University Catch Up // After Semester One

In the middle of my first semester, I wrote a little university catch up to explain more about my modules, and promised to update later once I'd completed my assignments. That time is now so strap yourselves in and get ready for another morbid stroll with the Master of Death. Is it too early/ arrogant/ downright weird to start calling myself that?
university catch up
Boy, I didn't know stress until I started master's study. Actually, that's a lie. I was a teacher under Gove's regime. But still, my assignments were really bloody stressful. Like, way more stressful than I had ever anticipated. I absolutely breezed through my undergraduate so I kind of expected my MA to be like that. Nope. I also suffer from chronic perfectionism which, contrary to popular belief, isn't a cute quirk for cleanliness but an actual mental health issue, so I just went a bit haywire. Fun times in Casa del Bedbug. 


Assignments are graded into four categories for undergraduates and three for master's, like this:

                       Undergraduate                              Master's
70% +             First                                                Distinction                      
60- 69%          Second (upper)                              Merit
50- 59%          Second (lower)                               Pass
40- 49%          Third                                               Fail
> 39%             Fail                                                 Fail

Of course master's level is harder so it's not a straight comparison with a first being the same as a distinction. It's more like this:

                        Undergrad                                      Master's
                        First                                                 Merit
                        Second (upper)                               Pass
                        Second (lower)                                Fail      
                        Third                                                Fail

This is where my perfectionism is loads of fun because it goes 'hey, you know that if you get less than 70%, you're pretty much a failure, right?' And that is the reason why I spent six hours every day for three weeks hunched over my computer writing all about various forms of death. Eventually I got them done and thankfully my tutor is the world's fastest marker so I didn't have long to suffer before I got my results.


Before Christmas, I had to hand in a 1000-word draft-slash-plan of my essay, worth 10% of my module, which my lecturer marked and handed back with feedback. Then I had to use her comments to complete the full 3000-word essay and (hopefully) improve it. This was my favourite module but I hated writing the essay. I really, really struggled with this assignment. One of the big differences between undergraduate and master's study is how much more sophisticated you have to be with essay writing. It's much more nuanced and tightly focused, and I found that each section was so closely linked that they kind of ran into each other. This just got me confused and muddled up, and I found it really difficult to organise my thoughts. I also had to pack a lot more into the word count, including some very complex theological concepts. 

My essay was based on using The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to teach the Holocaust (or the Shoah, since 'holocaust' is a hugely inappropriate term meaning 'burnt offering'). My argument was that it was a terrible resource to be relied on. My draft was marked at 65%, which is what I was expecting, and I booked an appointment with student services for advice on pushing it up to a distinction. The advice was really helpful and I ended up rewriting whole sections of my draft because my argument wasn't clear enough. It caused a lot of stress but I really wanted to do well and, honestly, by the time I'd finished, I had a feeling that it miiiiight scrape 70%. I was on the bus when I got the notification telling me I had got 75% and I cried. I was so chuffed, especially because I wasn't happy with my third assignment.

My final paper was a 500 word self-reflection worth 10% and you better believe I knocked this out in about 20 minutes. I had no idea how to write a self-reflection and there was no guidance on the university website so I just Googled it. If I hadn't left it until the last day, I could have asked my tutor for assistance but y'know, I live on the edge. I suppose 65% wasn't bad considering I spent practically zero time on it and had no freaking idea what I was doing but I wasn't pleased with the mark. 

It didn't matter in the end because my overall score for the entire module was 73%. Not too shabby, right?


Like my Death in World Religions module, I had to hand in a 1000-word draft then improve it for the full 3000-word submission. In the essay, I had to critically assess two theories of death in relation to one death ritual. I chose to focus on cremation in contemporary Britain and the two theories I analysed were Durkheim's social mourning and the invisible death theory by Ariès. In a nutshell, Durkheim believed that death has the potential to shatter communities, so we've developed social, community-based rituals to strengthen and convince ourselves that it's all under control. Ariès divided death into five historical contexts, the last of which is the invisible death- we treat death as taboo and hide it away, handing everything over to professional services so we don't have to deal with it ourselves, because we're too scared to consider our own mortality.

