The Official 'How To Get A First Class Degree' thread Watch

gman10
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Hi,

I thought, as the next university year is soon to begin, we should collate a series of tips on how to get a first at university. Whether you have got a first in a module or overall in your whole degree please do tell us what your top tips are/were for achieving this degree.

Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

1. Always know what is being asked of you – This is the number one point on the list because it is the most important. It is very easy when you get an assignment to jump straight in and think about the completion of the task. As your thought process and creativity start to flow you have already worked out the best possible structure, what research you’re going to do and how it’s going to feel when you get that awesome grade. However, what you haven’t noticed is that you haven’t paid enough attention to the question and you have mentally researched and answered a different question to what has been asked.

The key is to ask yourself the following when you look at your assignment or exam question :

  • What have I learned on this subject so far
  • What will I need to demonstrate I have understood from the course content I have received
  • What details will I need to research to show I have expanded my knowledge
  • How can I demonstrate I have used course content, research and practical assignments as a basis for the conclusions in this piece of work.
  • What can I add to this work that will show I have gone above and beyond the expected standard ?.

Master this method and your assignments and questions will always be high quality, relevant and worthy of that first class degree.

2. Make friends and collaborate – It’s going to be a difficult and lonely road if you don’t make friends on your course. Aside from companionship, a collaborative group will improve the quality of your work. Why ? I hear you ask. The reason is that you could be the smartest person in the world but chances are someone else is going to think of an idea that you wouldn’t have. If you are in a good group you will realise that you are not competing against each other but you are trying to reach an academic standard, and as long as you can agree on what is being asked of you (see above) and not plagiarise each others work, you should develop a collective foundation that each individual can build upon with their own work.
A final note on this subject, if you want to increase your odds of gaining a first class degree, make sure you surround yourself with good, committed and hard working people.

3. Always give 100 % - Some people take the view that they will coast through the first couple of years and then really turn it on in the final year when it matters most. This is not the path to success. If you want a first class degree you SHOULD TREAT EVERY ASSIGNMENT LIKE IT WILL BE THE ONLY ONE YOU EVER GET GRADED ON. By putting 100% into every assignment or exam you are not only increasing your average grade score you are also developing the key habits that you will need in the later stages of your degree. These habits will be the vital ingredients that your fellow students will lack when it comes to the crucial final year and it will show in their results. So start early in year 1 and always give 100% to everything you do.

4. Limit the leisure – University can be fun and exciting but if you are serious about getting a first class degree you will need to limit your leisure time so it doesn’t encroach on your studies. If you are continuously missing lectures because you are hung over or not working on assignments so you can hang out with your friends then things are probably not going to turn out well for you. Remember no-one with a first class degree ever wished they had partied more, but most people with 2:2s wished they had studied more.

5. Have a good enough ‘Why’ and make it personal ? – When you have four deadlines looming, you’re tired, overwhelmed and your employed friends have all the money and time in the world you will ask yourself - “Why am I doing this”. The standard reason is “to get a good job” but this isn’t very compelling especially if it is 3 years away. Another common reason is “because my sibling went” or “my parents wanted me to go”. Again, these are not good reasons because they will not give you the personal drive required in difficult times. It would be wrong for me to advise what YOUR personal reasons should be but I base mine around challenging myself everyday to become a better person and develop habits that would serve me well in the future. For me gaining a first class degree isn’t about bragging, job prospects, a piece of paper or a funny hat it was about being proud of the person I am to become in pursuit of my goal.

6. Hardwork vs Difficulty - A first class degree is difficult to achieve, not impossible but difficult. This is a good thing. If they were easy to achieve everyone would have one and their value would go down. Therefore, imagine that the first class degree is on the top shelf and your hardwork is the ladder. I am not a genius, but I am willing to do whatever it took to overcome the challenges the degree threw at me and that was the key to success. So embrace the difficulty, counter it with hardwork and always keep in mind that ‘you can’t fly without gravity’.

