dragonkeeper999
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It's my final year at university and my new years resolution this year was to study harder to boost my grades up from a 2:2 (second year) to a 1st.

It's not going to be easy, but I've been working to identify where exactly I went wrong back in second year and what I can do this year to improve.
Spoiler:
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Where I went wrong in second year:
  1. Too many extracurriculars
  2. Not prioritising my studies, leading to getting behind on work
  3. Skipping or dozing through lectures
  4. Not realising the importance and value of supervisions, leading to rushed supervision work and not making the most of the opportunity
  5. Various external pressures causing stress throughout the year


(N.b. first few posts are reposted from my original blog which started in October 2016)
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Hassan2578
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Lecture Strategy (original post: 05/10/16)

I've been thinking a lot these past few weeks about how best to tackle lectures. Should I continue as in previous years, just turning up, writing down what the lecturer says, then not looking at them again until exam term? In hindsight it really wasn't a good strategy... This is the final plan I have come up with, actionable around each lecture:

1. The day before the lecture, pre-read the relevant section of the lecture notes, highlight key points, briefly look up anything that doesn't make sense and make a note on where I still get stuck

2. During the lecture, make additional notes based on what the lecturer says Immediately after the lecture, ask the lecturer any questions based on my pre-reading and anything I didn't understand in the lecture

3. The afternoon/ evening after the lecture, go back over the notes along with relevant textbooks/ papers adding any extra information and looking up information on anything I get stuck on

4. Complete relevant supervision questions (and tripos questions if appropriate). If it's a challenging topic, complete some questions from a textbook too

5. During the supervision, ask any further questions based on what I couldn't do in the supervision work

6. One week after the lecture, review the lecture notes After the end of each set of lectures, write up summary notes and/ or posters. Complete at least five relevant tripos questions.

7. At the end of term, review summary notes and make flashcards/ posters for revision

It's going to involve a fair amount of work throughout the term, but by reviewing the lecture notes several times (and gradually getting more spaced out - thus being a rather crude form of spaced repetition) hopefully this should ensure I both understand the lecture content and remember the essential information. This will avoid having to essentially re-learn everything again in exam term as I have done in previous years. I will keep you updated as to how this plan goes and any modifications made!
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dragonkeeper999
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Timetabling (original post: 20/10/16):

It's now a couple of weeks into term and my timetable is beginning to take shape. Supervisions, starting next week, have been arranged and I have figured out how to attend all my lectures, classes and labs. However, one thing I did learn back in first year was the importance of timetabling not only fixed commitments such as lectures, but also study periods and deadlines.

In the past, I kept track of this via a scrap piece of paper pinned on my board, on which I scribbled in my plans each week. Having recently discovered the wonders of calendar apps this year I'm planning to go high-tech and organise this via my phone. In theory this should mean it will buzz and remind me when I am meant to be doing stuff, as well as making it easier to move things around without having scribbly mess on my timetable.

Some tips for good study timetabling:
1. Start with your fixed commitments - lectures, classes, supervisions, labs, mealtimes, etc.

2. Add in transport time around each fixed commitment

3. Work out when the associated deadlines will be (e.g. two days before each supervision for problems sheets, the day I plan to start each new experiment for labs)

4. Decide how long each piece of work will take, then add half again

5. Giving AT LEAST one day in advance of the deadline, fit in these study periods into the gaps in the timetable

6. Also allocate periods of time for pre-reading and reviewing notes

7. Don't forget that having a break is important - include sports, social events, reading a book/ watching a film, etc. in the timetable too!

8. Sleep is REALLY important - my tabletable has a strict bedtime of 10:30pm each day, and since it takes me half an hour to get ready for bed that's a 10pm end for studying/ socialising
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Getting the most out of supervisions (original post: 22/10/16):

Supervisions are one of the unique benefits of an Oxbridge education, but it's something us undergraduates more often than not moan about and take for granted. In the first two years of my degree, I often rushed through my supervision work and didn't think to ask my supervisors for more advice or information on topics I was stuck on - instead just passively sitting through the supervision to get it over with. This year however, I have resolved to change this mindset and make the most of my supervisions.

