In university, professors often delegate marking to the teaching assistants. Having been a TA myself, I’ve experienced the frustration of students when they complain about their marks. Most students believe that their self-perceived “grand idea” should receive a high mark. Yet when reality hits with an unexpectedly low mark, they complain to the professor. But in most cases, the professor will back up their TA . So how can you reduce the chances for a bad mark from your TA?
1. Understand Your TA
Attend a couple of office hours to talk to your TA and understand your TA’s background. For instance, I once had a TA for a business course who was a statistics major. So he expected us to do more number crunching than writing, whereas my friend’s TA was just the opposite. So ask your TA exactly what it is that they are looking for, but make sure you are polite and respectful about it. Instead of asking “How much grade will you give for this idea?”, ask questions such as “What do you think of this idea?” This way, your TA will have a good impression of both you and your project, which would greatly help with your mark in the long-run.
2. Don’t Stalk Your TA
Once in a while, I’ll meet a student who is so keen on getting a good mark that they will literally follow me around. I definitely do not recommend this, because it won’t get you anywhere other than a black eye. Instead of stalking your TA, just send an email when you’re unsure of something. This way, you can keep a record of your conversation in case you need to discuss the marking afterwards.
3. Organize Your Writing
Anyone likes an easy-to-follow read. When you are submitting a piece of writing, make your TA’s life a little easier by organizing your ideas into central themes. Whenever possible, include a Table of Contents so it’s easy for your TA to flip to different parts of the report. Also, make sure you condense the details. Your TA would rather read a 10-page report over an instruction manual.
4. Good Writing = Brownie Points
You would not believe how poorly students write in university. Run-on sentences, grammar mistakes, improper citations are just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes it’s literally deciphering a new language. Make sure you proofread your writing (and ask a friend to do it too) a couple of times before submitting. Also, formatting is important – follow the report guideline and double-space your work so it’s easy for the TA to add comments.
Remember, teaching assistants are people too. Make them happy so they can make your grades much more enjoyable to receive.