How to get a good degree?
Some students work very hard and still don’t get a good degree, even when they really deserve one. This is usually because they don’t work smart enough.
Below is a compilation of the best parts I consider from the book: How to get a good degree, making the most of your time at university. Author : Phil Race – Emeritus Professor of Educational Development at the University of Glamorgan
What is a good degree?
A good degree is a meaure of:
- how intelligent you are;
- how hard you work on your studies;
- how well you develop your understanding of the subjects you study;
- how lucky you are when the exam papers are set;
- how clever you are;
Characteristics of students who get good degrees
Rate yourself against each of the characteristics, writing ‘H’ alongside those you think you already display a high level, ‘M’ – medium level and ‘L’- low level
- Breadth of subject knowledge
- Analytical skills
- Speed of working
- A critical mind
- Widely read
- Innovative thinker approach
- Not stupid
- Communicating in a structured manner
- Logical arguments
- Good all-rounder in terms of subject
- Consistency in performance
- Flair, Creativity – eg. organising University Lipdub
- Good memory
- Lateral thinking
- Good time management and organisation
- Luck and good health
Strategy for getting a good degree
- wanting to learn (intrinsic motivation);
- needing to learn (extrinsic motivation);
- learning by doing; practice, trial and error, having a go, experiential learning
- feedback, finding out how your learning is going;
- making sense of what you’re learning; increasing your understanding, or ‘digesting’ what you learn;
As a student, what are your strengths and weaknesses?
- When I start something, I almost finish it; I stick at things.
- I want a good degree for me, not just to satisfy other people’s expectations of me.
- I’m good at deciding what is important, and not just getting on with what seems to be urgent.
- I’m good at receiving feedback from other people, both when it’s positive and when it’s critical
- I don’t waste time thinking about doing some work, I just get on with it straight away.
- If I can’t see the point is of doing something, I tend to leave it and do something that I can see the point of.
- I work best by myself; workign with other people just wastes too much time.
- I find it useful to work with other people, as this means I get more ideas that I would if working by myself.
- I never feel that my learning of something is finished, but that it is sensible to reach a resting level for the present time.
Some productive lecture processes
- become excited about the subject and enthused (wanting);
- see why something is important
- solving problems
- asking questions (seeking feedback)
- answering questions
- prioritizing issues and information (digesting)
- making notes in a manner that makes important things stand out from the page/ Summarizing
- trying out theoretical principles in practice-based examples
Tutorials are opportunities to show lecturers that you are one of the students who is heading towards deserving a good degree. Lecturers notice the differences between motivated, conscientious students and the rest.
Life is a group-work business, unless you like beign really quite lonely. Employers rate group-work skills very highly.
Good habits when doing assessed group work include:
- Coping well with any problems that emerge in the group
- Recognising and accomodating people’s different abilities.
- Playing to individual strengths.
- Keeping the team output in mind and avoiding personal nit-picking.
- Using the team as a resource.
Final year dissertations
Good habits when writing final year dissertations include:
- Managing your time effectively.
- Reviewing the fields well, and early.
- Knowing when to stop working on the dissertation.
- Valuing originality.
- Tips for giving good presentation:
- Promising, interesting start.
- Aims of presentation, clearly stated near the beginning
- Confident, authoritative manner.
- Good eye contact with audience, adding to credibility.
- Evidence of thorough research
- Knowing about what he/she is talking about.
- No embarassing silences or pauses
- Visual aids useful, appropriate and well-handled
- Questions handled confidently and well
- Good time keeping
- Good habits when making use of handout materials include:
- keeping them securely
- actually usign them
- Working out what was handed out
- Modifying them and adding to them
- Filing them systematically
- Turning them into questions to practise on
Last minute revision
- If you’ve worked consistently and steadily at your revision for weeks or months, you should not need to spend any significant efforts right at the last minute.
- ‘The exam is tomorrow, now is your last chance to make that difference which will get you a good degree.’
- Do a little polishing of things you already know well, rather than reading things that you find you don’t know well.
- Do a little gentle practising. Map out again in your mind (or paper) the answers to questions that you have already addressed in your revision. Show yourself that you can gather up your thoughts efficiently and calmly, and will be able to do so again shortly in the actual exam.
- Treat last minute revision like warming up in the gym. Use it to stretch your mind, and to raise energy levels, rather than to exhaust yourself before the actual exam.