7. Beware of group work – I mentioned earlier the importance of a being in a good group but sometimes the group members are selected randomly and this may not work in your favour. Like with any group situation there will be a mixture of temperaments, agendas and ability. Your job is to make sure your work is the very best it can be to compensate for others that aren’t as conscientious. Also if you volunteer to be the person that consolidates everyone’s work into the final project it also gives you the opportunity to amend or add to the weaker members work to improve the grade. I know this isn’t fair on you but you may want to take the hit to ensure a good grade.

8. Check you are on the right course with your lecturers – At University you are expected to work many things out on your own. You will be given an assignment, allowed a few questions after the lecture and then sent on your way. As a rule lecturers want to offer as little guidance as possible even if it means some students produce poor quality work. After all the pay is the same whether you succeed or fail.
As the master of your own destiny it is your responsibility to book time with your lecturers and make sure you have interpreted the question correctly and are on track with your research. This extra effort is viewed favourably by lecturers and will be rewarded. They may not give you the answers but they may give you some pointers that will save you some time and allow you to maximise your results.

9. Focus on what you don't know - Some areas of study will be easier and more interesting than others and you will have a tendency to focus on these and know them inside out. However, I can guarantee you that what you have procrastinated on and failed to learn WILL be in your exam. It is in that moment that you will learn two very valuable life lessons :
1. Ignorance is NOT bliss
2. What you don’t know WILL harm you.
Remember the more difficult the concept the greater ‘points’ you will score for being able to understand it. If you want a first class degree you will have to demonstrate that you understand the simple and the complex. In summary, if you have holes in your knowledge, get them covered.

10. Time management – There is no right time management. However, find the right balance. You have to work hard, but you also have to find time to play/relax.

11. Meet deadlines - Deadlines are extremely important in many parts of life but they are crucial if you want to achieve a first class degree. At my University the penalty for late work is a 10% reduction in your grade so everyone avoided it like the plague. Call in favours, burn the midnight oil whatever it takes but make sure you get it in on time – every time.

Thanks

Note: I have given permission to OvergrownMoose to repost this as I thought TSR would benefit from this information!
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Fashion Girl
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I would say my top tips for getting a first are as as follows:

1. Visit the library. Libraries are a great place for some quiet time with your work. So if you feel your motivation sliding away or that your just too tired to trek to the library, just take the bus, but do go to the library because you will feel better once you get there and start to study.

2. Always be proud of your accomplishments. When you get straight As in your assignment, even if it was a really easy one, be proud of it. Don't be put down by the fact that it was an easy test and hence really easy to get an A. Remember that it was only easy to get an A because you worked so hard for it in the first place.

3. Eat Right. Eating right is essential. You need to keep yourself both healthy and nourished to run about during the day in lecs, so make sure your drinking plenty of milk and fruit juices, eating your veggies and some hearty meals too, to keep your diet well-balanced in all areas, from vitamins to proteins.

4. Make friends on your course and halls. Doesn't matter if its really difficult at first. Don't feel disheartened because you will get there - its hard not to when your paired up in groups for your course, or you see them everyday while going to the toilet, because pretty soon you will make friends.

5. Make time for your friends sometimes. Its good to keep in touch with your mates. They keep you sane when you have a Gantt chart to complete in a day for your course!

6. Party hard, but work harder. Parties are great to hang out with your mates once in a while, because you don't want to have like hardly any social skills, but remember to always put your studies first. If your boyfriend has a gathering to attend and your just not up for it because you have a deadline the next day, then put your studies first - if he really likes you, he will be understanding. You know you would do the same for him, if you really needed to let your hair down after a tiresome and hectic week of running around completing assignments, and really need to just chill with some mates at a pub, while he has a deadline the next day.

7. Become friends with your peers and tutors. I always try to become friends with my tutors and peers because their advice on everything, abs. everything, is important to me! If you are friends with your tutor then you will benefit from their advice and suggestions on how best to tackle that thermodynamics problem you've been working on for days now.

