The major difference between school and uni

Publication date
Wednesday, 12 Oct 2016

When I moved to Canberra, and discovered that the average amount of time that I would be in class per week was something like 15-20 hours, I was absolutely shocked.

“With this much free time, how could I ever fall behind in work?” I thought to myself. But then the semester began, and one major difference between high school and university soon made itself very clear.

The marks you receive are lower at university.

I remember the first time my friends and I received marks back from some of our first assessments. Looking around, a lot of these friends were used to getting top marks at their high schools. Above 90% was the norm, and depending on the class above 95% was expected.

We all received a huge shock when many of us received marks in the 70’s, some in the 60’s, and only a very small number in the 80’s. What’s the reason, I hear you ask? It’s because the way that assessments are marked is totally different at university.

While at school the high achievers almost always receive marks of 90% or above with a little hard work, at university it is very rare for someone to achieve marks like this on a regular basis. At the ANU a High Distinction, the highest attainable grade, is given to anyone who receives an overall mark of 80 or above for a course. This means that anyone getting marks of 80 or above is an incredibly high achiever!

A lot of students become very disappointed when they receive their first lot of marks at university, but rest assured that every other student is experiencing the exact same thing. It’s not that you’ve gotten super dumb over your summer holidays; it’s just that the method of marking is completely different!

And don’t worry, after just one semester you’ll get used to looking at a much lower number without a sinking feeling in your stomach too. In fact, sometimes you’ll be absolutely ecstatic.