The Grade Experience from A to F


Breath in, count slowly; one, two, three, exhale.

This is more or less the beginning of every scenario when logging in to StudentWeb to check the exam results.

According to common knowledge, motivation is the key to study effectively. Furthermore, intrinsic motivation feeds the need to be knowledgeable and competent, while extrinsic motivation reminds one to keep the eye on the prize: the grades. Regardless of any student’s type of motivation, acquiring large masses of information and the struggle to score high grades each semester is a given.

Let me take you through the alphabet of grades:

A stands for Ace and …Anxiety

A is achievable. There are a few things that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to achieving an A. The long days of studying at the library, the endless hours of writing papers and the efforts done to meet deadlines. The racking of your brain at seminars, waking up early every morning and making it to every lecture. Not to mention the stroke of luck when your favourite topics appear in the exam. We need to appreciate the sacrifices, the stressing and daily fuss. The Anxiety.

B stands for Bravo and… Burnout

B is not an A, yet one cannot stop feeling a winner and being so close to the top of the pyramid of success. B is for Bravo for the constant hard work, the relentless focus, and the occasional burnout, pivotal constituents of the bedrock of academic success. Being a B student is ideal, the more so if you prefer to avoid the constant burnout specific to being an outstanding student.

C stands for Champion and… Competence

Competence is one of the three psychological needs, next to relatedness and autonomy (1)Reeve, J. (2018). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (7th ed.), p.125. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.. One wonders how the exam paper could have been better written to have obtained a B. However, let us be realistic, C calls for a pat on the back as well. Remember, C, like B and A, reflects admirable competence and skills!

D stands for Details and… Depression

Indeed, D also stands for lack of details. Surely one may have strongly wanted to score a C instead of a D. Details matter, although it is not always easy to convey the piles of information from one’s textbooks in a coherent manner. Not to mention the added element of abiding by the rules of academic writing. Just remember that the secret to avoiding discouragement, and implicitly depression, is the practice of writing.

E stands for Enough and … Emotions

One may be met with overwhelming emotions of surprise, sadness, or happiness at the sight of an E. There might even be excessive flooding of tears. The reactions range from: ‘‘Thank goodness I passed’’ to ‘‘wait, what? I barely passed?’’

F is for F*** it! And … Frustration

Grades can mean anxiety, burnout, competence, depression, emotions, frustration and so much more. Good grades come with major sacrifices, but so do bad grades. Just consider all the personal crises, broken hearts and illnesses that are the reasons for bad grades. Not to mention the brain freezes and plain bad luck that can strike during an exam.

Before and after the exam, it helps to speak or write about it, vent to a friend or complain to a pet, and one is likely to also experience Katarsis. We are all in the same boat, or yacht or ship, and if it sinks, make sure to put the life vest on and not stop swimming until you’ve reached the shore! Start again, start over, look ahead! Don’t worry too much for it happens to every single one of us out there!

Remember that you’re only human! Remember that even the wizard boy Harry Potter struggled at Hogwarts in his first years. Harry scored E (exceeds expectations) in most subjects; he even got an O for Outstanding in defence against the dark arts. The question is if he would have obtained these grades without the mockery of Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy throughout the years. Or without the help of studious Hermione who encouraged both Harry and Ron Weasley to stay focused on academic achievement.

Indeed, regardless of anyone’s goals, acquiring intellectual skills and achieving academic success are a major aspect of the student experience. However, don’t be surprised if engaging oneself in social events, doing voluntary work and expanding the circle of friends will prove to be equally rewarding.