For the first time in many many years, I found myself lying awake...preparing for an exam that would be worth 25% of my total grade. What made the experience so nerve-wracking? 60% of the exam was based on a two-part essay question; I was being graded on my writing ability.
The ability to write large papers or answer essay questions can be tough for some people. The first time I went to college, I know students that dropped specific classes because they had essays or term papers that were due. It's a normal human experience.
Fortunately I've found it easy to write, either what is on my mind or constructing positions. Writing is a great way to construct thoughts, reflect on the day, or even work through a problem. During religious discernment, we are encouraged to write in a diary or journal. Some of us find a more public venue to discuss our thoughts.
So while writing has come easy to me, I haven't been graded on my writing for a long time. Usually I get compliments (with the occasional criticism thrown in from time to time), but I haven't had a systematic dissection of my writing done (for a grade, at least) since I was 20. Getting papers back, covered in red scribbles and lines pointing towards specific errors, hurts the ego. While I was used to it even in grade school, I get papers back and just stuff them in my folder now.
Most recently I wrote a paper that received an A-, but was covered in so much red ink, the professor's comments nearly equalled the length of the assignment! (a slightly hyperbolic statement, for those of you who are ready with your red pens)
Going back to school is about learning to be humble all over again. I realize the professors are teaching me things I will need in academia. I accept that I don't know everything (despite what the poster on my wall says). Yet there's a part of me that wants only to succeed - to write the best paper possible. It's a desire that has kept me studying and working harder than I ever did before.
So with my huge essay exam, I studied as much as I possibly could. We were given the question in advance, in order to prepare a better answer. I wrote the answer 3 times over the weekend, trying to write 2.5 pages of information in under 40 minutes. And if anyone ever asked me to give a public speech about the particular book and the positions it makes, I could easily (and confidently)speak for an hour on the topic.
Unfortunately my heart sinks at the thought of getting my exam back, seeing the paper covered in red ink, and not being able to provide the academic level of writing that was asked of the professor.
Venn diagrams, mathematical induction, and algorithmic design are things I excel at in school. As me to write a paper, and I'm no longer confident I can provide A work.