Disappointed with my master's grade

(60 Posts)
namechangedgraduate Thu 14-Nov-19 12:30:36

I know I am being very unreasonable posting this, hence why I have name changed and hence why I have come to an anonymous forum rather than tell anyone this in real life. I got my master's grades back yesterday and I am really annoyed at myself for being disappointed when the grades themselves are really good.

I got a distinction overall which I am happy about and all of my modules range from 72-90%. However, I am disappointed in my dissertation grade. The two assignments I submitted in the latter part of my master's got 85% and 90%. Then the final assignment was my dissertation which had a heavy weighting. I got 72% in my dissertation. I feel sad because it is >17% lower than the previous two assignments and that it is only "just' a distinction, it is also my lowest grade of the master's. I spent hours and hours in the lab and writing it up and I just feel like it doesn't show. I am also disappointed as my undergraduate dissertation got 78% and I feel sad my master's dissertation grade is lower.

I want to do on to do a PhD and I just feel disheartened that my research project was my lowest mark. I know I am being ridiculous and 72% is good and I should be happy about it in itself it is just when I consider the mark in context with my previous performance I feel like I have let myself down. I am also frustrated with myself that my response to a distinction has been tainted by my perfectionism and I feel like I cannot celebrate my result as it is tinged with disappointment. I haven't even told my parents yet which is ridiculous as 72% is good.

Sorry, I know this is ridiculous and I am embarrassed to post it but I already feel better haven written this. Like I said, I can't say this in real life as I know I am being ridiculous.

OP’s posts: |
namechangedgraduate Thu 14-Nov-19 12:34:41

I wrote that so fast I don't know why I put "haven written", meant to write "having written". Plus I know 72% is 13% lower than 85%, now 17%. Please excuse the mistakes in my post.

OP’s posts: |
ClapHandsAndSaveTheFairies Thu 14-Nov-19 12:41:36

I could say many different things and hope one of them made you feel better somehow. I'll avoid those ones.

I didn't finish my top up year and only have a foundation degree. But I had intended to do my postgrads, maybe I will some day.

What I will say is that I could rewrite different essays and model my dissertation in more than one way and not one of those would have been wrong (if you see what I mean) but some would just grade better than others. Basically, there's more than one way to skin a cat (?) and if you were to do it again you could easily get different results, but in either direction.

Therefore, let your dissertation sink in. It's very hard to get a dissertation, never mind a 100% perfect one, and you've done fantastically, please be proud of your achievements.

And do the PhD, you'd very obviously be a wonderful doctorate candidate.

kshaw Thu 14-Nov-19 12:46:51

Ok application for a PhD you could be asked for transcripts but as every module is a distinction no one will care. If applying for anything else no one will even ask what your classification is in my experience

Constantlyonthelookout Thu 14-Nov-19 13:17:44

The key academic virtue is persistence and not to identify too strongly as a Clever Person. This because you will constantly experience threats to your core sense of who you are - which gets in the way of getting on with things.

I partly understand because my interim Masters dissertation grade was 85 and it slid to 70 in the final assessment. I hadn't quite pulled off what I wanted to do.

But now, nobody cares, including me.

A number of colleagues weren't stellar at undergrad but mastered the art of applying their backside to their chair and just getting on, regardless of setbacks. They have tended to do better in the longer run than the more mercurial brilliant types. It's a great skill to have.

Some of the best dissertations I have witnessed haven't earned extremely high grades - for example because they were risky, or neglected some basic framing work, or were technically-genius but poorly-presented. I would always prefer to work with and encourage those type of students. On occasion I feel marking is less reliable than we would prefer, because assessors genuinely have different opinions.

Your mark is not a reflection of who you are, or your intelligence. It's just that we live in a weird society which takes them as such.

I hope this helps - it probably doesn't! But if you carry on in research you have many, many more opportunities to come.

namechangedgraduate Thu 14-Nov-19 15:14:26

@ClapHandsAndSaveTheFairies Thank you for your reply, I found it really helpful. I'm feeling a lot better now it is beginning to sink in.