Here are my main tips for achieving this:

1. Supervisions are there to help YOU - so it's totally ok to tell your supervisor what you want to achieve from them. If they're too easy, then ask for more challenging questions. If your main aim is just to pass the exam and get a good grade, tell the supervisor this so they know to focus on exam questions. If you're super passionate about the topic, ask your supervisor for extended reading advice. And if your supervisor and you really aren't a good match, don't hesitate to talk to your Director of Studies about switching to a more suitable supervisor.

2. Preparation is key - make sure you have completed all the supervision problems and re-read the lecture notes and recommended reading before the supervision. This ensures you are in the right mindset, remember what you studied recently, and remind yourself of which topics you need to ask for more help on.

3. Don't rush the homework - rushing will mean you hand in poor quality work, thus suggesting to your supervisor that you are a poor student, so they are more likely to spend the time reviewing the basics. Taking time over your work means that the supervision can instead be focused on the topics you are really struggling with.

4. Turn up on time and allow time at the end for the supervision to overrun if necessary (my first year physics supervisions frequently overrun by hours...). One friend told me recently that he simply refused to leave a supervision until he fully understood everything he had been struggling with - while this tactic does have to be implemented politely and respectfully (you do have to get the supervisor to cooperate in this endeavour after all), leaving a supervision with questions unanswered is undoubtably a wasted opportunity. If you are really struggling with a topic, don't hesitate to ask for an additional supervision to review the work rather than running overtime by hours.
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On balancing commitments (original post: 25/10/16):

University is full of commitments, deadlines and activities - and sometimes there simply isn't enough time in the day to complete everything you want to do. Therefore, prioritising things is absolutely crucial. In this post I'm going to rank my main commitments in order of importance to help me decide what to prioritise when balancing so many things at once.

1. Coursework
Any pieces of work which count towards my final grade HAVE to be my number one priority. They tend to have strict deadlines and although for my course are worth only 25% of my final result, can be a great way of getting marks before exam term. This year, my coursework consists of around 10 lab reports, some scientific computing projects, and my weekly Chinese class.

2. Supervisions
We only get so many supervisions per course and they really are an unmissable opportunity to learn in small groups (usually two students to a supervisor) and work on any difficulties I am having with the course. We have around three - four supervisions a week (one per lecture course) and each one lasts an hour. Due to the small group nature, we can to a certain extent control when and where they are as convenient - but this also means missing them just isn't an option.

3. Supervision work
Each supervision gives around three - five hours of supervision work each week. This generally consists of a problem sheet of questions based on the lectures, and maybe some practice exam questions or textbook questions for extra practice. Although this homework doesn't count towards our grades, it is really important to do since doing through the supervision work is the main part of most supervisions. It is also a great way to identify any areas you are struggling with on the course.

4. Lectures
I was unsure whether to place this above supervision work at first because these are the main teaching method at university and therefore very important - however we are given lecture notes I could use to learn the material in my own time and this year some of our lectures are being recorded and put online. Therefore, attending lectures is not absolutely essential - and indeed many students chose to spend that time instead independently studying the course material.

5. Hobbies and sports
I think it is essential to have in my timetable some kind of organised relaxing activity. Organised because otherwise it would be too easy to never get round to doing it, and relaxing because studying all day everyday is not the most efficient way to learn. Having a break allows you to reset your brain and come back to a problem with new eyes, so sometimes just taking an hour off from studying can help you study better. This year I've deliberately taken on less extracurricular commitments, having realised that in second year the sheer number of them turned them from a relaxing break into another chore - but I'm still going to two orchestras, since they are quite chilled and something I really enjoy.
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Falling back in love with Chemistry (28/10/16):

Looking back at where it all went wrong I'm back in second year, it's clear to me that my attitude towards my subject was a key factor in my low grades. I stopped enjoying studying my major and instead saw it as a chore taking time away from the sports and societies I much preferred. This resulted in me rushing my supervision work just to get it out of the way, skipping Saturday lectures to go sailing, and not doing any extra work outside of compulsory studying to consolidate my knowledge.

I realised that the best way to motivate myself to actual study was first to fall back in love with Chemistry and regain that childhood passion I had for my subject before university. However, exactly how to achieve this wasn't immediately clear. As a teenager, the ability to studying chemistry without too much academic pressure and to pursue my interest independently through my extended project was really motivational. However, those aren't really options now.

