Dealing with unexpected grades


By Aisling Duignan-Murphy, Third Year, Psychology

The Croft Magazine // What makes for an 'undesirable grade' will differ from person to person, yet we all end up feeling a collection of similar emotions; including anger, sadness and disappointment.

However, the most overwhelming feeling is likely to be confusion, especially if you have worked hard and know the topic well. So why haven't you got the grade you wanted?

Often the answer to this question is not simple. Reasons can be as wide-ranging as being new to university or being new to a specific module, However, one of the biggest problems for new students – and older students too – is reconciling with university grading systems.

After having likely achieved high grades at school, it might seem a bit absurd that 70/100 is a pretty amazing – and hard to attain – grade.

As a result, university grading systems are a bit of a shock to the system for most students, meaning that the large majority will not do particularly well at first. If this happens to be the case with you, don’t let it get you down as you are not alone and there are lots of solutions!

The university grading system can be a shock to the system | Unsplash / Tim Gouw

But before this, you should give yourself time to feel however you do upon getting a disappointing grade. It is ok to panic and worry that it is the end of the world, but I promise it really isn’t and putting more pressure on yourself will not help you in the future. Whereas, planning for next time will help to assuage any panic or negative feelings.

So, onto some practical solutions:

1)     Reread your work and any feedback given. Try not to feel personally attacked by this, as your tutors want you to do well!

2)     Read the marking scale/scheme for your course to ensure that you understand what you are being assessed on. For example, higher marks are often awarded for original ideas!

3)     Ensure that you’ve read through any exemplar work. This can usually be found on blackboard, ask your lecturer if you can't find any. Note down anything that stands out to you as being good.

4)     Talk to friends on your course and look at their work. Even if someone only got one mark more than you, you can learn a lot from this.

5)     Seek out a writing fellow (someone who can help you with the clarity of your writing).

6)     Remind yourself that you won’t get everything perfect on the first try, and that is beyond ok. Academic staff will want to support you. You only need to ask – they’re less scary than they seem, trust me.

7)     Consider that you’re being marked on the same scale as your professors who have studied the discipline for years, so if anything, be proud of your grade!

Unsplash / Element5 Digital

And after all of this remember that one disappointing grade is not going to ruin your entire academic run at university. No grade, whether it's for your first ever essay at university or your dissertation in final year, will define the rest of your life. There are plenty of great graduate schemes and jobs which do not require a 2:1 or a first!

Finally, remember to always put your mental health first. Many people will suffer in silence because they feel embarrassed or anxious about a grade they are unhappy with, but keeping it locked up won’t help. If you ever experience any mental health needs as a result of a grade, please talk to your academic tutors, a wellbeing advisor, friends or even me!

My dad once gave me a great piece of advice: no choice that you make at the age of nineteen is going to follow you forever. Believe me, in a year's time you'll look back in your 'disappointing' grade and how much it hurt to get it and you'll hardly even remember what that was like because, honestly, no grade is forever.

All of the university resources are accessible here.

Featured image: Epigram / Rosie Angel-Clark

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