@kshaw I do want to pursue a career in academia so I know I would have to include my full transcript. I just feel a bit down that I only got 72% which is quite an unremarkable grade, whereas before I got very high grades (85%-90%) and the head of my course arranged a meeting with me once to tell me how well I was doing and gave me really positive feedback on my assignments. Now I just feel like I am average.

@Constantlyonthelookout This is so true, thank you for taking the time in replying. The thing is when I started university as an undergraduate, I wanted a 2.1. Then I started to get firsts so wanted a first, then every time I would get a particular grade I would always want to beat it. Like I mentioned in the OP I got 90% during my master's for an assignment and now anything below 80 feels like a failure in my eyes. I definitely am a perfectionist and place too much of my self-worth on trying to be the Perfect Student. I definitely need to learn to value myself in ways other than grades as there is always going to be someone out there better than me.

OP’s posts: |
Awaywiththepiskies Thu 14-Nov-19 18:01:10

I am being very unreasonable posting this

You are.

And rather rude - or passive-aggressive - to do it in this section of MN.

You are questioning the grades given by academics who gave your work very high marks. So you're OK with the people who gave you 85% but disappointed that they gave you "only" 71% for your dissertation.

It's quite normal for people's dissertation to be less successful than shorter essays or reports. You're still learning how to manage an argument over an extended length.

But really, grow up. Perfectionism is a poor excuse for not being mature - contrary to popular opinion, perfectionism is not a "worthy" or "good" trait - it's often an excuse.

Chickydoo Thu 14-Nov-19 18:04:55

Congratulations on your distinction.
You did a great job! Be proud, nobody will care what your actual percentage was. star🍸👩🏼‍🎓

namechangedgraduate Thu 14-Nov-19 19:13:08

@Awaywiththepiskies I completely disagree with you, I have not in any way questioned the grades given to me. I have not questioned the way my work has been marked nor the supervision of my dissertation. The whole post was in relation to MY performance and the quality of my work, not the process and procedure that resulted in the grading of my work. For example, in the OP I wrote "I feel like I have let myself down". I have written absolutely nothing to do with the markers.

I think it is perfectly fine for me to be upset with MI have spoken to, for both master's and undergrad' seems to do better in their dissertations than their taught modules whilst my dissertation is my lowest mark.

"contrary to popular opinion, perfectionism is not a "worthy" or "good" trait" - again, I did not imply perfectionism is some noble attribute to have, it is something that has led me to have quite bad anxiety. In my post I have documented that I am frustrated with my perfectionism - "I am also frustrated with myself that my response to a distinction has been tainted by my perfectionism".

I apologise that you feel like I have been rude and passive aggressive, as I mentioned in the OP I had reservations about posting this but I just had to get it off my chest as I cannot speak to friends in real-life about it who would have been happy to have gotten the grade I have. However, I just disagree completely with the points you have raised. I have nothing but respect for my dissertation supervisor who marked my work as well as the rigorous way that mark is decided upon amongst academics in my department and external examiners. I want to go into academia myself in the future so I am hurt that my post was interpreted so poorly.

OP’s posts: |
namechangedgraduate Thu 14-Nov-19 19:14:40

Sorry my computer keeps messing up paragraphs. The second paragraph of the above post was meant to read:

I think it is perfectly fine for me to be upset. Everyone that I have spoken to, for both master's and undergrad seems to do better in their dissertations than their taught modules whilst my dissertation is my lowest mark.

OP’s posts: |
kshaw Thu 14-Nov-19 19:18:34

There's nothing average about 72% it's a distinction they don't hand them out easily. If you got over 85% in every other module then the average of your masters will be over 72% anyway. No academic will look at your dissertation mark and think you 'only' got 72. The dissertation is meant to be the hardest part of the masters that's why worth so many credits.

Phphion Thu 14-Nov-19 23:33:47

Look, it's fine to be disappointed right now. We can all say that 72% is an excellent dissertation mark and by no means "average". That dissertation marks for hardworking students are usually lower than for shorter assignments. That the different requirements of a Masters dissertation mean that there is more subjectivity in marking. But that won't change the fact that you hoped for better.