8. Read Books. A lot of books. Make sure that you read a lot of the books off your course list. Don't just limit yourself to gaining knowledge from lecture notes because reading a lot of books will only help you in your course. If you really enjoy your course, then you should have no prob curling up with a good book, let's say something like How to Program the Internet, because you are learning so much helpful stuff, and the material is really enjoyable and interesting. Thrift stores, second-hand bookshops and uni bookstores are good places to start!

That's all I can think of for now...I'll add more when I remember them !

:bath:
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Small Town Girl
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(Original post by Fashion Girl)
Read Books. A lot of books.
Do you worry about trying to remember the content when reading around your course, or is it literally grab a book and enjoy yourself?
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Fashion Girl
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(Original post by Small Town Girl)
Do you worry about trying to remember the content when reading around your course, or is it literally grab a book and enjoy yourself?
I just enjoy myself. I take notes from the book while reading too, when I'm not tired so that helps with remembering the content.

I know it can be really stressful because I think like "I should have noted what XHTML stands for!...No, I'm too tired, I'm just gonna do it later!" (Sigh) !

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Perseverance
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Getting a first is a lot about exam technique and knowing how to make your piece of work stand out more than anything. You can read endlessly, or learn many facts but that won't necessarily help you. I study law and learning a select few academics to insert into essays is always likely to boost your mark if it is relevant. Most importantly, offering a difference stance or personal argument which is original immediately differentiates your work from everyone else.
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SpicyStrawberry
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Very good thread, lots of decent tips in there.

I would definitely recommend making a plan of your time over the upcoming weeks so you can see well ahead of time when your deadlines are, and you can plan your study and coursework writing time around lectures, part-time work and social events more easily. You could set an invisible deadline for yourself around a week or two before the real deadline so you can aim to have it completed well ahead so you can focus on other things that might need more time dedicated to them.

Also, Google Scholar. It's such an easy tool to find recent journal articles that will help you with your research. If you use textbooks alone you are limiting yourself; lecturers want to see up to date research in your work rather than the same studies repeated over and over again.
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Sports Racer
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Two ways to get a first in my experience (essay subjects and mixed qual/quant subjects):

1. Working hard

i.e. most of the tips above

2. Working smart

a) Knowing the classification regulations inside out
b) Selecting modules wisely - those you are passionate about, assessment method split, good first rates, etc.
c) Revision technique - revising the right content and in the way that suits your learning style
d) Exam technique - ability to rapidly weaponise and deploy knowledge in a way that is expected by the examiner
e) Mastery - the elusive 'flair'; critical understanding of the given scope of the subject, 'getting' the essence of the material and what the module intended to convey, having an internally consistent Point of View, inserting relevant 'over and above' reading
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harry_007
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I'd rather work by myself, and if I want help, I would ask the teacher. I can't rely on people to help me. :\
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gman10
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there has been some fantastic input to this thread! Keep it up
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janet3
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I think it depends on the subject to be honest. Subjects such as maths and engineering are a bit more 'clear cut' than others such as English etc as they rely entirely on fact and existing theory, you are in many cases either right or wrong with STEM subjects, whereas subjects such as English rely on more opinion/development of how you understand something. This is my feeling, others may disagree. Basically, work hard and try your best!
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Ravenous
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Put loads of references in, particularly of academic journals and make sure you've formatted it perfectly..at least that's for my subject.
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Manitude
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(Original post by gman10)
2. Make friends and collaborate
3. Always give 100 %
I'd say these are the most important things.
I'd never have done so well if I hadn't (almost*) always done my best, and didn't have friends who are far more intelligent/better equipped with textbooks than I am.

*sometimes on a sunday night after a solid weekend of work I'd say 'sod it' and hand in unfinished work. Thankfully as I didn't do an essay subject this didn't hugely affect the grade. Also I only really did this in first and second year.
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ElChapo
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Is a first possible whilst working like 12-18 hours a week. I will need a job to survive, not out of greed

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-=|Jay|=-
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(Original post by ElChapo)
Is a first possible whilst working like 12-18 hours a week. I will need a job to survive, not out of greed

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Yes but be prepared to be really, really, really organized.

