Ever wonder why you didn't get an A on your English 111 final paper? You dutifully attended 90% of your lectures, spoke up in discussion, and didn't make fun of your professor when he told you about how a cow named Betsy dry humped him one morning (yes, a cow). You've played all your cards right, but you still got a shitty B on your final paper.

Want to know why?

First, always remember the TAs do the grading. That old, bovine-molested prune with the phd? He doesn't do shit. He shows up twice a week with a cup of coffee and rants about whatever boring novel you've read, usually off the top of his head. That's all he does. The TAs do all the work. They know your face, grade your papers, and listen to the pathetic losers who whine about their midterm grades.

So if you want an A, this is what you do:

Get To Know Your TA.

Not in the biblical sense, though I suppose it couldn't hurt. If the TA likes you, it'll mean the difference between an A minus and an A. Hell, it could mean the difference between a B plus and an A. But be warned: the inverse also applies, so don't piss them off. Just get to know them. It isn't hard. Talking in discussion helps, but also staying after class and shooting the shit will do the trick. Just be cool. Say hi when you see them walking around campus. Buy them a beer if you see them at the pub. Be cool.

Understand How They Grade Your Papers

This means knowing the difference between what everyone thinks and reality.


    Your TA sits in their office and reads each paper with equal interest and time, then grades them with an impartial, almost robotic consideration.


    1. TAs are almost always grad students. They usually have two or three 20-page papers to write at the end of the semester, and hence consider reading your drivel a time-consuming pain in the ass.

    2. 80% of the time they know your grade after the first 2-3 pages. If page 4 is more of the same plot-summarizing crap, they'll stop reading and write a big fat B on the front and be done with it. Why a B? Because if it's a shitty paper, they know the student probably wrote it during an all nighter, and will happily settle for a B without complaining, which would question whether or not the TA actually read the paper. See #1 for why.

    3. TAs read your papers while half-asleep in bed. They read them while watching TV. They read them between quarters of John Madden Football. They read them while sitting on the porcelain throne, and yes, personal plumbing may effect your grade. That's just the breaks.

The Quality of Your Paper Matters

Without a decent amount of intelligence and effort, your chances of getting an A are about as good as a mass-murdering fuckhead like Henry Kissinger winning a Nobel Peace Prize. Err, scratch that. Bad allusion. Seriously, a quality-written paper means everything. Despite the cyncial tone of this write-up, you'll never get an A without quality writing.

However, "quality" doesn't mean using tons of secondary literature and snappy illustrations. It means knowing how to write. See Sockpuppet and jmc's write-ups at How to write an "A" paper with minimal effort. Also try to adhere to the following words of wisdom:

It's All About the Writing, Man.

Seriously, as noted above, it's really all about your writing. If your writing is flimsy and ill-crafted, you won't stand a chance at an A. But if you are a decent writer, and can't figure out why you've been scoring nothing but B pluses and A minuses, then the above suggestions could help you tip the scales.

Just one note for those who misread this as a nasty attack on the English profession: I am an English TA. Trust me, I've heard about or witnessed everything in this node, including the story about the cow dry humping the professor (I HEARD that one).