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Argggghh helpppp (MSc handholding)

(11 Posts)
AnUnearthlyChild Sun 01-Dec-13 21:25:46

Name changing regular. This makes me a bit identifiable.

So I started on a distance learning project management MSc. this is my first semester. Exam In less than 2 weeks.

I've completed all my tutorials as I've gone along and emailed them to my tutor. The feed back I have got all along was 'this is ok' or similar one line answers, all saying my work was ok. I prodded and prodded for more detail and eventually complained about lack of specific feedback via the feedback questionnaire I was sent.

So tonight, 11 days before the exam he finally returns my practice paper.
Fucking fail/ borderline pass. 4 essay type questions. I have studied sciences all along. I haven't done essay questions since GCSE, 22 years ago.

I'm just not getting it at all I seem to be missing the point even before I start answering.
I bloody know the subject, I do it all day at work ffs. But my answers aren't what he wants.

I'm redoing them all now taking on board his suggestions, but I'm furious, and shitting myself.
I work full time, have a small child and have pretty much no leave left. I just don't have time to cram, that's why I was doing it as I went along.

Wtf do I do

And can anyone give me some pointers for essay questions.

likelytoasksillyquestions Tue 03-Dec-13 11:42:18

I'm not going to be much use, but I wanted to bump this in the hope someone more useful might see it. sad How unhelpful your tutor sounds.

Apols if this is too simplistic - I've been an essay person ever since my GCSEs so I'm not sure how to pitch it iyswim - but it sounds like you definitely know the answers so it is probably just a question of structure?

Intro - expand on the question in a rambly sort of way, even if it's (in your opinion) a stupid question give some idea of why it's an important question to be asking. Define any terms in the question - eg the MSc question I'm currently working on asks about the effectiveness of a certain policy measure, so before I even answer that question I've discussed what the policy means/entails and how we define 'effective' in relation to it.

Main body - ramble ramble, make reference to key contributions, but don't just summarise, critically assess them, in relation to the question. In an exam I'd generally go for a point a paragraph, think about making it as easy as possible on the marker!

Conclusion - I find it helpful to flag this, again on the grounds that markers tend to appreciate their lives being made easy, so I begin it "in conclusion", or whatever. State your key points in relation to the question without expanding upon them.

Other thoughts on essay-based exams to someone who hasn't done them for a while - split your time accordingly, ie equal time for each essay assuming they're equally weighted for marks. Factor in at least 5 mins to plan before you start writing - I would ordinarily actually write this plan on the answer paper. Knowing how I'm going to conclude and who/what I'm going to reference at what point keeps me focused.

You don't say what his feedback is, but I'm guessing that since this is what you do professionally it's not a case of lack of knowledge, more an issue with effectively communicating it? So although you must feel incredibly stressed, I don't think that it's about a need to cram anyway. Sorry, I hope someone else can be more helpful than me. Good luck!

Salbertina Tue 03-Dec-13 20:40:07

Is it "academic" enough?? By which i mean maybe your every day experience is overly influencing what should be an academic exercise to develop a fully researched & referenced paper (Harvard method, probably?).

Are you briefly defining then evaluating, not describing, key concepts/theories??

Are you applying these in a clearly referenced way to a practical situation?

Are you developing and referencing arguments?

Are you drawing logical conclusions based on the above?

No idea if this helps, hope so. In the business arena, warwick business school have an excellent website with some v useful guidance on academic writing at masters level.

Salbertina Tue 03-Dec-13 20:49:18

Sorry saw you're exam-focussed currently so what I said about research & referencing much less applicable. What is it, case-study? Open book ???

The other thing to say is you may be doing just fine despite not excelling currently, you ARE passing! I too found it galling to be getting mediocre marks at times because i just had nothing left to give - up 2x a night with baby, dh away all the time and full-on job, whereas the non-mums on the course did fine with far less sweat which would have been me on adequate sleep/energy levels! But i DID get through and the individual marks really don't matter at all now. I know how goddam hard i worked at the time and am proud, you should be too!

AnUnearthlyChild Tue 03-Dec-13 21:10:41

Thank you all, most helpful

Just scoffing some sustenance before a study session, but ill reply later

Thanks so much for replying

NK5BM3 Tue 03-Dec-13 21:16:47

Am an academic in an essay writing type area.
You need to be less descriptive and more critical/evaluative.

So, saying there are 3 theories of x and going into them one by one describing them will not help. You need to talk about how different the 3 are. Eg theory one considers x, theory two considers y, theory z considers x and y together. Have evidence. Not just 'in my company this happened... You need to demonstrate knowledge and understanding... So reference an example in a paper or something you read in the financial times or something like that.

Evaluate the differences. And critique them.

In your conclusions don't say anything new. Just repeat how you have demonstrated in the last 3-4 pages that you have addressed the issues.

AnUnearthlyChild Tue 03-Dec-13 21:58:32


likley that sounds helpful, I shall try and put that into practice

salbertina it is closed book exam.
I have written lab reports, design essays and essay sections for design projects at undergraduate level, all Harvard referenced.and in an 'academic' style, ant I have always scored 2.1 or above. But all unfortunately statements of fact or arguing a case for a proposed design.

It is interesting that two of you say I might be putting in too much of my own knowledge, the tutor is actively asking for details of my experience: eg he has encouraged the kind of answers that read 'on x project, we used y method which led to z result'. Along with a critique of y method and the expected results. I'm struggling i think because no one has ever asked for my opinion on methods in exams, just statements of scientific fact.

I am pulling in lots of extraneous knowledge about other projects, I do have a good memory for case studies, fortunately. And it was the answer that compared the Humber Bridge With the Channel tunnel and a motorway scheme that got the lowest score because it 'wasn't what the question was asking' I think I need to work on my comprehension skills, because that question seemed to be asking one thing, but he said it was clear that it was asking for something else.

I think I do have an issue with evaluating. So I can work on that.

NK thanks for your advice too, very useful.

Thanks all. I feel more positive.

AnUnearthlyChild Tue 03-Dec-13 22:07:48

I've dug the question out, if anyone can help me plan out how to answer this kind of question I'd be dead grateful.

'Much academic work has been done on identifying and rectifying the problems of Project brief Discuss some of the problems relating to the briefing process.

Now I opened by mentioning the specifics of what a well known author ( referenced) considered the 5 biggest problems were. I wrote a few lines about specific projects where the problem had been known to occur, then mentioned some well known authors suggested solutions.

I lost a lot of marks because he said I was wasting time on the solutions and the question hasn't asked for solutions,only problems.

Any ideas please?

NK5BM3 Tue 03-Dec-13 22:50:06

I would say that you've not answered the qn then. It was asking you to discuss the problems not the solutions.

So it could be the context of the problem, communication of the problem, complexity of the problem, skills of the project team members, resources, time,,.. Which are the problems. Not the solutions.

AnUnearthlyChild Tue 03-Dec-13 23:37:09

Thanks NK

I'm going to have to curb my tendency to go at a question like an excited puppy. I read the bit about rectifying problems and thought why mention it in the question if you don't want that in the answer? Should have slowed down to think.

The most basic advice ever. RTFQ smile

Everyone's been really helpful. Plus I have had some more positive feedback from tutor today. I shall take everyone's comments on board and keep pushing on.


AnUnearthlyChild Wed 05-Feb-14 20:31:46

Just popping back to say thanks for all your help.

Got the exam results back this week.

Passed! Grade A

Thanks folks. Couldn't have done it without the advice I got here. smile

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