Here are a list of things I am doing to rediscover my passion for my subject, which can generally be applied to any other subject too.

1. Attending SciSoc and ChemSoc talks
Every week, the university science and chemistry societies organise talks from famous researchers to talk about their work. They come from all over the country to give a fun, not too detailed overview of the science relevant to their research - this providing insight into the real world applications of our studies. Although I am not interested in a career in academia or necessarily in science, hearing about why my degree is actually useful is very motivational and puts what I am learning into a broader context.

2. Reading chemistry related magazines
Since sixth form, I've subscribed to the New Scientist and Chemistry World magazines. Like the talks, these introduce recent research in an easily accessible manner, with short, fun articles not requiring any specialist knowledge.

3. Picking interesting modules
One huge benefit of third year is that we get a certain amount of flexibility within our major subject - enabling me to focus only on those areas of chemistry I have some interest in. I am therefore focusing on organic and biological chemistry - subjects I am generally slightly better at, require less maths, and have exciting applications in areas such as medical research. I also took up the option to take a language module, this keeping up my Chinese language skills and providing more variety to my studying.

4. Making posters
Posters make learning and revising so much more fun. At the end of the summer, I made posters covering my second year chemistry notes, which now brighten up the walls in my room. Combining studying with art and bright colours definitely helps me sit down and study, and there is evidence that you remember things better by using colours and diagrams.

5. Studying with friends
As a relatively introverted person, I used to just study on my own in the library. However, this year I have organised a few group study sessions with my classmates, having heard from others that they are helpful, and I would definitely agree. Studying with others allows us to chat over our notes, enjoy a coffee, take study breaks, and yet still focus on studying with the peer pressure of your friends getting on with their work around you. I have suddenly found doing my homework and lab reports so much more fun!

6. Thinking of the future
A Chemistry degree can lead into a whole variety of career paths, demonstrating numerical, analytical and practical skills. Although I am unsure whether I wish to pursue a career specifically related to Chemistry, having a good degree will help me with whatever job I chose. This in itself is great motivation to study harder and enjoy what I'm doing - because even though sometimes it seems pointless hard work actually it will help me in the future.
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The importance of Self-Study (2/11/16):

Just going to lectures, labs and supervisions and doing the bare minimum homework (a mistake I made in the first two years of my degree) simply isn't enough to get a decent grade. As well as revision for the exams, there is also a significant amount of independent work you should be doing continuously throughout the year.

1. Pre-reading lecture notes
Scanning through the lecture notes the day before the lecture is essential. This helps you to think about which topics are coming up, sort out in your mind where particular topics are in the lecture notes (particularly important for lectures where the lecturer doesn't follow the layout of the notes perfectly), and identify what the pre-requisite knowledge is and therefore whether there is anything you need to revise from previous lectures/ years. If it's a particularly challenging topic, I sometimes read the relevant section of the appropriate textbook before the lecture to ensure I have a basic knowledge of the topic beforehand. This enables me to spend the lecture focusing on the extra detail - essential to gain top marks in the exam.

2. Reviewing lecture notes
After each lecture, preferably a day or two later, re-reading the lecture notes and looking up anything you are stuck on will ensure the material is fully understood and consolidated in your mind. I also try to write up my lecture notes at the end of each major topic, thus providing me with a list of the essential points for revision.

3. Textbook questions
Although our lecturers set us a "problem sheet" of questions for each lecture series, these often only give one or two examples for each topic. If I find a topic particularly challenging or need some extra practice having not reviewed the topic in a while, completing questions from a relevant textbook (lecturers usually recommend a few core texts for each course) gives me more practice. Often, there are solutions available for these questions - and if not, I can ask my supervisor for help with questions I am stuck on.

