Operation ASNaC: Mission Report

Operation ASNaC: Mission Report


To achieve A*AA in my A-Levels and secure my place at the University of Cambridge studying Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.


Well, I won’t beat about the bush. I did it. I’ve now got some actual legit qualifications under my belt, and in October I’ll be going to Cambridge to study ASNaC. I literally wept when I saw on UCAS that my place had been confirmed, although that might also have been because I only got three and a half hours’ sleep last night, and therefore was feeling a little teary anyway.

For a quick overview and a message to those who aren’t quite as happy today, albeit delivered from an excitable perspective (sorry, couldn’t help myself):

I don’t like bragging about things I’ve achieved or whatever, but because I’ve blogged quite a lot about school work and because of all the health problems I’ve had, I thought I would, on this occasion, tell you about my grades. If it had been a normal school year I wouldn’t be boasting, but as it is, it’s been a blooming hard one, and I’m super proud of myself for having survived it, let alone having passed all four subjects.

First up is English. I got an A*, which probably doesn’t surprise most people, but I wasn’t that sure I was going to achieve it. Although I felt like the exam went relatively well, it was the first one that I dictated using Dragon, and so it hadn’t quite learned my voice by then. I also ran out of time to proof-read thoroughly and was very afraid that if the software had made mistakes it would limit the clarity of my argument and lose me marks.

But, it didn’t. And having got full marks in my coursework at the beginning of the year, I was already set to get a decent grade. I really enjoyed that piece of coursework and it definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities that English brings. Of course, having got my first choice of uni I won’t now be studying it further, but hey, it’s the application that counts, right?

Next we’ve got Classical Civilisation. Honestly, I thought this would be my A* because I got 100% in it last year, but I missed that top grade by one mark. Still, a very respectable A it is. I’m kicking myself, because I know I could have got that mark if I hadn’t accidentally said that Camilla was from book nine of the Aeneid when in fact she’s from book eleven. That single mark / half-percent was lost there and then, and I am a fool…

For various reasons, but mostly because it was a new module and also because a year is not very long to study a huge topic like Roman Britain, I was definitely expecting that to be my weaker paper, but actually I totally rocked it. Given that my main study material was Roman Britain by Guy de la Bedoyere, I guess I’ll have to like him now. Even if I strongly disagree with old Guy’s interpretation of Boudicca. Like, strongly.

Then there’s French. Let’s just say it’s a really good thing I retook the AS, because without it, there’s no way I would have got the A that got me into Cambridge. I managed to achieve 136/140 in that first paper, compared to last year’s total of 100. And that definitely saved my skin, because I got 100/140 in this year’s paper (which was barely scraping a B), so I’d have been scuppered if I’d decided not to retake. French was massively impacted by my hand injuries, and it’s not really a surprise that this year’s work suffered. But fortunately, not too much.

Oh, and I did surprisingly well in the speaking exam, too — 56/60. Obviously I’m delighted. It really looks like all that last-minute Memrise cramming I did, learning literally hundreds of vocab words in a matter of days, was worth it. I’ll have to tweet Memrise and tell them how much they helped me; I couldn’t have done it without them.

Finally, Music. I deeply regretted this subject. I wrote a letter to my younger self urging her not to choose it. I was given a thousand chances to drop this subject because of how my wrist injuries impacted on my ability to complete the performance module and yet I didn’t take them. Too stubborn, perhaps, but when it came to the Baroque Counterpoint exam and I was crying into my folder every time I even thought about doing any work, or when I regularly scored less than 50% in practice listening tests, I was furious with myself.

It turned out to be worth it, though. I scraped a B with about 71.5% or something in that ballpark. So maybe I got a C in the exam, but my composition and performance (singing, after just two months of lessons) pulled me up to a respectable grade that I am incredibly proud of. I guess that just shows sometimes it’s worth persevering, no matter how much you hate something and how unlikely it seems that you’ll do well.

I’m extraordinarily grateful to everybody who has helped me over the past year — the exams officer who sorted out the dictation software for me, the teachers who gave me printouts and let me get away with not handing in essays, my parents who helped me with my homework when I couldn’t hold a pen or type, the specialists who kept trying to find ways to help me with the actual medical side of it…

And I’m delighted that come October, I’ll be at the college of my dreams in a highly prestigious university studying a subject that most people have never heard of because hey, at least it’ll give me something to talk about whenever someone asks me what I’m studying. Bring it on, Cambridge, bring it on. I am so ready for this.

25 thoughts on “Operation ASNaC: Mission Report

  1. Hey congratulations! And Cambridge! That’s just… wow. Do you know what you want to do with your Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic degree?

    1. I want to be a writer, of course. I mean, I’d like to get PAID to be a writer. I’m already one, just a poor one. :) ASNaC will help a lot in developing the Death and Fairies series!

      Though if I were choosing a day job it’d be something involving books. Perhaps working in a big library or a publishing house. Alternatively, a museum.

      Also, I want to be a knight, so whatever job will let me do that… working at a castle or other National Trust property perhaps?

    1. Thank you! I’m always a bit nervous about talking about stuff I’ve achieved — I think it’s because my parents are very modest and humble and don’t like advertising things like this. But I’m getting better at it. The Road To Arrogance, an autobiography by Miriam Joy. ;)

    1. I doubt it’d be very interesting to imagine. Learning vocab! Sulking over essays until they somehow happen! Making highly sarcastic comments in the margins of the Aeneid and also possibly every other text I studied! You know, all that sort of thing. ;)


    As an American, I’m impressed because it’s like, Oh My God Cambridge. (Because Cambridge and Oxford are, pretty much, the only English colleges that we know about)

    As a Mom, I’m proud of you because you worked SO hard and you really wanted it and this is a well-deserved personal victory! You get to go forth to the next stage of your life in the place where you want to be! So awesome!!

    As a former teacher, I’m excited for you because it’s just further proof that good students get rewarded, big time!

    And as a bloggy friend, I’m dancing because I’ve gotten to read your journey and cheer you on and now HERE YOU ARE!!! And I can’t wait for further updates about the great adventure!!!


    1. Thank you! Your enthusiasm is touching. Yeah, at least I don’t have to worry about all my US friends not having a clue what I’m going on about — in fact, one of the guys on my course is from America, and we’ve already made friends via Facebook, so it’s going to be one big cultural exchange, I think. :)

      Here’s to the future… I’m scared! But excited.

  3. Congratulations! Your grading system leaves me at a little bit of a loss, but I can handle most of it. And congrats on getting through Music with a very respectable grade. For similar reasons, I always wonder whether my math major was truly worth it (esp since I’m not really using it), but there is always the “But I did it!!” extreme sense of accomplishment that goes along with that.

    And onward to Cambridge! How exciting. I’ve always rather wanted to visit Cambridge.

    1. It’s not that alien from the American system – A* A B C D E U, I think it goes. :) But the A* is slightly complicated in that it’s due only to your results in the second year of the course, not the first. Which can be frustrating sometimes.

      Well, if you’re ever in the country, feel free to come and visit me…

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