How to get good grades

This page introduces a method that maximises the chances of doing well in graded work.


You have a much better chance of getting good grades in your assignments and tests if you follow the UDS method:

  • Understand what you have to do - exactly
  • Do what you have to do - exactly
  • Show that you have done what you had to do - clearly

Understand what you have to do

When the teacher writes the homework on the board, copy it carefully into your notebook or planner. The teacher will normally say something to explain further what to do.

In this case, you should write notes in English or, better still, in your own language to make it clear to yourself what is needed. Make sure you know the due date.

If you don't understand the homework fully after the teacher has explained it, here is what you can do:

  • ask the teacher to explain again, either during or after the lesson
  • ask a fellow student to explain after the lesson
  • ask your ESL teacher later *

* ESL teachers are always ready to help if they can. But often it will not be clear, just from the words you have written in your planner, what you have to do. And you may have to wait until the ESL teacher has a chance to speak to the subject teacher.

Remember: @ Your teachers have a duty to make sure you understand exactly what they want, and you have a right to ask if you do not. ~

Do what you have to do

This is clear. If your teacher wants three pages of double-spaced computer writing at 12pt Times New Roman, then this is what you must do.

If your teacher wants you to give a 5-10 minute presentation about the causes of an environmental problem, then you cannot expect a good grade for a three minute presentation mainly about the effects of an environmental problem.

Remember: Do exactly what your teacher wants - and do it on time.

@@ If you don't think you will be able to finish by the due date, tell your teacher. ~~ You may be told to give in what you have done on the due date. Or you might be given more time.

Show that you have done what you had to do

Your teachers are busy people! Make it easy for them to see that you have done what they asked for. Here are some suggestions to use where appropriate:

  • make sure your name is on your work
  • write the title
  • organize long text into paragraphs*
  • use sub-titles
  • write clear topic sentences (advice from the BBC)
  • label pictures and diagrams
  • use a ruler to draw lines

Note: Many writing tasks need short answers, a single paragraph or even a single sentence. Here is some advice on writing short answers .

Remember: Not only are teachers busy, but they are also people! They will have a positive feeling about your work if you:

  • take a little care to present the work neatly
  • make it easy for them to see that you have done what they asked you to do.

An example of UDS in action

Here is a page that has an example of how to improve work with the UDS method .