Stuck between two degrees- English or maths?Watch
Hiii is anyone doing An English or maths degree? Whether you are in uni or going to uni in september please give me advise on how hard each subject is and the pros and cons of the degree. Thank you!!
Hi, so I've just finished a degree in English Literature and History. I did English Literature, History and Mathematics at A-level so whilst I can't speak to the subject at undergraduate level, I do understand an interest in both subjects. For me, I've always been really interested in Literature and so whilst I enjoyed Maths at school (and it was quite good as a relief from the essays, and also was good sometimes to just have one right answer), it was never really a choice between the two for me. I'm hoping to carry on to do a postgrad in English Literature as well so that's a signifier of how much I have enjoyed the subject. I would say that it is a great subject to do at university and really develops your critical thinking skills, argumentation and general awareness of other subjects too. I like to think of studying Literature as a discipline in and of itself, but also a way through which to explore other subjects like History, Psychology, Philosophy etc. I would say though that it can be hard work in that there is usually a lot of material to read, but I enjoy reading so that wasn't much of a drawback for me. I'd also say that there is a jump from A Level to degree, but my lecturers were really good at helping us with the adjustments. There is also usually lots of essays to write, which is a plus point for people like myself who don't like exams - I've actually managed to select my modules in a way that meant I only took two exams in my entire degree and those were compulsory. So that may be a benefit or a drawback depending on your personal preferences when it comes to assessments.
Hi thanks for your response. Roughly how many essays have to be written in a month? I’m quite slow when it comes to writing essays so even though I enjoy reading and analysing texts I’m put off by constant essay writing. Do the teachers analyse texts with you and give you feedback etc? Thanks
I did maths art and English literature, I enjoyed maths more because once I got the hang of the method it was quite fun getting the questions right. Whereas with English it’s frustrating because my teachers were biased and essay marks can’t be argued because it’s someone’s opinion of it, so I like maths more because there’s a definite answer.
I think it varies a lot by course. I had three modules each semester and, on average, those would have two or three essays each and then were weighted differently so some would be worth 10% of a module grade and others 50%, for example. I guess that would work out to less than one a month on average so they weren't that frequent for me. I think at Oxbridge though they do something like one a week. If it's any comfort, I can be quite slow when it comes to both reading and writing essays in that I like to take my time researching before writing but as my degree has gone on I've learnt to do both at the same time when dealing with lots of material. In terms of analysing the texts with your lecturers and seminar leaders, you tend to have lectures on the different texts and seminars then discussing them in further depth and so in that sense you are analysing it with the assistance of a lecturer. As the years go on though, there is more and more expectation of independent work and so then it's more about your own analysis and ideas, rather than the lecturers'. You then get feedback on most marked work - when it is part of your grade, you definitely get feedback and then sometimes there are assessments which are peer-reviewed and so then you'd still get feedback but from one of your classmates. I would say though that the experience varies by university, but this has been mine and my friends' experience of English courses so hopefully it's helpful.
Also, in response to this, I would say a couple of things. Firstly, university marking is meant to be anonymous so there shouldn't be a problem with bias. In cases where you are known by the marker (such as with your dissertation) there will be other markers involved in the process to make sure you are fairly graded. For the most part though, markers in my experience tend to be fair and want you to do well so I don't think you should have a problem with marking. You do, however, have the option of appealing grades if you think that the mark you received is really unfair. I'd also say that English Literature is more about arguing your point well rather than the ins and outs of your points. Yes something has to make sense and not be categorically wrong, but really the only way this happens is if your argument is not grounded in the text that you're analysing and so mistakes can be made in analysing texts that have been misread. For the most part though, I'd say that in the Humanities in general, it is about interpretation and all are valid as long as they are well argued and arguably there is no such thing as a 'misinterpretation', just a different interpretation - and if anything these are the most interesting because they usually present something new that hasn't been thought of before. Hopefully this provides some reassurance when it comes to marking processes at university level - but let me know if you have any further questions, marking related or otherwise!
Additionally even the applied/applicable maths you do in a maths degree will be necessarily abstract (although not necessarily proof based) and the problem solving elements of applied maths questions at degree level are very different to A-level - it's much less about going through a set method and more about understanding the theoretical underpinnings of what you're doing to make reasoned judgements about what is "happening" in the equation/function/etc at any given point.
English at degree level is probably more comparable to A-level English ,although do note the emphasis will be even more strongly on the close reading and analysis of the texts - you will need to start with really closely examining small parts of the text in great detail and then linking those details to the wider themes and analyses you wish to bring to bear on the text. You can't just go straight into the wide thematic analyses like you could at GCSE and to a lesser extent A-level. However it is fundamentally in the same vein of analysis as in A-level, just done more deeply and precisely than you might've done in A-level.