Friday, 2 July 2010

Marks, Grades - So What?

At present I'm waiting to hear what my children have got for their respective courses. Both are teetering on the grade boundary between the top mark and the next down. I am desperate for them to get the top grades. I'm their mother!

I'm their mother, that's why I care. And it will matter to them. The top grade will be a source of confidence in the future or the lower grade will persistently niggle as they came so close. BUT NO ONE ELSE WILL CARE.

No one has ever asked what A levels I got, what degree class I have, whether I got a pass or distinction for my MA. It's never been relevant. And I've been working in an academic environment for the past eight years, where you'd think someone might, one day in passing, ask. But no.

The same is even more true for Creative Writing courses. All anyone cares about in the real world is the writing. I didn't get a distinction for my MA in Creative Writing, but that didn't stop me getting published while those who did get distinctions languish on the slush pile. When I did my MA I was truly amazed that some of my fellow students cared what mark they got, and cared to the point of asking to find out what others had got, and then complained if they thought they were 'better'. (And if this is you, take it from me, class performance does not necessarily predict the quality of assignments submitted.)

It's not maths, or physics, where there are absolute answers: 2 + 2 = 4, and all that. It's all opinion, and may have no relevance to the real world at all. I mark according to nearness to publication quality a piece may be. A short story I give a high mark to I'd expect to see in a competition short list. I could be wrong. I like to think that I'm quite consistent at marking relative to other work I've seen in the past and my wobbles are over giving a 54 or a 55, rather than deciding between 54 or 64. That distinction is always clear.

But if you're currently waiting for a grade, congratulations if it's high, commiserations if it's low, but above all remember it is completely irrelevant to anyone other than you. And your mum.

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