon the feedback that you receive to improve future writing

This resource will help you establish, if necessary, a dialogue about feedback with your supervisors and to learn how to identify independently how you can improve your written work.

The feedback process

What kind of feedback have you become accustomed to? At school or college you may have come to value feedback in written form most highly, perhaps accompanied by a grade or mark. At university, especially within the supervision system, discussion also forms a major part of the feedback process. Your supervisors might plan a supervision around work previously handed in; or they might spend five minutes discussing your essay accompanied by brief written comments. It is up to you to make notes about what is said if necessary and to pick out what is relevant to your development. If you are unsure about how to interpret feedback, or how to act on it, ASK your supervisor at the time. If the dialogue is one-way, it will be much more difficult for you to know how to improve your work.

Different supervisors may offer feedback in contrasting ways for you to interpret; ask your Director of Studies for advice if you are uncertain.