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We Grant You A Retroactive Honorary “A”

, , , , , , | Learning | March 24, 2022

As a student, I mostly kept to myself; I wasn’t one of those who go out of their way to befriend the lecturers and tutors, but I typically did very well for myself. However, there is one major assignment that sticks out in my memory.

At the start of our year, we were told that the structure of the course had been changed. Previously, it had been composed of three assignments and an end-of-term exam; it now consisted of one case study and the exam with a 50/50 weighting toward your total mark.

Young me decided that this meant that they wanted you to use the case study as a “springboard” to discuss the subject more widely with only loose reference to the example. In retrospect, I wish that I’d discussed this with my tutor because it turned out that, no, they actually did want a detailed discussion of that specific topic. However, I know that at least some of the faculty agreed with my interpretation because of how the marks were handed out.

I was unlucky enough to have been selected for double marking: my paper was graded and then re-graded by a second member of the team. I know this because when I was given the form with my grade breakdown and comments, I could see that the original marks written in pencil had been rubbed out but were still clearly visible, and the original comments were still there in pen. I had been given an original mark in the high eighties (an A by UK university standards) and the new mark was exactly 50%, the lowest possible pass.

As you can imagine, I was a bit upset, and I went to speak to the head of the course.

Me: “Hi, I’d like to appeal my mark.”

Course Lead: “So would everyone else who did poorly. I am afraid that the marks stand.”

Me: “Yes, but I think something very odd has gone on with my grading, and clearly, there’s been some difference of opinion between the markers because I’ve gone from an A to the minimum pass!”

The course lead glanced at my paper.

Course Lead: “Ah, yes, I remember this one. You were too generic and didn’t discuss the case study in enough detail. The mark stands.”

Me: “Hold on. I accept that I purposefully only referred loosely to the case study, and if that was my mistake, then fine, but some of the breakdown doesn’t make sense against the marks. Look at this one on my research and bibliography; the comment says, ‘The breadth and scope of your research are impressive and have been well utilised throughout your paper, well done!’ My original mark on this criteria was nine out of ten, but it’s been changed to two out of ten with no justification or comment! How does a grade of two out of ten make sense when I’ve literally been congratulated on how well researched the paper is? Someone has just slashed every mark I got in every category without explanation.”

Course Lead: “Hmmm… Well, okay. You can have your original mark in that one section back but nothing else.”

Me: “Well, given that you’ve reduced my overall grade by over 30% and multiple levels, that still seems unfair. Could I get a third person to look at it?”

Course Lead: “No! Don’t be ridiculous. We don’t have the time or resources for that.”

Me: “Well, okay. If you had taken 1% more off, I’d have failed and would have had the opportunity to resubmit, wouldn’t I?”

Course Lead: “Well, yes.”

Me: “Okay, then. Can you please do that so I can rewrite it, then?”

Course Lead: “No! You can’t appeal to fail!”

Me: “Even your own team had a big difference of opinion on how to approach this. Even if I had spoken to someone, there’s no guarantee I’d have gotten the right information. But fair enough. I didn’t and misunderstood the requirements. It just seems that, under the circumstances, the fair thing to do, given how much I’ve been marked down, would be to give me a chance to do it over.”

Course Lead: “No, that is ridiculous and I won’t discuss this further. You can have an uplift of 7% for your research, but that’s it.”

After that, they gathered up their papers, turned around, and walked off before I could say anything else. Fortunately, I passed the exam well enough to bring up my aggregate grade a bit, but this class still gave me the lowest mark for the year. As I passed overall and was a bit scared of reprisals, I never appealed this any higher, but I think I was fairly scathing in my course review.

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