I got a 1st whilst working 10 to 16 hours per week. Usually between 10 and 12 most weeks (2 evening shifts at a bar).

Be prepared to sacrifice some of your remaining social life.

In 1st and 2nd year it's pretty easy to juggle a job.

When I was in 3rd year was when I had a job (2 jobs in fact). I had very little social life outside of society meet ups. I worked Friday nights and Saturday nights...the quintessential nights for 3rd years to go out.

I came out of university out of my overdraft. It was worth it.
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T1gga92
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I am studying an FdA in Hospitality Management and really struggle to find articles in journals to use in essays. I manage to find plenty of websites and textbooks but find articles difficult to use in a clever way. I am going into my second year and this is now essential. I managed to scrape last year but need to do well this year. Anyone got helpful hints for this? xx


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username163092
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(Original post by T1gga92)
I am studying an FdA in Hospitality Management and really struggle to find articles in journals to use in essays. I manage to find plenty of websites and textbooks but find articles difficult to use in a clever way. I am going into my second year and this is now essential. I managed to scrape last year but need to do well this year. Anyone got helpful hints for this? xx


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I presume you know about JSTOR? Maybe improving your search skills as well for using JSTOR and your library so that it turns up useful stuff. Also look at the references and bibliographies of the websites and books for journals. Does your course have any databases? Classics has one that only throws up Classics-related scholarship, so if there's something similar for your course that can really help searching for journals (as well as other texts).
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T1gga92
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(Original post by Aemiliana)
I presume you know about JSTOR? Maybe improving your search skills as well for using JSTOR and your library so that it turns up useful stuff. Also look at the references and bibliographies of the websites and books for journals. Does your course have any databases? Classics has one that only throws up Classics-related scholarship, so if there's something similar for your course that can really help searching for journals (as well as other texts).
No I've never come across JSTOR - what is this?
No databases as far as I know - thanks for the help, I'll check these when I go back on the 12th xx


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Billton
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There's been loads of great tips already, so I'll just add one of mine.

It's so easy to underestimate the importance of coursework. It's so easy to think, "well if I get blahblah% in my exam, then I'll get a first overall, the coursework was only worth 15% of the module!"

But submitting excellent coursework takes a bit of pressure off in your final exam- it provides room for a little error due to nerves or silly mistakes.

In my third year, I went into 1 of my exams only needing something ridiculous like 21% just to pass, because I had achieved such fantastic marks for my assignments. Really takes a lot of pressure off!

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fallen_acorns
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aside from all the great tips that have been give, one thing I would want students to consider, is:

Do you need a first?

- it sounds wierd, as surely everyone should strive for the best degree..

But its not as stupid as it sounds,

Getting a first, in a demanding subject takes a ton of work, its very time-consuming (unless your very gifted) and will eat up your time.

Sometimes, especially on vocaitonal courses, which dont lead dirrectly into jobs, its better to finish with a 2.1& relivant experiance(working, internships, volenteering) rather then the 1st.

now, ofcourse if you can do it all, then great! - but many of us cant, for what ever reason, and often for students it can become a choice between focusing 100% on their course, and branching out for experiance..

If your going into fields say, the charity sector, the art/music world, design work, and many more - it can be far more benifical to have a 2.1, and a lot of great experiance and contacts..

So after first year, my advice to all new students would be to look back at the year, and what you want to do in your future and ask yourself:

Would it aid my future career to have a good amount of quality experiance?

Can I get this experiance, whilst still maintaining the workload to get a 1st?

If not, what is more important to my future career?
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fallen_acorns
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(Original post by T1gga92)
No I've never come across JSTOR - what is this?
No databases as far as I know - thanks for the help, I'll check these when I go back on the 12th xx


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http://www.jstor.org/

Its a library of journal articles and relivant documents

great for researching areas/coursework
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