We’re back into it – well and truly – and, with about five weeks until I sit my first exam, I think now’s as good a time as any to take a step back and reflect. The first half of this semester was filled with Big Events – a lot of new experiences – and it’s good to be returning to what has become my norm for this second quarter of the year.
Results have started to come back for all those scary assignments and tests I battled my way through in Week 6. The biggest difference between school and university that I’ve found regarding classes is that you have absolutely no idea how you’re doing in a course until you get some form of result back. There’s no teacher constantly looking over your work, saying, “This is a good point – maybe add this bit in to secure that Excellence.” The only way you’ll get one on one contact with any lecturers/tutors is to go to their office hours, and even then, you might be one among hundreds. There’s nowhere near the same connection – which makes life a bit nerve-wracking if you want to do well, because you’ve got no idea what the situation is.
But! Like I said! I’ve had some results back! I’ll be getting more over the course of the next few weeks, as well as turning in assignments before exam season begins, but these past ten or eleven days have really reminded me how precariously you can stand. (And how subjective things are!)
The results I have got back – thus far – have been, in the grand scheme of things, very good. However, they have led me to realise that, no matter how well one does, the human brain just naturally tends towards the negative. Why didn’t I write down that great thought that I had? Why did I lose out on that other 6%? Why did I spend so long trying to structure my argument instead of just thundering through it? It’s important not to think like that – first of all, because you presumably did your best and shouldn’t beat yourself up about it, and second of all, because there’s nothing you can do to change it now!
Results are a tricky thing, because someone’s always absolutely elated, and someone’s always completely crushed. What feels like a primo mark to one person would break another person’s heart. It’s not even that either has the wrong attitude – it’s just that the whole nature of grading is so subjective. (Especially in competitive degrees, where 2% can make the difference between shrugging dejectedly and dancing in the street.) And then it’s like, do you ask someone what they got? Do you tell people what you got? I can get very Hunger Gamesy when it comes to results so I generally want neither to know nor to divulge – but to each their own! If you want to compare answers with your friends post-test so you can help each other improve, then go for it. (Just make sure it’s after the test! Academic integrity and all that!)
I think it’s important to keep in mind, though, that – no matter what your results are – you now have a vantage point for where you stand academically. And also! It’s one less assessment you have to go through! So, like, win-win.
If you did well – great! Nothing like some positive reinforcement and a chunk of your over-all course grade at a high percentage. If you didn’t do so well – how can you learn from this? Is it your study habits? Is the subject just not where your strengths lie? The university has a wealth of resources that you can find at the click of a button, and your lecturer(s)/tutor(s) are only an email away. Take advantage of these opportunities, because – as my Classics tutor reminded our class the other day – “no one wants you to fail”. At least now you know you’ve gotta knuckle down for exams. (Which you should do anyway!)
At the end of the day, you’re at university to learn. Whether the learning you do is about the gradual abstraction of Duchamp’s sculptural technique or more how to build study habits that work for you will ultimately depend on who you are. But as long as you remember to do your best – and not to make life unnecessarily difficult or unfair for yourself – that’s what matters most in the end. You’ve got this! Go out there and kill it!
(Of all the results we want, homicide is not included.)