BAs are obviously harder than BScs – by someone who’s done both

I ditched my degree in CompSci and switched to English Lit

You’ve probably seen people weighing in on both sides of the BA vs BSc argument by now, but it’s always been a student studying the same kind of degree that they’re arguing is harder. They’ve presented some important points but the arguments are always inherently biased. Can you really argue that one is in any way superior to the other if you’ve only ever experienced one?

Fortunately, I’ve studied both. I did half a degree in Computer Science before switching to English Lit, which I’m just starting my second year of. While this might be an odd swap, it does give me a unique insight into both worlds. Which enables me to say, from a researched and justified perspective, that BAs are a lot harder than BScs.

Both involve a hefty amount of essay writing. For BScs they’re often accompanied by a lab or a coursework project. And if you’re any good at essay writing, you can bullshit the rest. And I’ve got the graded pieces of work on topics I could barely name, let alone understand, marked 60 per cent or higher to prove it. Not so in a BA.

It might be opinion based, but they know if you haven’t read the relevant materials or done extra reading. And they’re much stricter on grammar and form. So yes, there is a technical skill to essay writing required for both types of degree, but BA essays are held to a much higher technical standard, making it substantially harder to get away with bullshitting.

BScs have a lot more contact hours on average. However, the average time requirements for a BA are actually greater. In both cases there’s coursework and research to do. But the average prep for a BA seminar takes much longer, because we literally never stop reading. I’m already behind on my reading and term doesn’t even start for two weeks.

As an example, one of my modules last year looked at one book a week, every week. That’s a hell of a lot of reading, especially when you consider that that’s just one out of six modules, and some of those books were seriously hefty (although I admit, some were poems). On top of the required reading, we’ve got further reading, coursework and research for said coursework.

And accompanying all that reading is the extra cost of taking a BA. It’s crazy for both, to be honest, but BA reading lists just take the piss. The Computer Science reading list only had a handful of books, but each one cost upwards of £20, some as high as £60 second-hand. However, as I discovered too late, you could get away without buying any of them, as they were barely, if ever, used, and some actually carried through all three years. For English Lit, I spend about £150 a term on books, and they all get used. When you factor in the average cost of halls, paying for rent and books for a term exceeds the maximum amount you can get from student finance, and you’ll be starting the term in a cash-deficit before you’ve even done anything. Yay, Arts.

In terms of coursework and assessment, BScs have more variety in terms of what it is. Some of it will be assessed lab sessions, some might be programming, a pure essay, maths; there’s a lot of options and a lot of variety in the modules. It breaks up the monotony of just writing essays, but it does mean you need to master several skills instead of just one or two. Because of this, in many ways it’s a lot harder in this instance. However, if you struggle with one skill, in a BSc you’ve got other options. Because of the narrower range of type in BA coursework, if you suck at writing or researching, you’re basically screwed.

The real key point here though, is that BA essays are inherently more subjective. In a BSc in most cases, there’s an answer that’s right and an answer that’s wrong, but you get points for using the right method to get to either one. In some cases you’ll have to analyse data and draw a conclusion, but more of the marking is based on the method used than the answer you get.

In a BA, there’s no right or wrong answer, you just have to back up your ideas with evidence, except even the evidence is open to interpretation. And how it’s marked depends on the opinion of the marker. That’s the risk with opinions- the person grading it may disagree or think your opinion is stupid, and you lose out.

Both are hard; they’re degrees, they should be hard. But as someone who’s studied both, BAs are hands-down a hell of a lot harder than BScs. So stop judging me for bringing my books to the bar- I want to be social, but I’ve got a fucking lot of reading to do.