When I got my draft back, it was given 63% which I was alright with since I aimed for the potential to reach 70s in the final. The main comment I got was that Ariès was more historical than theoretical, but I solved that by replacing that theory with something called the revival of death. Walter's theory is basically the opposite of the invisible death- he claims that we're totally a-ok with death and it's not taboo at all, since it's portrayed so frequently and graphically in the media. I don't necessarily agree with that so I used all my sources from Ariès to argue that, as a society, we are largely still afraid of death and keep it hidden. Essentially, I wrote exactly the same assignment that I was going to but shifted the focus onto a different theory. I hated every second of it though. I felt like I didn't even know where I was going with it and like I was just waffling on with no real direction. It proper stressed me out.

Then I only went and got another 75%. I've never been more shocked about anything in my life. This was my final mark back and evidently my tutor is impressed because her feedback included the phrase 'I'm expecting great things from you'. Eek ok no pressure then.

The third assignment was to visit a funeral director and write a little report on how the practice relates to the theory. I got in touch with a local funeral home and they were really accommodating, so I had a lovely chat with a guy who went into great detail about their services. This assignment was only worth 10% of my mark and 1000 words so I put all my energy into the godforsaken 3000-word essay, leaving the report until the last few days to quickly whip up. I got back my results really quickly and was awarded 65% which, honestly, gutted me. Sure, I probably had myself to blame for leaving it until the end and rushing it but I thought it was pretty easy and did more than the guidance asked for. I couldn't tell you where I went wrong because I was too upset to read the feedback. I'm melodramatic, ok? Also, since this was my first returned mark, I was worried that my feedback would flag up some big mistake that I'd made in all five essays and I didn't need that stress. 

Because of my success in the big assignment, my overall mark is 72.8%. Two distinctions down. Four more to go. 


Considering this module made me cry before I'd even looked at the assignments, I found both submissions pretty simple. This may not be a good thing. I wouldn't know because the marks were never uploaded to my account and I'm too scared to ask my tutor in case he's like 'oh yeah, sorry about that. We're just going through the failure procedures'. Avoidance is a solution- that's my stance and I'm sticking to it. 

My first assignment was to write a 1000-word dossier. All I had to do was find five sources surrounding a particular topic (I chose capital punishment) and criticise them. I studied the guidance on the university website and went one further, trying to be really critical with opposing arguments. Unfortunately, I think I got a bit cocky and referenced the whole thing wrong. Who knows? I won't find out until I pull my head out of the sand and, let's face it, that's never going to happen.

The second task was your standard essay submission, but only 2000 words long. Since I'd already written my dossier on capital punishment, I figured I'd choose the essay question on the same topic and make life easier for myself. My argument was that the bible is totally cool with the death penalty and I actually really enjoyed writing it. Judging by my success in the two assignments that I despised, this probably means I barely scraped a pass. I guess I'll find out when I graduate and update you then.


In the end, I completed my first semester with at least two distinctions. Since I only had three modules, I'd say that's pretty good going. Thankfully semester two is a lot lighter on the deadlines. I only have four assignments in the entire semester, as opposed to the eight in semester one, and they're spread out a bit more evenly. I'm also starting work on my dissertation but it's just preparatory work before I start it properly in May, so that's no problem. I can finally breathe again! 
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  1. Congratulations on such great grades! Your Masters sounds absolutely fascinating and I love reading your posts on it.


  2. This is gd. I think Mastr of Death is gd name. Suits u well. Lov ur blog.


  3. I wanted to start a degree at uni a couple of years back but glad I didn't as I just wanted to earn money and I'm glad I did. Fair play to you for doing a masters and doing so well with it! Well done to you Becky!

    Isobel x

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  4. Well done, those results are brilliant! And I think you should clear yourself the Master of Death (Becky Deadbug?) from now on. It makes it sound like you're the proud owner of the Elder Wand, Resurrection Stone AND the cloak. I like it.

    Liz x
    Distract Me Now Please


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