Among the many other adjustments I’ve been making with being at Durham, the grading system is one that I think has been the most difficult. As I’ve mentioned before, there are no assignments aside from the essays. In most (of my six) modules, we have one formative essay (which doesn’t count toward the overall grade), one summative essay (which does count toward the overall grade) and then exams at the end of the year, and that’s it. I do however have on sneaky module that slipped in a second formative essay that I just learned about that’s due the day we’re back from winter break–so watch out for those!
This leaves room for a bit of eagerness to see how you’re actually doing when it’s time for feedback regarding your first lot of essays. I won’t lie–if you are participating in the Humanities at all, be prepared to be terrified by what you receive.
In The States
The grading system, I feel at least, is fairly straight forward in the US. Each teacher might have a slight variation of this, but for the most part, you can expect that if you get a percentage in the 90’s, you’ve received some form of A, if you’re in the 80’s, a B–and so on down to the 50’s being a fail.
This is pretty straight forward. You can judge how well you’re doing based on the percentage you get. The end. Done deal.
While you’re graded on a score out of 100, it really does not do you any favors to think of your score as a percentage. You will cry.
I was told that it is unlikely to get in the 70’s on your first essay, so getting something in the 60’s is pretty good. I asked one of my tutors what that might equate to in American grades, and he said a solid B, just to give you an idea of how this works.
The also don’t have your standard letter grading as well. You can receive anything along the line of First-Third-Fail. These all are accompanied with a division by adjectives and numbers–as follows:
- First (70-100)
- 2.i (60-69)
- Very Good
- 2.ii (50-59)
- Third (40-49)
- Very Weak
- Fail (0-39)
- Very Poor
- Extremely Poor
My personal favorite adjectives are for scores 0-19. They seem pretty harsh.
So this grading system, while it freaks me out, is something that must be kept in mind when I first get the shock of seeing my essay scores. When I have them all collected, I’ll share my outcome.
However, some positive things to keep in mind:
- A tutor told me this round of essays, the highest he marked was a 74 out of all 90 of his students
- The same tutor told me that through his entire time as a student, the highest he ever got was an 81 and that was once.
- The first essays don’t count toward the overall grade. They are just practice so you know where to work from.
- When they give you the rubric, it very explicitly states what is required for each adjective, which means you can then use it as a check list.
- After doing some research, I found that a 2.i, as terrifying as it looks, isn’t that bad at all, and that the majority of Masters programs will accept that as a good score.
For me, I still have two more essays to hear back from. An update shortly, and maybe after a few tears as well.