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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

N = the least favourite grade

-By Jo

Results are usually a relief, they arrive, you got what you wanted, sometimes more and sometimes less, but it usually means you can tick those units off your course and sigh happily that you’re still on track.

That’s how it usually goes for me, until trimester one last year. Of the four units I had taken that trimester I had completed three of the optional assignments, but the fourth one remains on my hard drive to this day, approximately a day away from finished but totally useless to me. I went into the exam knowing a pass would be very hard to come by – but not turning up to the exam would have made me feel worse.

I chose to sign up to receive my results by SMS.

I paced the house from 4 pm.

I held my mobile in my hands from 5 pm.

I stopped pacing at 5.40pm when the message tone sounded.

Here’s where I would normally open the message as quickly as possible and announce my results to my family and then share by email with fellow students.

But I sat.

I starred at the message preview in the lock screen of my mobile phone.

I waited, but I wasn’t sure for what.

There is a certain last minute hope that is hard to give in to. After some time passed I concluded that the marks were there and as they weren’t going to change I had to be brave and look.

There were three credits that I was happy with and one dreaded ‘N’.

I sat and starred some more.

Perhaps I should have gone to my lecturers and told them about the intense semester I had endured and the house move, and my physical health problems, but I hadn’t, thinking I could never fail.

Then I went into denial. I sent an email to the unit chair, one to my lecturer to see if they had got it wrong (after all it was the only logical explanation).

Then I went into meltdown. 

This unit was a pre-requisite for a unit in trimester two, and for a unit the following year. I had effectively added another year onto my degree not to mention the extra fee for when I repeated the unit (back then I didn’t know the textbook would be updated by the following year so on a very tight budget I was going to need another textbook too).

All these thoughts kept leading me back to that assignment I’d missed. I kept comparing my results with that of my friends – how come they passed and I didn’t? Was I not as intelligent as them? Was it a cosmic sign that the powers that be felt I shouldn’t be in this course? Was it karma for lying to my mother in the 90s?

Then the tears and self-pity moved in and decided we should be roommates for the next week or so.

I didn’t access
Student Advocacy (through DUSA) which is available free to all students, and which I should've accessed. I felt I deserved the ‘N’ like I’d deserved all my other marks. I had failed a unit and my pride and my ego were suffering from severe bruising! 

I found out that failed exam papers are looked at twice to make sure the grade is correct, that lecturers are usually willing to go over your paper with you and help you understand where you went wrong and most importantly the world doesn’t launch into an apocalyptic ending.

My failure highlights a few things for me – I’m human, life events do impact my study, it’s best to speak up as soon as this happens and maintaining a strict study time table is more important than it sounds.

‘The only failure is when you quit’ is now the first thing I write in my notebooks.


  1. Less than 24 hours until results... Anyone else nervous?

  2. Jo, I loved reading your account of getting your results. It's good to know that there are options and help available.
    I didn't know that results were being released today - I've been checking the website for the past few days now, hoping that something has come through! All the best for this trimester.

  3. Thanks Jodi, hope you have a good trimester too, and you get the results you're after!
    Yes, results will be released at 6 pm today or via sms to your mobile phone if you registered (you have to re-register very trimester).
    I figure mine are about 20mins away - so shopping done, huge pot of potato leek soup cooking and... mobile phone in hand.

  4. Hi Jo, I enjoyed your article - your experience is something that all students can relate to! I got my results through sms this evening - as soon as the tone sounded, my heart beat just accelerated. Fortunately, the results were good. I also like your message about not quiting. I am a strong believer in hope, and I believe that if we lose hope, we lose everything.

  5. Thanks Ryan, we can all stress a tiny bit less for about another 16 weeks or so (now that I write that it already feels close). I passed the unit that I failed last year so I'm pretty happy at the moment. From what I have read on Twitter and Facebook many students have no got their results yet as the website has crashed - I think it is a great idea to sign up for sms results even if you know that you'll be at the computer. I think they extra waiting would be cruel and unusual punishment.

  6. Hi Jo, thanks for your thoughts they have really helped me.Does an N mean you fail the whole unit or just the exam? If the exam is worth 30% of your score how does this work? I got 49% for one subject but is that my overall mark or my exam result%.I passed all my work through the semester and handed in all assignments and went to all lectures and tutorials. Thanks, I passed the other three subjects.

  7. The results you received last night would be for the entire unit - so if your result was (insert unit code, eg MLL110) 49N then that is, sadly, a fail, but I would contact DUSA (see link in article) & your Unit Chair as it is only one mark it might be worth seeing if you are able to have your exam re-marked, just in case there is an extra mark hiding there that could be awarded and see you pass.
    Do you know if your exam was a 'hurdle' assessment - where you had to pass it to pass the unit?
    I hope that helps, at least a little bit and congratulations of your other three subjects :)

  8. Great post Jo, some really good advice. Yes we are all human, and there are services to help us negotiate the more challenging moments of uni life.