Grades were released for the BA English last week. As you can imagine, the event generated some excitement in our student chat areas. For yours truly, it is an enormous relief to have the marks and know where I stand, so to speak. For me, this was a challenging year with greater work and study responsibilities than ever before. Revising for exams was a worrying time, managing professional projects and trying to have some kind of personal balance. This year, like other years, the link to grades arrived in my inbox just at the time I settled my thoughts about each course and started thinking realistically about the exam. I like that process because self-assessment is an important part of our study skills in distance learning, and because it is an excellent validation of some complex thoughts and feelings.
Finally, there is no more suspense – I passed all the courses and got the marks I expected after considering my essays. I was worried about marks this year because my work schedule was so heavy during exams and the course material was sometimes quite difficult. One course was particularly hard because of the wide range of material, most of which I just plain did not enjoy. It was my first exam and my lowest grade.
Working 40-hour work weeks while sitting four exams is exhausting. Oddly enough, my grades got higher with each exam, even though my energy level sank. Happily, I earned some of my highest ever grades on the last two exams. The revising and preparation methods adopted for this year are clearly ‘keepers’ for the many scenarios where they are applicable.
My second exam mark was on the high side of my average range, so that was good news too. The first paper was the most difficult for me, and it was for a course where I found the reading difficult and not very enjoyable. Still, my grade was decent although the lowest mark of my exams. The course was really challenging, but I learned so much that I am definitely glad about the experience. Now that there has been time to think on it, choosing to discuss modernist influence with respect to contemporary American theater did not sufficiently engage with rubric of the question. I realize now that I was under prepared for the exam and chose the wrong material for that question. Despite earning a mark lower than my usual grades, I am really, really pleased with what I learned.
More successful essays included topics I read and researched for some time, like structural irony in Jane Austen, how authors’ narrative strategies achieve certain effects on the reader. For me, there is nothing as exciting as narration and close reading. Working at the level of language is very stimulating and something I always think I should do more of with every text. It is absolutely fascinating which, as you might think, is a very helpful attitude for a literature major.
I did not join the program with that attitude – just with an idea that I wanted to read widely, learn something about writing, and earn a credential that benchmarks those achievements. What I discovered and developed is a deep interest in literature and expression, a love of research and detail, and an appreciation for how we are immersed in an ocean of language and rhetoric.
Studying in this program has been so rewarding that I am upset to the point of tears about completing the course. It is wonderful to think that, even in the course where I earned my lowest ever mark, and that was so difficult for me, I learned an incredible amount about literature, how I work, and contemporary social issues in America. Now that the wait for grades is over, the wait for the treasured examiners’ reports begins along with some contemplation about what possibilities might follow this amazing experience.
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. She lives in Pittsburgh in the United States.