Thirty years ago I failed my Latin O level with an Unclassified grade – the lowest you can get. My excuse is that I took a gamble and studied only half of the Pliny poems on the syllabus – I couldn’t answer any of the questions on the paper.
Second-guessing an examiner or partial-revision are not strategies that I would recommend – but today, many qualifications are assessed by course work rather than the requirement to stuff your brain with facts and verse.
Would I do better than my 7 O levels, 3 A levels and a 2.2 degree today? On the basis of coursework – undoubtedly. If facing exams – possibly. One of the benefits today is that students are much better prepared, with opportunities for mocks and feedback.
They also face much stiffer competition and higher expectations – despite attending a Grammar school, no-one really cared how well we did or pushed us to go to University.
I also studied back when a fixed percentage of students were allocated each grade – so your results were less about demonstrating a level of competency and more about comparisons to other candidates in your year.
Looking back, it is hard to remember much that I studied at school or even at University. But I still feel disadvantaged at not learning Latin, especially as my chosen career involves working with language.
Fortunately, the Internet comes to my rescue – so when I received an email today which quoted the heading of this post, via Google, I quickly looked up the translation:
“The mountains are in labour and a ridiculous mouse will be born”
I now know the author (Horace) and the context of the quote. Google also led me to work by Engels, Shakespeare (who used the phrase in Pericles Prince of Tyre ), W.S. Gilbert and more.
Quite a little voyage of discovery in a few minutes online surfing.
I also made a connection with public relations that the outcome of a lot of noise, is often very little substance.