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

OvergrownMoose
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Hi,

I thought, as the new university year is well underway, 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 #Moooose
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OvergrownMoose
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I guess this didn't help anyone :'( #Moooose
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Cronus
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(Original post by OvergrownMoose)
I guess this didn't help anyone :'( #Moooose
Is good
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OvergrownMoose
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(Original post by Cronus)
Is good
Thank you #Moooose
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Amusing Elk
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I was recently asked a similar question about how I felt I achieved my first. All of the above tips are significant points but the most important thing is to enjoy doing the degree. The more you enjoy it (even if you have to try to convince yourself during exam season or when stressful deadlines are looming) then the less it feels like a chore and the more of a personal investment you have with your course. This can work wonders in helping with one's motivation and willpower. I ended up enjoying my course more and more as time went on and things like essays or projects ended up just feeling like parts of a normal healthy routine as a student (if such a thing exists).

I would also advise students not to simply chase after grades or think along the lines of "I'm sure this essay is worthy of a 2:1". Essay or project guidelines are helpful but not dogmatic. They should be there as a rough template for students to make the essays their own. Original thought (as long as it's relevant, insightful and well written) can go a long way with any piece of written work.

Another point early on would be to consider deeply which areas you wish to specialise in within your degree. Again, students should prioritise as much as they can with modules or classes they feel they'd enjoy the most above other factors. I would avoid choosing modules on the basis that they seem like "the easy way out", because this is not always likely to be the case in reality and it may indeed be harder to find a way to obtain a high mark in a module or class considered 'light'. Undertaking a module for the purposes of transferable skills or career prospects can be important as well, obviously, but above all else, the module must appeal on a personal enjoyment level.
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jessyjellytot14
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I'm in my second year of A-levels and I think this will be very helpful for now in terms of getting A*s, as well as for when I go to university.

I especially like :
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.

Thank you! You seem very wise- what did/are you studying at university?
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Saba XD
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Ok, the secret to my First class degree was that I was an introvert. I didn't go out so more time to study. But, still, I wasted time regardless. I was super lazy and still somehow managed to get a First. I was shocked more than my parents, as my mum was always on my case for being lazy and not studying enough.

I understand that these aren't really tips, and I don't recommend to anyone what I did.
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ColossalAtom
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A friend who graduated from uni told me you can only have 2 of the 3 things when you're at uni: great social life, substantial sleep on daily basis and high grades (first class honours).
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OvergrownMoose
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(Original post by Samuel.King)
I was recently asked a similar question about how I felt I achieved my first. All of the above tips are significant points but the most important thing is to enjoy doing the degree. The more you enjoy it (even if you have to try to convince yourself during exam season or when stressful deadlines are looming) then the less it feels like a chore and the more of a personal investment you have with your course. This can work wonders in helping with one's motivation and willpower. I ended up enjoying my course more and more as time went on and things like essays or projects ended up just feeling like parts of a normal healthy routine as a student (if such a thing exists).

I would also advise students not to simply chase after grades or think along the lines of "I'm sure this essay is worthy of a 2:1". Essay or project guidelines are helpful but not dogmatic. They should be there as a rough template for students to make the essays their own. Original thought (as long as it's relevant, insightful and well written) can go a long way with any piece of written work.

Another point early on would be to consider deeply which areas you wish to specialise in within your degree. Again, students should prioritise as much as they can with modules or classes they feel they'd enjoy the most above other factors. I would avoid choosing modules on the basis that they seem like "the easy way out", because this is not always likely to be the case in reality and it may indeed be harder to find a way to obtain a high mark in a module or class considered 'light'. Undertaking a module for the purposes of transferable skills or career prospects can be important as well, obviously, but above all else, the module must appeal on a personal enjoyment level.
All very useful points! Thank you Enjoyment is certainly essential to staying motivated #Moooose
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OvergrownMoose
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(Original post by jessyjellytot14)
I'm in my second year of A-levels and I think this will be very helpful for now in terms of getting A*s, as well as for when I go to university.

I especially like :
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.

Thank you! You seem very wise- what did/are you studying at university?
Thank you I just graduated from Exeter with first class honours in law! #Moooose
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OvergrownMoose
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(Original post by Saba XD)
Ok, the secret to my First class degree was that I was an introvert. I didn't go out so more time to study. But, still, I wasted time regardless. I was super lazy and still somehow managed to get a First. I was shocked more than my parents, as my mum was always on my case for being lazy and not studying enough.

I understand that these aren't really tips, and I don't recommend to anyone what I did.
You're just a genius though #Moooose
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OvergrownMoose
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(Original post by ColossalAtom)
A friend who graduated from uni told me you can only have 2 of the 3 things when you're at uni: great social life, substantial sleep on daily basis and high grades (first class honours).
Yeah, it is very difficult to get the luxury of all three things Unfortunately, most people have to decide what they value more!! #Moooose
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emilysmith268
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Not at uni yet but this is actually really motivational and helpful!
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OvergrownMoose
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(Original post by emilysmith268)
Not at uni yet but this is actually really motivational and helpful!
I'm glad to hear! If you want to chat about uni or anything just let me know #Moooose
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sinfonietta
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Bookmarking this. I'm on my second go through the education system and I'm determined to do it right this time around rather than settling for mostly Bs again.
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OvergrownMoose
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(Original post by sinfonietta)
Bookmarking this. I'm on my second go through the education system and I'm determined to do it right this time around rather than settling for mostly Bs again.
I believe in you!! #Moooose
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OvergrownMoose
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Would love to hear what tips other people have! #Moooose
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OvergrownMoose
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(Original post by emilysmith268)
Not at uni yet but this is actually really motivational and helpful!
What stage of study are you at? #Moooose
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Aph
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Actually I know people with a first who wish they partied more in their first year...
Also, and no offence, you are making it sound that people should have no fun at all. If you are doing more then 40 hours a week of work including lectures then you will burn out very fast and it isn't healthy.
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LeaX
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I definitely agree with treating every assignment like it's worth everything, if I only have one assignment to do and it's a poster worth 5% of a module I hate, you can bet that I'm going to go above and beyond for it to ensure it gets a good mark. Speaking of assignments, be meticulous. I search every piece of advice given to us from the generic advice given by the library to the specific font preferred by my department to ensure everything is as good as I can make it. I study Biology so this may not apply to other courses, but try and I try and use at least one paper from the past 1-2 years in each assignment I do to show I at least know where the topic in question is currently heading. Just use Google Scholar, type in the topic and skim the abstracts until you find relevant papers.

The best way I find to revise is test yourself. What I would do is read and reread my notes for 5ish weeks so that I knew most of it, and knew the bigger picture stuff. Then about a week before each exam, I'd start focussing on the things I didn't know off-by-heart. For example, biochemistry pathways or the different mechanisms of specific antibiotics, then I would write them up on a4 in felt tips and stick them on my wall, and throughout that week I would read them, then try and write it from memory, then check, and repeat. It works really well because you're actively using your brain to try and retrieve the information.
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