4. Reading around the course
I have to admit to not doing this as thoroughly as I could, and perhaps should, but reading up on topics related to the material covered in lectures can allow you to learn in more detail or from another point of view. Often, lecturers will recommend particular textbooks and scientific papers relevant to the course which could be considered the bare minimum of extra reading you have to do - but these recommended texts will themselves often link to other sources of information. I add any information learnt from this wider reading to my lecture notes, but using a different coloured pen - this way when it comes to revision I know what is essential information the lecture covered in the course (black ink) and what is just extra information I found myself (green ink) - useful for extra examples in exams but not essential to learn if I am pressed for time.
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(Original post by Hassan2578)
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Chemistry, University of Cambridge
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Mid-Term Review (10/11/16):

To evaluate my progress so far in improving my grades, I have decided to write regular progress updates in order to assess whether or not I am on track. The following actions formed the key components of my study plan:

1. Starting on track
Before term even started, I intended to ensure I was up to speed with all my previous studies. This included:
  • Revision posters
  • Past papers (2/4)
  • Maths worksheet
  • Pre-reading lecture notes
  • Downloading third year materials
  • Reviewing where second year went wrong

While I achieved most of these targets, I did fall short slightly in terms of completing two years worth of past papers - a vital step in ensuring I fully understood everything I had revised. In hindsight it perhaps wasn't essential to have completed so many past papers and just one years worth was sufficient to start the year on track.

2. Studying outside of lectures/ homework
  • Pre-reading notes
  • Reviewing notes
  • Completing textbook questions
  • Reading around the course

Although I still have progress to be made in terms of pre-reading and reviewing lectures notes, I have made more use of textbooks and additional reading materials. In particular, I have been using the recommended textbook for module A2 in organic chemistry a lot for extra practice questions since it works much more slowly through the topics than we do in class, and as part of the research required for my lab reports I have read widely around several organic and inorganic topics, focusing mainly on research papers. I made sure to note this extra information in my lecture notes to remind me of this additional reading when revising for exams.

3. Motivating myself
In an attempt to "fall back in love with Chemistry", I planned several easy methods for enjoying my subject outside of strictly studying.
  • Attending SciSoc and ChemSoc talks
  • Reading chemistry magazines
  • Picking interesting modules
  • Making posters
  • Studying with friends
  • Thinking of the future

This term, I've attended several science/ chemistry talks organised by societies across the university, reminding me of some of the topics that inspired me to pursue a degree in Chemistry. I've also read a few New Scientist and Chemistry World magazines in the evenings. While for the first half of this term I have no choice in modules, I have been able to pick some more interesting courses starting this week in organic, inorganic and biological chemistry. Making posters has been a fun way to summarise topics, and spending time doing lab reports and reviewing notes with friends in the library and tea room has made studying a lot more enjoyable. One thing I haven't focused on as much as originally expected in terms of motivating myself is thinking of the future - perhaps something I am trying to avoid as job application deadlines are rapidly passing by... That being said, I am becoming more and more inclined towards the idea of returning to China next year to complete my masters degree.

4. Balancing commitments
  • Prioritising coursework
  • Attending all supervisions
  • Completing supervision work
  • Attending lectures
  • Saying no to too many extracurriculars

I have definitely been much more successful than in previous years when it comes to balancing commitments. I successfully completed all my coursework to a high standard (average provisional score: 83% with no individual scores under 7/10). Unfortunately I did miss a couple of lectures due to attending an insight day, but successfully caught up on them by copying up from a friend's lecture notes and watching the online recordings.

5. Timetabling
Something that massively helped me when revising in first year, timetabling is key to balancing time and commitments effectively.
  • Making a timetable each week
  • Sticking to the timetable
  • Getting sufficient sleep

Although I have done well at making and following my timetable, occasionally I did find my evening study plans extending a bit further than hoped into the night. I'm going to blame being in the lab until 6pm as having a significant contribution towards this, but it can't be denied that working more efficiently on my work in the evenings would help.

6. Making the most of supervisions
  • Telling my supervisors what I wanted to gain from our supervisions (2/3)
  • Completing all supervision work and pre-reading before the supervision
  • Taking time over my supervision work
  • Turn up on time
  • Never leave with unanswered questions

Although I didn't sit down with one of my supervisors and clearly state my goal of achieving a 1st, I still managed to successfully complete most of my targets for making the most out of supervisions.

