Apr 052009

You don’t get to know the rules; deal with it.

For most of my academic life, I had some idea of what the grading policy would be for my work-I always lost all the penmanship points, but got most of the rest of them. You could, of course, use this to game the system-you’d get to know your lecturers, what they liked or didn’t, and you knew what to focus on.

The Oxford system, like life, is much more complicated and difficult to navigate. To start with, we had to tread a fine line between business writing and academic writing. Secondly, your papers are all double-blind double-marked. You hand them in at the exams schools with only a number on them, and you receive them back, without comments, with only a mark on them. You had to read others’ papers and intuit what you may have done wrong. Third, you didn’t get to know who marked them, so you couldn’t ask. The lack of a grading scale meant that it was that much harder to deconstruct what you didn’t know.

Yes, it’s unfair. And frustrating. Welcome to life. It’s a little glib, but it’s also a bit of a dose of reality.

Just like you might go out and start a business or get a job and it’ll turn out wrong, you’ll fail, lose all your money, your grandma’s house, and whatever else, so it is with work.

On the flip side, you might end up with a great mark for something that you thought was terrible. Maybe you hit on some nice insight, or maybe you just got lucky. Sometimes overanalysis is worse than underanalysis. Sometimes you just manage to start Friendster and have a decent run on VC money while you figure out what to do with your life.

This series is all be tagged “Lessons learned” if you want to read all of them.

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 Posted by at 22:38

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