But if you hope to become an academic, you are going to have to train yourself to rage and weep and then move on. Academic careers are littered with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. If you let minor disappointments eat away at you, let them define your idea of yourself and your work, then your academic career will be short and unhappy.

Talk to any successful academic, and they will tell you of an article that they slaved over and polished like the finest jewel, and had to submit to three journals before it was accepted. Of the desperate, crushing sadness of rejected grant proposals and the unalloyed joy when they somehow miraculously find their funder.

We've all been in situations when we have wanted to tear up a rejected article, an unsuccessful grant proposal and never write anything ever again. Where we've had to drown out the voice that says "I'm not good enough, other people will always be better than me" with the thought of "next time, next time it will be me".

So by all means, give yourself time and space to feel and process your disappointment. Eat cake and get hammered on gin cocktails if it helps. Then reflect objectively on what has happened, take what learning you can from it and set it aside. You have so much more to do.

Pota2 Fri 15-Nov-19 05:55:05

Yeah, I’m really sorry for lack of sympathetic reply but, yes, you are being ridiculous. I think the problem is the tendency in some disciplines to inflate grades and give out marks in the 80s and even 90s. If you got one mark in the 80s, that would be exceptional but because you are consistently getting them, you now think that a 72 is a poor mark.

I suggest you sit down and read the marking criteria for a distinction and maybe that will help you.

Pota2 Fri 15-Nov-19 06:04:36

Also, you will need a significantly thicker skin if you’re doing a PhD. I don’t know what subject you’re planning on doing it in but prepare for your work to be ripped to shreds, although hopefully in a nice way. Masters dissertations, even with distinctions, are a world away from publishable doctoral work. If you’re getting upset because your distinction wasn’t high enough, you need to change the mindset.

And as I said before, much of this is due to a push on academics to use the full range of marks. I can guarantee you that 15 years ago, you would not have gotten 90 for anything and I seriously doubt you would have received a string of 80s either. Not all academics are equally comfortable about marking out of the 70s so it could just be that you got someone who was a harsh marker.

As for embarrassment about your transcript, you need to get a grip. Sounds harsh, but if you want a career in academia, you will get far harsher advice. Try getting peer reviewer comments back on the article you slaved over that tell you that your work is boring, lacks depth and suggests lack of subject expertise. Then start telling us about your disappointing distinction.

Zero79me Fri 15-Nov-19 06:09:22

@op i really get it, but you will be ok!

@Constantlyonthelookout i absolutely loved your post, so true. Thank you! I have screenshot it to read when i have a wobble flowers

SoniasTrumpet Fri 15-Nov-19 06:11:42

Easy there piskies.

That said I'd be over the moon with a 72%. Sadly effort and outcome are sometimes unrelated. I'm awaiting a Master's grade today and dreading it. I have no idea how I'll do.

Soontobe60 Fri 15-Nov-19 06:27:11

OP, it's not the end of the world.
I loathe the 'I've let myself down' point of view. No, you really haven't. Either you haven't put enough effort in to achieve a higher mark, or you're not actually capable of doing so.
I'm a bit of a perfectionist too. When I completed my Masters a couple of years ago, I knew what grade I was aiming for, which was definitely not top marks! I was working full time, completing a Masters 30 years after completing my degree, and not in the best I felt health. For me, perfection was being able to get a reasonable pass mark. Not about getting top marks. At that time, I knew too many compromises would have to be made to achieve that! In the end I achieved what I set out to do. For me, that was perfection.
Your post will irritate many people as it sounds very much like you're fishing for complements, a bit like when a slimmperson moans to her friends about piling on weight, when whatbthey really are looking for is those friends to tell her how wonderfully slim she is, how they wish they had her figure etc etc etc.