7. Having the right lecture strategy
  • Pre-reading lecture notes
  • Making notes in lectures
  • Asking the lecturer questions
  • Reviewing the lectures notes that afternoon
  • Completing supervision work and textbook questions
  • Adding notes during supervisions
  • Reviewing notes one week later
  • Writing summary notes/ posters at end of topic
  • Complete at least five relevant tripos questions per topic

This is definitely an area I appear to be still struggling with - made more challenging this term with the demands of completing our lab work taking up all afternoon every day and thus reducing the time available for reviewing notes. I have made an effort to pre-read notes for those lectures where the lecturers teach too quickly to keep up without pre-reading, so at least haven't been falling behind in class, but I rarely had chance to review the notes after lectures or a week later. Since we are only just finishing our first set of courses I have only started writing up summary notes for one course - with the remaining two courses scheduled in for this coming weekend. It's a similar case with the tripos questions - I have completed several tripos questions for my A6 (physical chemistry) module but not for the other two modules just yet.

8. Studying in the best location
  • Assignments: library
  • Supervision work: library/ cafe
  • Reviewing notes: cafe
  • Group study: cafe
  • No studying in my room

During the day, my experiments confined me to the Chemistry department but sometimes they did give me time while the reaction was refluxing to sit down and get some work done. I generally went to the library to work on lab reports during this time, or occasionally sat in the chemistry cafe to complete supervision work. Several times I organised group study sessions to review notes in the cafe. So far so good, except for my last point - no studying in my bedroom! Unfortunately the large desk was a little too tempting when I inevitably had to study in the evenings, particularly when the library required crossing the road to the main college site. As a compromise, I intend to instead move to the dining room whenever I am tempted to study in my room - at least this provides a slightly relaxed atmosphere without the distractions of my bedroom...

Overall, I've definitely not been perfect, particularly in terms of keeping on top of reviewing lectures notes, but still feel reasonably confident of being on track. Now that my main assignments (lab reports, and the associated 7-hours-a-day-in-the-lab) are over, I should be able to focus on catching up on this and ensuring I have thoroughly consolidated the knowledge taught in lectures before the Christmas vacation.
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dragonkeeper999
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Picking soft subjects for easy grades (18/11/16)?

One piece of advice often given online for "boosting your GPA" etc. is to pick easy classes where you're almost guaranteed a high grade. Although this has slightly less application in UK universities, where module choices are much more restricted, there are still some possibilities. However, is it always the best option? I decided to compare the advantages of both easy and hard modules...

Easy modules
  • Supposedly easier to get a better grade
  • May give you more time to focus on other modules you are struggling with or enjoy more
  • May not be that easy for you if your skills lie in a different area (e.g. for me, a business class would probably be pretty challenging, since I'm a science student and have very little essay writing skills etc.)
  • May be very boring
  • Might not help you in your path towards modules in later years


Hard modules
  • May require a higher time commitment, potentially detracting from other modules
  • You may be less likely to get a good grade (if it's a subject you're weaker in)
  • Could be more interesting
  • Could be required in order to take follow-up modules in future years
  • May help you learn skills required for your future career/ studies


Personally, I have faced this dilemma just a couple of times.
The first was in second year, where I had to switch from a physical chemistry module to pharmacology because I was finding the course too challenging, poorly taught, boring and time consuming. Luckily it wasn't required in order to continue with Chemistry in third year, so it was safest to drop the module and take up an easier course (pharmacology), enabling me to focus my time and energy on subjects I found more interesting and useful.
The second time I faced this dilemma was this year, when I chose to take a language class over extended practical experiments. Although I tend to perform reasonably well in labs, they are very time consuming and I've struggled to get the highest grades. Having spent a year abroad studying in China, I was reasonably confident with my language skills and realised that by taking a language module I could access higher grades while keeping up my language studies.

To conclude, I would say that picking easy modules is in a few cases a good option, particularly if the alternative is to take a more challenging course you don't enjoy or is not useful to you in the future.
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Study Locations (24/11/16):

(repost - somehow my previous post was deleted/ didn't post properly :'( )

Different study locations suit different people and are appropriate for different study modes. Exams are carried out under quite intense silence, and so preparing for one is best done in a similar style of location such as a library. On the other hand, group study must be done somewhere where you can discuss ideas and sit together around a large table, not possible in most libraries. In this post, I hope to discuss the various different possible study locations and what kind of studying is best suited for each.

