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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Structure in writing is very important. And I think students that do well are those that have some idea, some plan of what it is that they want to do. I think the kind of structure that is required of an A level essay is very, very different to the structure that’s required of an university essay. In particular, I think that A level what the reader wants to see is what the student knows. Whereas at university, we want to see what the student thinks. Structure in the writing can be problematic for some students particularly if they’ve come from an A level background, for example, where there is only short answer questions to deal with.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds Some students find it quite odd that there are essays to write in biology subjects. Quite often before they come to university, they are working to a preset formula about how to structure the essay. Without the scaffolding support that teachers have given them in writing at school they sometimes struggle. Part of the skills that we need to try and teach is how to diversify their structure, and sort of apply different structures to different situations. When you’re writing an essay, if you think an idea is a little bit quirky or a little bit strange, but actually you do a bit of reading, and you realise it’s got something to it, have the confidence to go with it.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 seconds Because every essay, in many respects, is the student’s opinion, it’s the student’s appreciation and judgement on the problem they’ve tackled. It’s a really common for me to have a student to come in and talk over an essay where they maybe haven’t done as well as they’ve hoped. And I say to them, you know it’s interesting about your essay is that you’ve spent most of it talking about what other people have to say on this topic. And then here in this paragraph you’ve got a sentence that says perhaps, it says something very interesting but then moves on. And what it tells me is that that student does not have the confidence to recognise when they’ve got a good idea.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds The principal change at university from their experience beforehand is there were lots of different ways of approaching tasks like that.

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Preparing for University

UEA (University of East Anglia)

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