HeronLanyon Fri 15-Nov-19 06:33:50

Was your dissertation result accompanied by feedback setting out reasons for marks under each criteria? Many do. Some only provide feedback to those who fail.
If you have feedback take it on board - it will tell you exactly why your distinction was strong but could also have been better.
Well done. If you are planning to do a PhD it remains centrally important not just to know you are academically ‘strong’, which you clearly do, but also to be accepting of areas where you need to improve !

fromthefloorboardsup Fri 15-Nov-19 06:34:53

That's interesting @Pota2 I was reading this thinking I'm sure we weren't able to get much above 75% when I did my degrees. Good to know it wasn't just harsh markers on my course! grin

kristallen Fri 15-Nov-19 06:40:38

I totally get it OP. I'm like you and my most recent mark wasn't a distinction - but not far off. Felt extremely bad, let myself down etc. But in my experience of failing to totally overcome this (and thankfully I don't want to be an academic!) I just let myself feel shit, but remind myself that much worse could have happened - and at least I'll never have to do that exact same piece of work again, so it's gone in a way. As time goes on, I get better at this (but getting a much lower than usual mark did take me longer to come around from!).

I was looking forward to being out of this for masters though because I thought they didn't give grades, just pass or fail! Seems I'll have longer to "practice"!

And also amazed at a brick uni giving the full range of marks. I'm at the OU now and they do but their marking scheme is different (85% for distinction). First time around, getting 70% was almost unheard of, never mind in the 80s! 90% may as well not have existed.

Anyway, moan, feel bad, do something to take your mind completely off it then look again in a few days. You got a distinction for your masters - including for your dissertation. That's the take home here.

Beveren Fri 15-Nov-19 07:06:50

You are questioning the grades given by academics who gave your work very high marks

There's absolutely nothing in OP's posts which remotely suggests that she is questioning her grades. Yet again lack of basic comprehension skills is being used on MN for a wholly gratuitous attack. It's so tedious.

helpmum2003 Fri 15-Nov-19 07:15:59

You've done brilliantly OP.

You are clearly a perfectionist, which is good in many ways but you should maybe try to be aware that it can also be a negative thing as in this scenario.

doublebarrellednurse Fri 15-Nov-19 07:44:55

There is very little that is ever good about perfectionism. It's an incredibly negative trait actually and something I would consider working very hard on before you start a PhD as it'll likely cause you a breakdown.

If you're not coping with achieving a distinction at masters level then you need to reflect very carefully about whether you can manage the kind of extensive critique you'll receive during a PhD and its outcomes.

Disappointment is one thing, feeling you could have done better, however to take the time to write a lengthy post online and express ongoing disappointment of a DISTINCTION at masters is pushing unhealthy levels of rumination.

Dissertation was my lowest mark at both academic stages. They are difficult and require a specific set of skills. I still achieved a first at undergrad and am on course for a distinction at masters.

Maybe trying looking at it from a different perspective. How would your partner or best friend talk to you about it? Your parents? Your dog?

Reality check - you can't change it now and ruminating on it is going to do nothing to help you in any way

Nearlyalmost50 Fri 15-Nov-19 08:48:22

Dissertation marks are often lower than the top students expect- as someone said, to get 80+ at distinction, it would have to be approaching publishable standard, really exceptional. It's harder to do that in a sustained 10,000 word piece than a short 2500 one. We have only started marking above about 75/78 in our social science dep't in the past five years. Many of our markers are still reluctant to use above that. I will- but only for outstanding work. This was very very good (72) but not outstanding.

You cannot be outstanding all the time, it's that simple. I'm an academic at a RG uni, I'm not outstanding all the time and neither are you.

I have felt that pang of disappointment when the marker didn't quite 'get' that piece, or a paper is rejected within a day from a top journal, r my large grant nearly makes it through and is not given at the last moment. It does sting, but rejection and not always being top is absolutely part of academic life, and your PhD will be similar, so lick your wounds for a day, eat some chocolate, and carry on.

Neolara Fri 15-Nov-19 08:56:31

I think what's going to be most helpful is to see it as an opportunity to think about what specifically you would have needed to do differently to get a higher mark. Then apply this knowledge to your potential PhD. Just think of it as great feedback that ultimately will help you achieve your long term goal.

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