This lesson is something I had to learn the hard way. No matter how high your marks were in highschool, no matter how hard you work, you can’t count on getting high marks from the get-go.
In all of my courses, the first midterm I got back was a lower mark than my final. Sometimes I improved by as much as 10%. My super genius friend got a 30% on her midterm, but ended up with a 98% average her first year of university. If you’re disappointed with the mark on your first essay/midterm, don’t worry. It’s quite possible that the next one will be better.
After all, isn’t the point of university to learn? If you get a 95% on your first essay, where can you go from there? Often times the bad mark can motivate you to study harder and you end up doing far better on the course than you would have if your first mark had been good.
One thing that a lot of profs do is offer a final exam that counts for 100% of your mark, if that would be higher than averaging it with the midterm. I had this once, and it upped my mark by 8%. Sometimes, if you have multiple quizzes, they’ll drop your lowest one. Thanks to these little safety nets, there’s no reason to be upset by a terrible mark.
If you’re confused by your mark, it’s perfectly acceptable to meet with the prof to discus it. For instance, if you don’t understand criticism on your essay, most profs would love to discuss it with you. Also, most universities require that profs keep a copy of all exams for a set time after the exam so that you can go and look at it. Just make sure that when you go to visit them you’re thinking about learning, not just upping your mark. Profs want to help you learn, not just improve your GPA.
One last thing to remember is that marks are subjective. Especially in a subject like English, opinions can make a big difference. One prof might give you a 70% on an essay that another prof would mark an 85%. It’s impossible to predict, and there’s no real reason to. Just remember to keep your focus on learning, rather than the marks.