Freshers’ is over – what next?

Now that Freshers’ is over and you are settled into university life, you are likely to have some sort of work to complete.

University isn’t like school or college where you would have classes and have some homework to do. You are expected as a student to go to lectures and seminars and then complete a select amount of independent study, where you research, read and complete tasks on the subject you are studying. It is advised that you do more independent study than contact study with tutors.

The different types of work include essays, reports, group projects, presentations, exams, assignments, tests etc. I have listed a few tips below of ways to approach these pieces of work and things I was never told about them.

Essays / Reports 
I don’t know about you but when I hear the word “essay” or “report”, I just think ew. I know that a lot of work goes into producing a good essay/report and I just feel like they are so much effort. However, I do prefer this method of learning because I feel like I can alter paragraphs in my own time. I would highly recommend you read, re-read and edit your work accordingly because sometimes when you write an essay, you can sometimes go off track. I personally find that asking a friend, flat member or family member to read over a piece of my work beneficial because they can offer advice to improve it rather than you guessing whether something needs editing or not. Check your spellings, grammar and structure. This is the nitty-gritty of your work that actually makes a difference. Admittedly, I’m not the best at spelling and grammar, which is why I like someone to read over my work before submitting it. No one likes a piece of work that has spelling errors, so make sure that you spell check your work before handing it in. After writing your essay/report, check that your points answer the question being asked because it can be quite easy to go off track. Also, there’s no point in babbling on as you’ll use valuable word count space. Just remember that it’s about the quality of the work, not the quantity that counts. The tutors marking your work will know if you have tried to add words in to fill the word count and if you have done enough research for your essay/report you should have enough material to include.
Presentations
I’m sure I’m the majority of people who HATE presentations with a passion. I strongly dislike talking in public or in front of an audience with the mindset that I will say something wrong or stupid and people will laugh at me. BUT, practice does make perfect and if you are willing to put the effort into improving your presentation skills, then I’m sure you will improve over time. The key is to keep the presentation slides simple and have notes at hand to explain more about the slides. I find that presentations are more professional when only two people in the group talk because I feel that the presentation flows better. I know this doesn’t sound fair, however, the rest of the group can answer any questions that anyone has. Everyone must learn the material because a question might be directed at a certain person in the group and if that one person doesn’t know the answer then it won’t look good on the rest of the group. Confidence is key! Understandably, everyone is nervous but nerves will hold you back from performing to the best of your ability. This is pretty obvious but speak loud, clear and concise. If you talk quietly, no one will be able to hear you and you’ll end up having to repeat a lot of the content at the end for the audience. Everyone must contribute to something!
Exams
Now, you’re either that person who deals well with exam stress or not. Unfortunately, I’m that person who can’t. I find myself stressing and feeling anxious a few days before the exam. Do not under any circumstance ‘wing it’! You might have been able to do that at school or college but I can’t stress this enough, you CANNOT do this in university. University is a different learning experience; the exams are going to be different and you need to put some effort in and learn the material you are being taught before the exam. You will have more content to learn and cannot learn it all the night before. Exam formats could include written pieces of work or multiple choice and although you might think multiple choice is easy, the different in the options for answers will be so small that you need to know the content in order to get the right answer. Even if the pass rate is 40%, you should still make an effort to pass with the highest mark possible, if it counts towards your degree or not.

When is a good time to start work and revision for exams?

I personally would start work as soon as you are given it. With essays/reports, you should start researching the topics as soon as you are told. This way, you will be able to ask questions to your tutors, if you have any before the deadline creep up. Presentations are harder to complete if you are in a group because everyone has commitments and it can sometimes be hard to organise a day and time where everyone is free. I think the best way to go around this is to create a timetable where everyone is free to work on the presentation and to meet up. You should start revision from your first day. Basically, after a lecture or seminar, you should read over and type up your notes so that you completely understand the work before moving onto new content.

How do I get the best grade possible? 

It is all down to how much effort you put in. I found last year that the modules where I completed work in the library at like 3 am, were marked with the best grades because I had obviously spent a lot of time and effort trying to complete the work to the highest standard possible. Exams can be difficult to judge because you don’t know what will be asked on the day. If you put lots of hours into studying and know the content fully then you should be able to complete an exam with no problems.

Who can I go to for help? 

Any lecturers, help departments, personal tutors or academics can help you with advice, help understand the content of a module or even down to writing a good essay. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with anything.

How does the mark scheme work? 

Most British universities will use the degree classification listed below:

First class honours – 70% and above
2.1 (upper second class honours) – 60%
2.2 (lower second class honours) – 50%
Third class honours – 40%
Pass (without honours) or sometimes fail – under 40%

What shall I do if I have fallen behind? 

Don’t panic! That is the worst thing you can do because you will just stress yourself out. First of all, I would write a list of things that you don’t understand or have missed. At least then, you have a general idea of what you need to study. This is an organised way of sorting this type of situation out. Talking to your personal tutor about what you have missed is a good idea because you can work out a schedule to catch up on work and he/she might be able to explain any work you do not fully understand.

I hope this post helps give you a general idea of what to expect. Good luck with your assessments and studying!

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