1. Library
Generally the first place people think of when deciding where to study, the library provides ample workspace, plenty of books or computers, and generally a silent atmosphere which people find either stifling or inspiring.
Best for: completing assignments, practicing past exam papers

2. Cafe
Cafes provide a much more relaxed atmosphere than libraries, with the added bonus of readily available cake and coffee. However, sometimes there isn't much available workspace and at busy times it is easy to be distracted.
Best for: reviewing/ summarising notes, group study

3. Gardens
My college has the most beautiful gardens, and for non-hayfever-sufferers it's a lovely spot to hang out in the summer. However, there is no WiFi or desk space so completing assignments can be very challenging.
Best for: reviewing notes over the summer

4. Bedroom
Probably the easiest place to end up studying, most student bedrooms come with desks, WiFi and bookshelves - providing all the essentials for studying. However, it can be very difficult to focus on your work with the temptations of a comfy bed, TV or Facebook all around you.
Best for: nothing...
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End of Term Review (1/12/16):

At the end of term, it's time again to review my progress so far...

1. Studying outside of lectures/ homework
  • Pre-reading notes
  • Reviewing notes
  • Completing textbook questions
  • Reading around the course

A slight improvement from my mid-term review, I did manage to pre-read my notes for my courses although I'm still behind on reviewing notes. My sister suggested incorporating review sessions into the start of my supervision work timetable blocks, such that I wouldn't allow myself to complete the supervision work for that week until I had reviewed and written up the notes to that point, a strategy I intend to use next term. We've now moved onto the B courses and I'm finding them relatively straightforward so far so haven't needed to do much additional work to understand the lecture content. However, occasionally the lecturers recommended papers or textbook chapters which I made sure to check out in case there was additional information useful for the exam.

2. Motivating myself
In an attempt to "fall back in love with Chemistry", I planned several easy methods for enjoying my subject outside of strictly studying.
  • Attending SciSoc and ChemSoc talks
  • Reading chemistry magazines
  • Picking interesting modules
  • Making posters
  • Studying with friends
  • Thinking of the future

Quite a bit more orange and red on this list compared to my last review - there were less opportunities to go to science related talks in the second half of term, but I also slipped back on my fun revision strategy of making posters to review my notes, something I'm going to have to allocate to Christmas due to a lack of time during term.

3. Balancing commitments
  • Prioritising coursework
  • Attending all supervisions
  • Completing supervision work
  • Attending lectures
  • Saying no to too many extracurriculars

There wasn't as much coursework for the second half of term (just one lab report, for which I got a slightly disappointing 7/10, and a very easy question sheet on Chemical Informatics). The only issue I had with balancing commitments this term was relating to supervisions - I have been unable to organise supervisions so far for the B1 module and need to chase the lecturer up on this over Christmas since we're already half way through the module.

4. Timetabling
Something that massively helped me when revising in first year, timetabling is key to balancing time and commitments effectively.
  • Making a timetable each week
  • Sticking to the timetable
  • Getting sufficient sleep

Similarly to the mid-term review, I managed to make a timetable and stick to it but had some issues with work running late into the evening.

6. Making the most of supervisions
  • Telling my supervisors what I wanted to gain from our supervisions
  • Completing all supervision work and pre-reading before the supervision
  • Taking time over my supervision work
  • Turn up on time
  • Never leave with unanswered questions

Apart from the previously mentioned issue sourcing a supervisor for B1, my supervisions have otherwise gone to plan. However, I am finding that my supervisor for B3 doesn't seem to be on the same page as me and my two supervision partners in that supervision are aiming for much lower grades - I need to discuss this more with the supervisor and lecturer to see if I could switch supervision groups for next term.

