Grades and Exams In Graduate School (At Least From My Perspective)

This post has been inspired by a recent exam grade that I have received for one of my classes.  It wasn’t absolutely stellar, but it didn’t make me want to down cyanide pills (and the way this class is designed it is better that I chance having my slightly better than mediocre grade than take the comprehensive final).  My experiences with assignments, grades, and exams in graduate school can only come from the experience of someone who graduated with a degree in journalism just a few years ago from Ohio State, so if anything that I write about applies to you then be fortunate that you are already one step ahead!


Undergrad was sort of easy for me.  To be fair, the journalism program here isn’t anything prestigious in the world of journalism like Fisher is in the world of business.  I will say though that not everyone is a writer, so what I may have found easy a mathematician, engineer, or pre-med student would have struggled with.  I was though very involved in student organizations and normally held down like 2 jobs, so I wasn’t just a lazy bum.  Anyway, being that I studied journalism, the majority of my assignments were papers done by myself.  The majority of my tests were some kind of multiple choice, and my professors normally gave us some kind of guidance and direction to how to study.  A lot of it was the regurgitation of theory (which I cannot stand), or memorizing some crazy rule from the AP Stylebook (the grammar rules of journalists).


Graduate assignments and tests are a whole new level of crazy.

  1. You are expected to know like an infinity more amount for a test.  The amount you’re expected to read and study is a lot more intense than what I had in undergrad.
  2. There really are not that many smaller papers, projects, or assignments.  Normally it is one huge project or paper that you have to work on with a group of people.  Group work occurred, but did not happen that often with me in undergrad (how many group news reports have you ever read?).  Group work is the nature of Fisher though, because my friends in the undergraduate program would always complain tell me about how many group meetings they had to go to.  My teachers in undergrad would always comment on how everyone’s schedules were so different that they tried to avoid group projects.  I almost never had the same classes with the same people so this was true and difficult, but even when you have all your classes together it is still hard to coordinate the schedules of grad students.
  3. Because there are very few assignments, you really have to make sure that you don’t screw up on an assignment or that could be your grade for the class.   Professors will be willing to help you out, but they don’t have structured mini assignments to make sure you’re doing the reading that you’re even more expected to keep up with in graduate school.  It is nice to not constantly have to be tested on something….sometimes you just need to have a few days where you don’t read anything because of other things going on and have a few days that you don’t ever leave the library.
  4. I wrote a few papers where I was the sole author (if any) in graduate school.  I NEVER wrote a group paper in undergrad (once again though journalism is kind of solo field).  I am sure other graduate students write many individual papers, but due to the collaboration and teamwork of the business world many papers are done with others.  Though it is good that you can split up that 25 page paper among 3 or 4 other people, but truth be told there have been quite a few times I have raised an eyebrow or rolled my eyes at some people’s writing styles or overall lack of effort and would have rather had wrote the paper myself.
  5. The exams are a lot less straightforward.  If you want a study guide, you better study and then make your own guide.  You could be tested on literally anything that you have covered (no matter how obscure it appeared to be in class or in the text).  Professors want you to know theory, but they also want you to apply in some kind of way or example (that either they make up or you have to make up).  This may not be odd for some, but has been a challenge for me in spending time in remembering some particular thing and having an application to it.
  6. Exams also may lead to arthritis as well, because I would say at least 75% of the exams I have taken have been essay.  Essay exams are always the hardest, because you can BS a paper or have a lucky guess on a multiple choice exam but you HAVE to know your stuff in these exams.  There is no way getting out of this.
  7. Last thing I want to say is that a lot of professors in graduate school do not follow the standard midterm/final schedule that most of my teachers did in undergrad.  Midterm and finals week are still stressful, but instead of having to worry about all exams I need to individually study for, I may have one paper, one exam, or one project due (that have due dates that all are annoyingly close to each other).  For my Research Methods and Negotiations class, there was neither a midterm or final.  The final was optional for Staffing and is optional for Collective Bargaining.  With Staffing, the exam was factored in your final grade, and CB if you take the final than your midterm does not factor into your grades (both are comprehensive so it can be worse if you take the final).   There was only one exam for my HRIS class.  A lot of professors believe in different methods of learning than the dreaded test, but regardless these tests/projects/papers are worth a lot of your grade.
  8. There are a lot more presentations.  Most of the presentations that I had to do in undergrad were individual, where most of mine  in graduate school have been group (which you can have the same issues with group papers like someone really not contributing, reads straight from their slides, etc).
So I think that about covers everything.  Oh and being that it is graduate school, it is more challenging obviously.  So though I would love to get an A in everything, I am no longer in high school so it would be good when you start to accept one of my favorite mottoes “Bs get degrees.”

The content and opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by The Ohio State University or Fisher College of Business.