Since Trinity Term began four weeks ago, I have been busy working, writing, reading, and studying for classes. After returning from my winter break travels in Europe on December 27th, I have been studying every day with breaks only for exercise and lectures.
My four main activities this term as follows: Sleep, Eat, Exercise, and Study. The first three I don’t do for pleasure or enjoyment, I simply do them as a reprieve from studying and to keep myself in good enough mental and physical shape that I can continue studying. I don’t drink, and I don’t go to parties.
I am taking three tutorials this term: one tutorial on the Crusades that meets 14 times over the course of 8 weeks, a second tutorial on Medieval Art (4 meetings), and a third tutorial on English Architecture (4 meetings). This yields a total of 22 class meetings over 8 weeks, during which I must complete 13 essays of between 2,000 and 3,500 words each and 2 oral presentations of 15 minutes each. This work load may or may not be representative of the average expectations of an Oxford undergraduate; I suspect, it might be a bit more than the visiting student’s average.
I begin each week with a trip to the library where I check out the relevant books pertaining to my upcoming essay. I then skim these books for their most interesting content, with particular concentration on the book’s index to aid in finding the specific passages and topics that relate to my essay. Given the shortage of time, I cannot afford to read any book or text from end to end. After a few days reading, I will begin my essay which takes (on average) five hours to complete with footnotes and citations. I like to let my essay sit for a few hours before I send it to my teacher. So… I’ll go to bed, sleep a good 7-9 hours, wake up, do some exercise, and then proofread my essay for grammar and factual errors. And then, finally, I will send my essay to the teacher for comments and feedback at our next one-to-one meeting.
At the end of each term, each tutor assesses the quality of my work and assigns a letter grade. I receive their written assessment, which is crafted both to inform me of how I can improve and to inform others/employers of the kind of work I completed whilst under each tutor’s supervision. The personalized and customized education one receives at Oxford is unique for each student. And it is frequently difficult to infer the nature and content of a class from its title alone; that is, the syllabus in my case was modified to reflect my interests and preferences. So while I began last term studying one subject for my Gothic Architecture course, I ended the term reading something different entirely. These customized classes are, I feel, one of the greatest strengths of the tutorial system and Oxbridge education.
Thus, the tutors’ report in my view helps to standardize assessment. Click here, for instance, to read my tutors’ reports from last fall 2017. I do not know to what degree these grades and comments are reflexive of the institutional average.