7. Having the right lecture strategy
  • Pre-reading lecture notes
  • Making notes in lectures
  • Asking the lecturer questions
  • Reviewing the lectures notes that afternoon
  • Completing supervision work and textbook questions
  • Adding notes during supervisions
  • Reviewing notes one week later
  • Writing summary notes/ posters at end of topic
  • Complete at least five relevant tripos questions per topic

I'm still struggling to find time in my schedule for all of the lecture notes reviewing/ revision I had planned to complete - a task made more challenging by the lack of structure/ regularity in the lecture timetable this year. As mentioned above, the strategy of refusing to complete supervision work until I had reviewed the relevant section of notes would help, although I must be sure not to end up running out of time to complete my work. I'm going to have to move reviewing and writing up notes, completing past papers and making posters to the Christmas vacation...

8. Studying in the best location
  • Assignments: library
  • Supervision work: library/ cafe
  • Reviewing notes: cafe
  • Group study: cafe
  • No studying in my room

I've done a lot better with picking the best study locations, with my strategy of moving myself to the dining room rather than my bedroom desk when I was tempted to study in my room being moderately successful.

Overall, possibly a slight improvement in some areas but still a need to do a lot of note writing, revision and past papers over the Christmas vacation to catch up. I received one predicted grade from a supervisor of a 2:1 which is a step in the right direction, unfortunately my other supervisors haven't submitted their predictions yet but I will update you guys when they do
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Hey Im a first year natsci, first year at cambridge and have found first term very tough indeed (particularly chemistry). I have not worked near as hard as I should have and my camcors reports were pretty ****. Reading through youre thread has been really useful and giving me the motivation to work harder and improve on my preformance first term. Thannks
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(Original post by josephinemar25)
Hey Im a first year natsci, first year at cambridge and have found first term very tough indeed (particularly chemistry). I have not worked near as hard as I should have and my camcors reports were pretty ****. Reading through youre thread has been really useful and giving me the motivation to work harder and improve on my preformance first term. Thannks
Hiya! Don't worry too much about supervision reports at this stage - they are generally quite random and I've been predicted everything from firsts to borderline fails so far but ended up with average-ish grades throughout. First term is really all about settling in, it's definitely not impossible to catch up on everything you didn't understand last term over Christmas And pretty much everyone struggles with Chemistry in first year - it's such a huge jump from A level.

Great to hear I'm helping with your motivation - keep it up! Personally I would advice focusing on reviewing all your lecture notes and making summary posters/ notes over the holidays, perhaps doing some extra questions if your supervisors have recommended any too
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dragonkeeper999
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Christmas holiday plans (2/12/16):

After a relatively successful first term, it's time to organise my study plans for the six week Christmas vacation. I started off by compiling a long list of all the things I needed to do or had already organised over Christmas and a rough guestimate of how long each would take:

Note Writing
- A1: last booklet (5 hours)
- A2: all notes (12 hours)
- A3: all notes (16 hours)
- B1: first half (5 hours)
- B2: first half (5 hours)
- B3: first half (5 hours)

Homework
- Chemical Informatics coursework (3 hours)
- B1 supervision questions (5 hours)
- B3 supervision questions and recommended past paper questions (4 hours)

Tripos Questions:
- A1, A2, A6: 10 each
- B1, B2, B3: 5 each

Sorting out my life:
- Shortlist masters courses to apply for (5 hours)
- Apply for YCA program (6 hours)
- Find referees for masters applications (1 hour)
- Chase up summer volunteering program re. questions and exact dates (0.5 hours)
- Apply for IARO summer program (3 hours)

Social Commitments:
- Meet up with school friends (2 days)
- Christmas Day
- Boxing day visiting family

Holidays:
- Skiing (6 days)
- Family holiday (6 days)

I then put all of these into my phone's calendar app and allocated exactly what I was going to do on each day - e.g. which section of notes to write up, which past paper question to do, etc. I ended up allocating around 8 hours a day of stuff, which is quite a lot (I guess I have given myself a lot of past papers to do...) but manageable, with a few days spare
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dragonkeeper999
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***end of reposts from original blog***
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dragonkeeper999
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My flashcard technique:

Since A levels, I've been using flashcards to help memorise essential facts and example answers. While at university my course is now more about understanding and applying your skills in the questions, there are still a fair number of facts to memorise and so flashcards are an essential component of my revision strategy in certain modules. In particular, my second year pharmacology module required memorising hundreds of drug names and details, and this Christmas I've been making flashcards rather than summary notes for my A2 course since it requires memorising the reaction conditions for a hundred odd chemical reactions. I also used flashcards a lot during my year abroad for memorising Chinese vocab

Physical vs digital flashcards

This was a big dilemma for me, since there are advantages and disadvantages for each method.

