I write really bad essays

So … it’s exam season. As a high schooler in New Zealand, I’m doing NCEA (for those unfamiliar with the acronym, it’s the education system we have in NZ for the last three years of high school. And it stands for National Certificate of Educational Achievement. Yeah. Just so ya know). I’ve had two end of year exams so far – English and Media Studies – and I completed all the mock exams for my papers a month or two ago, so I feel fairly qualified to make a judgment on my overall exam experiences. 

They have been … interesting. I do feel like I have done well, but they have also led me to a perhaps surprising (surprising? not surprising? I’m honestly not quite sure …) conclusion.

I write really bad essays. 

No, there’s no punchline. That’s just the truth. I write really really bad essays.

Ok, I suppose I do need to clarify. I’m not a bad writer. I would actually say I’m a fairly competent writer. My writing skills don’t necessarily correlate to the quality of my essays.  I am, in fact, pretty satisfied with most of my written coursework completed throughout the year and if I work hard enough, I’m sure I could produce a blog article or other piece of informal writing that I’d be proud of.

But exams? Hahahahahaha …. no …..

I mean this seems like common sense. You can’t expect to write a masterpiece in  1 to 2 hours. But I’ve read exemplars and it is possible to write something good. Not a masterpiece, but a respectable essay. 

Those aren’t my essays. Nope. Not at all. I can write an essay to meet all the criteria for “excellence” and get the grade, too, but it’s a different thing to write a good essay and to write an essay that gets a good grade. And my essays are bad. They don’t flow well. My media studies essay, for all my planning, basically feels like a mass of sentences lumped unceremoniously onto the page. I’ve got the content but it isn’t pretty to read. And that’s one of the crucial parts of reading an essay, in my opinion. It should an enjoyable experience. I would even venture to say, the essay is an art form – an art form filled with relevant content and introductions and conclusions and sentences all nicely structured and cemented into a beautifully polished intellectual insightful readable thingamajig. 

I haven’t nailed it. 

Now, I’ve had quite a bit of practice with writing from my years completing my American high school diploma. And aren’t I the nerd … the girl who likes to study? I should be better. Granted, I haven’t studied half as hard as I probably should have and could have. But that’s exactly it. I should have studied more. More pertinently, I should have had the self knowledge to know I should have studied more. I should have had the passion. You know, I actually do enjoy writing essays. I do, really!

I should be just a little bit more impressive.

I suppose it seems strange to discuss my essay skills, or lack thereof, as some weird relevation. I mean, most people aren’t exactly masters at essays, are they? But I guess my grades make me feel like writing essays is my thing. True, I always have known that good grades does not equal good work but it’s hard to avoid the subtle ego boost of grades that invades the subconscious, making me believe I have more under control than I actually have. 

But don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a lecture about not letting grades get to your head. I’ll just say this – I’ve read ordinary excellence exemplars and scholarship essay exemplars, and I’ve been pretty optimistic about my “future plans” to go for excellences and scholarship subjects, which I think is a great thing. But I don’t really measure up to the excellence essays, and I definitely don’t measure up to the scholarship essays.  On the one hand, it is nice to know that there’s some tangible level of ability to strive for and a challenge readily available to work toward. 

But I won’t lie, it’s going to take a lot of work.