Tricks of the trade

Here are 13 of my tips and tricks to getting higher grades at the end of your academic year!

1. Go to the seminars. I’m not going to lie and say I went to every lecture in first year because I really didn’t. But I made sure to attend the seminars. The smaller classes mean that the discussions you have become vital knowledge and this is also where you can discuss things you find difficult. Don’t be afraid to ask because I bet someone else is thinking the same.

2. Take *effective* notes. Don’t write down every word your lecturer says. However, if you’re a quick note taker and you do write everything go back over it within a day and condense it. All note condensing needs to be done relatively soon after the lecture so that you don’t misinterpret some of your notes.

3. Read around the core textbooks. My first point would be to find out exactly what textbooks you need for your course via your reading list, which can usually be found on your Moodle. Books that have case studies are the most helpful in my opinion and can be found in the library. The core textbooks usually focus on the basics of each topic and are usually just factual. Broaden your knowledge by reading work by other scholars, so that you can have a nuanced and balanced answer for essays and debates.

4. Choose wisely. This may not apply in first year, but when you may be able to choose modules to specialise in for example Childhood Psychology or Criminal Law. If you have the opportunity to pick then be sure to choose wisely and actually pick something that you’re really interested. If you’re a bit uncertain your lecturers are there to help you out.

5. Ask for help! I cannot stress this enough. Barely anyone in first year will utilise office hours for their lecturers. I kind of did but only after a breakdown and I stressed myself beyond belief. They are there to help. They’re paid to help and more importantly they want to help you. It doesn’t matter if it feels like a stupid question. I went to see one of my lecturers just to whine about the class exam, you’re creating a good bond with them and that’s important.

6. Learn your study type. Do you prefer to have condensed notes? Mind Maps? Flash Cards? Find what works for you before you start or try all of them for the first 2 weeks and then pick. This will be incredibly beneficial when you have projects, essays and exams and need to look at your notes.

7. Test yourself. I personally used Quizlet. There’s a free version and a paid version so it’s up to you. It creates flash cards and can quiz you on the information in a multiple choice question (MCQ). I used this so much around exams as this was also how my exams were set up.

8. If you can do past papers and practice questions. (Preferably without your notes!) Sometimes past papers aren’t available but MCQ’s are sometimes given by your course and these give an insight into questions for your exams.

9. Learn from bad grades and feedback. Bad grades do not define you and it’s not the be all and end all. Learn from the mistakes and instead of getting upset and giving up, use the feedback as motivation to improve for next time.

10. Find a study place. Having a place you associate with studying and productivity is vital! This can be at the library, in your room or in a coffee shop. But it’s best to find your ‘spot’ early.

11. Find a friend or two that makes notes to the same calibre that you do. When it comes to revising and making notes from books you can use a divide and conquer technique, and then share with each other later on.

12. If you study in a group of friends take turns ‘teaching’ topics. When you’re teaching a topic it solidifies it even more and you can understand it even better.

13. And finally…take breaks. Giving yourself time to relax is essential to not burn out.

By Zoe Barker

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