Digital flashcards can be easily carried with you everywhere on your phone, usually come with spaced repetition software to optimise your learning, and enable you to use flashcards created by other students on your course too. On the other hand, I have yet to find a good flashcard app that allows me to draw in chemical diagrams - so I have only been able to make use of digital flashcards for my language learning (using Memrise - highly recommended and free!).

Physical flashcards may be a bit more cumbersome to carry around, however they can be scribbled all over with notes, diagrams and progress scores. I imitated a crude SRS system simply by moving cards I knew to the back of the pack, those I got completely wrong to just five cards from the front, and those I was nearly there to somewhere in the middle. For all my degree modules, I've ended up chasing physical flashcards over digital purely for the ability to draw diagrams on them.

Summary notes vs questions

There are several different ways of using flashcards - the main ones being to either write short summaries of each subtopic on each card or to use them as quiz question prompts. I've always preferred the quiz question strategy, with a question written on one side then the answer on the other - e.g. "What reagents are needed to reduce a ketone to an alcohol?" "NaBH4".

When to use flashcards

Anywhere! I tend to carry around a stack of my flashcards in my handbag to test myself on the bus or in gaps between lectures. They also make a fun (well, kind of fun...) revision game if you like group study with friends - you can each bring along your flashcards and test each other.
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catinsomehat
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(Original post by dragonkeeper999)
My flashcard technique:

Since A levels, I've been using flashcards to help memorise essential facts and example answers. While at university my course is now more about understanding and applying your skills in the questions, there are still a fair number of facts to memorise and so flashcards are an essential component of my revision strategy in certain modules. In particular, my second year pharmacology module required memorising hundreds of drug names and details, and this Christmas I've been making flashcards rather than summary notes for my A2 course since it requires memorising the reaction conditions for a hundred odd chemical reactions. I also used flashcards a lot during my year abroad for memorising Chinese vocab

Physical vs digital flashcards

This was a big dilemma for me, since there are advantages and disadvantages for each method.

Digital flashcards can be easily carried with you everywhere on your phone, usually come with spaced repetition software to optimise your learning, and enable you to use flashcards created by other students on your course too. On the other hand, I have yet to find a good flashcard app that allows me to draw in chemical diagrams - so I have only been able to make use of digital flashcards for my language learning (using Memrise - highly recommended and free!).

Physical flashcards may be a bit more cumbersome to carry around, however they can be scribbled all over with notes, diagrams and progress scores. I imitated a crude SRS system simply by moving cards I knew to the back of the pack, those I got completely wrong to just five cards from the front, and those I was nearly there to somewhere in the middle. For all my degree modules, I've ended up chasing physical flashcards over digital purely for the ability to draw diagrams on them.

Summary notes vs questions

There are several different ways of using flashcards - the main ones being to either write short summaries of each subtopic on each card or to use them as quiz question prompts. I've always preferred the quiz question strategy, with a question written on one side then the answer on the other - e.g. "What reagents are needed to reduce a ketone to an alcohol?" "NaBH4".

When to use flashcards

Anywhere! I tend to carry around a stack of my flashcards in my handbag to test myself on the bus or in gaps between lectures. They also make a fun (well, kind of fun...) revision game if you like group study with friends - you can each bring along your flashcards and test each other.
I use flashcards as well but I use digital ones, Anki works fine for me. You could scan or take a picture of diagrams you draw on paper and put them into your cards like that, then use the algorithm from Anki for some nice space based repetition of your cards, it'll organise for you when to see those cards again.
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dragonkeeper999
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(Original post by catinsomehat)
I use flashcards as well but I use digital ones, Anki works fine for me. You could scan or take a picture of diagrams you draw on paper and put them into your cards like that, then use the algorithm from Anki for some nice space based repetition of your cards, it'll organise for you when to see those cards again.
Thanks for the tip! I never realised you could upload pictures - although it would be a lot more faff to scan or photograph all the diagrams so not sure I would actually do it :/
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