Thursday, 15 October 2009

TMA01 sent - am I mad?

OK, this doesn't make a lot of sense, but I had a moment of confidence and threw myself into writing the commentary for TMA01 - and sent it by eTMA. You see, in the good old days, I would have had several opportunities for second thoughts and doubts before walking the mile down to the post office. Then I could have opened it up, found the two spelling mistakes and one typo that lurk in everything I do even if I've reviewed it a hundred times - I could have given it to various family members, even though they know less about writing than I do. I could have sent it in 4 days late, like normal people, not sixteen days early. Now I am at the mercy of my tutor. Many years ago, on my first courses with the OU, I had two courses on the do (K260 and ED209, if I remember correctly). I sent my TMA's off on the same day, a few days early, and then the fun began. One tutor marked each assignment as it came in, with reams of notes, and I got it back within the week. The other used to wait until the last one had come in (sometimes two weeks late) and then would slowly mark the whole lot. I think mine was probably last. I barely got it back in time for the second TMA, and then I couldn't read any of the seventeen words he had scrawled in hieroglyphics on the PT3 form, which was a faint carbon copy to start with.

So now I'm wondering, what will my present tutor be like? And, worse, how will I cope if I get a terrible mark? A terrible mark, you understand is between 59 and about 66. If I get 40+ or even (gulp) less than 40, I know I have loads to learn and my tutor will help me out with useful pointers. On the other hand, if I get 67 or 77 or 87 (gulp) I know I've got the right idea, I am capable of good marks and writing good stuff and if I do badly I'm just not giving it my best shot. But if you pour heart and soul into a piece of work until you can't think how to improve it - and it scores 59 - you just aren't very good.

The thing is, I really need to be good at writing. I started out with the idea of a search and a freewrite that I'm very pleased with. Then I wrote a short story from the perspective of the person waiting to be searched for and found. Then I channelled something darker and let her ramble with hypothermia after the dinghy she and her husband were in gets overturned in the sea, late at night, a frequent cause of deaths where I come from. When I was a teenager, I saw a body being pulled in by the police boat, the stench trailing behind it, and the sight has stayed with me. I wondered what it would be like to be one of two people who ends up in the sea, where the real enemy is cold, being the one with the life jacket. It wrote itself into a short story, complete with happyish ending, but I'm not sure it's anything like my tutor is expecting. Worse, it wrote itself, and the narrator has been unwilling to let me mess with it too much. I get the impression that if I tried to really move it around she would slowly sink below the surface in protest and it will be one of those dark, dark short stories that I don't like. Who knows.

I've been playing around with the material in the freewrite as well, it does lend itself to a story poem. Poetry is addictive, turn back now if you want a good night's sleep or the ability to relax in front of the telly. I'm loving it but I'm just not able to switch off the sensitivity to words, phrases, rhyme, structure, emphasis, the music of words. Even when playing scrabble. Now I have to get on with TMA02, because I really need December off.


  1. 59-66 is a terrible mark? But it's a clear pass, some people would be happy with that.

    (From Cathy, fellow A215-er)

  2. I know that sounds ungrateful, but with this course I have some emotional stuff going on. I suppose I would cope better with a low mark - I would just feel like I've missed the point, but if I have got it broadly on target - but not very well... I personally find it difficult. I once did a course where all my marks but one were in that range - I went on to get 43% in the exam, for which I was completely relieved and happy, but the whole experience left me feeling I should have tried harder or understood it better. I think the problem was I just didn't understand it terribly well, and I really want to understand this course. My first degree was for work, but this one is for me. Thank you for commenting though.

  3. This is an excellent example of why we're not allowed to post our scores on the forum! I got 62 for A174, so to you that's "terrible". To me, well, it certainly wasn't great but I didn't put a huge amount of work into it, so couldn't be too disappointed. And it's better than a bare pass.


  4. Hi, Cathy, I'm sorry if I've offended you, but you say yourself, you didn't put too much into A174 and you still got 62%. I wonder how you would have felt if you had put weeks of work and heart and soul into it, and then got 62%? But you are right about this is why we don't put marks on the forum!

  5. I read this blog with great interest. When I worked through my OU Degree (1991 to 1998) I was glad to pass each course (all 8 of them). I subsequently completed a Diploma in Environment and Development with the best exam score I have ever had. This is because I was doing it for fun and was really interested in the subject. The point Rebecca makes on the pass mark with a subject you are passionate about is spot on. I am finishing A214 (Understanding Music) a 60 point course which is part of the Diploma in Music. I am taking this for fun. It was a tough year with a compulsory summer school, compulsory TMA (you must pass) and an Exam. My highest TMA mark was 99% and my average for the 8 TMA’s was 72%. However, I got 49% on TMA7 which upset me because I had put in so much work and it was there to prepare me for TMA8, which I only managed 51%. Ok, it was a pass, but as Rebecca observed, I don’t think I understood writing a Bach Chorale sufficiently to do it justice and that’s why my score was so low. I do not have to be the best on my course, but I do want to have done my best. At the summer school we all discussed our TMA scores, breaking the OU taboo, and in doing so were able to help each other on the bits we misunderstood. I found it helpful to know what others got and why. It was also good to know the sort of feedback other tutors were giving too.

  6. interesting arguments. i will just say that in my case i have a family and a full time job and in studying for my MBA i'm just happy to have the opportunity to learn, the marks are not really the measure of my or anybody's knowledge especially not at the exam.