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    Hello all!

    I'm coming to Cambridge this year as an affiliated student. Having never done supervisions (or anything like them) in my first undergrad degree, I'm just interested to know more about how they work. Also, please feel free to share any good stories. Most memorable supervisions? Supervisions gone horribly wrong? Spill the beans here!
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    Is this the best way to get a representitive account of what they're like?
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    (Original post by The West Wing)
    Is this the best way to get a representitive account of what they're like?

    It doesn't really matter, I guess. I have heard faculty perspectives on what they're like, and I was just looking for student voices (what you like about them, what you don't like - that sort of thing).
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    (Original post by LegallyBlonde2.0)
    When supervisor sent us a text message to cancel the supervision 1 minute before it was due to start. He was too ashamed to open the door and tell us. Oh, and this was at another college 20 mins walk away from ours. And that was when he didn't forget the time and the date of the supervision.

    I like it when he cancels supervisions because he "has to give a lecture" in countries and towns which are famous for their beaches....

    I wanted to skip a supervision and went punting with econ phds instead. When I asked a random macro question one of them gave me a boring 30 mins supervision on it (it turned out that he was an economics supervisor at one of the colleges)....tourists punting next to us saw a few cambridge-student-at-supervision faces I made...

    It could be worse, I heard that other supervisors shout:"where the **** have you been?" if student is 10 nano-seconds late.
    if a supervisor cancels can't you get them to reschedule? Or get your DoS to get someone else to supervise you that 1 time?
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    (Original post by 8 is enough)
    if a supervisor cancels can't you get them to reschedule? Or get your DoS to get someone else to supervise you that 1 time?
    well yer it'd be rescheduled
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    Supervisions themselves are pretty boring to tell stories from. Luckily I've had pretty decent supervisors. If you're late they dont tend to care in my experience as they're still being paid for it!

    Worst experience recently was probably Michaelmas this year and it was entirely my fault. I was doing Peter Pan at the ADC... on the Sunday our supervisor sends an email introducing himself which happens to have an attachment showing the times he wants to supervise us. I fail to notice the attachment in my hurry to get through my emails and get to bed. Come Tuesday afternoon, I get a call from my supervision partner saying "Hey, how about we walk down to the supervision together. Meet p'lodge in 45mins?". "Err what supervision?" I had done next to no work for it. Cue me desperately trying to get as much done as I could in this time, backstage in near total darkness, whilst simultaneously trying to operate flies for the show. Luckily it was an easy examples paper (first one of the module) so I could blag most of the supervision, and even then the supervisor was understanding as to why I'd hardly done any of it.

    Numerous other experiences of having not done enough work on a topic I really don't understand, normally due to theatre.

    I know a guy who claims that he used to supervise from a punt sometimes in Easter term. He said he'd normally get one student to punt one way along the backs while he went through the other student's work, then for the way back the two students would swap places.
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    (Original post by klondiker)
    Hello all!

    I'm coming to Cambridge this year as an affiliated student. Having never done supervisions (or anything like them) in my first undergrad degree, I'm just interested to know more about how they work. Also, please feel free to share any good stories. Most memorable supervisions? Supervisions gone horribly wrong? Spill the beans here!
    You'll probably find this thread interesting...

    Worst Supervision

    We had an abnormally strict supervisor on one of our papers this year. He wanted essays submitted two days in advance rather than one day in advance (which is what everybody else in the entire faculty ask for) and he had really stupid requirements for essay formatting in terms of line breaks, margin width, number of sources quoted etc etc etc :grr:
    So I had a seperate Assessed Essay that I was writing (an essay that counts towards my yearly mark: normal supervision essays don't count, they're just learning exercises) So I went up to him after a class and told him that I would really struggle to make the supervision at the time he suggested, could we reschedule. He said yes we could reschedule and suggested another time that was only two days later. I explained that I had suddenly been required unexpectedly by the other supervisor to produce the first draft for the Assessed Essay sooner than I anticipated and warned him that I might not manage getting my supervision essay to him two days in advance.
    So I worked on the Assessed Essay... ended up working overnight at the weekend to get it done on time. Then I slept for fifteen hours or so. Woke up with a splitting headache and went to bed early. The only problem was that by the time I recovered it was the day before this supervisor wanted the supervision essay. So I started the reading. Stayed up overnight to get it done, but had only just started writing the essay at the time he ideally wanted the essay in. I finished it the next day on time for it to be roughly one day before the supervision. I sent him a really apologetic email. I explained about the Assessed Essay and that I'd been in bed for two days unable to work and said I understood if he couldn't supervise me anymore and so on. And the guy totally freaked out and sent a really ranty nasty email back, which freaked the living daylights out of me.
    So yeh :mad: That wasn't a very nice experience. On the plus side, I explained the situation to my Director of Studies and about his really rigid behaviour and she passed on my complaint to the department and agreed it was out of order So it had a happy ending :p:

    Best Supervision
    This one also happened this year. And it was another Assessed Essay (I had two of these this year with a research project and some exams) So it was on quite a difficult conceptual topic which I had no experience on (philosophy) and I did the reading and panicked because it was a bit insane. Put off writing till the last minute (because of said panic) and ended up writing the thing in one long stretch overnight (was writing for about 14 hours). I sent it to the supervisor, who is also the course director and slightly scary. Arrived at the supervision in fear and trepidation, and turned out he didn't have time to read it because I sent it in late, so he started reading it in the supervision and marking it, and then turned around and told me that it was very good and that he didn't really want me to change very much because I might spoil it :eek: So yes - that's pretty much the ideal supervision scenario Got a high first for it too.

    Those are both very unusual situations for me. The 'worst supervision' example is the only bad supervision I've had since I got here. Generally if you make sure you cover the information you're meant to before the supervision, and do the work, then there's nothing that can go wrong. I mean sometimes you don't talk about anything new or particularly useful in the supervision, but it goes fine. Its not the end of the world if you don't do the work either. In my case even if I haven't managed to finish the essay on time I've usually done the reading, so you can still have a fruitful discussion about it. Also sometimes they ask if I've read something which I haven't, but that's also fine because I'll have read other things on the list and they're perfectly happy with that.
    As legally blonde mentioned above - some supervisors aren't that organised or reliable which can be annoying. Fortunately all of mine have been fine, and I've only had somebody cancel on me once. Additionally all of my supervisors have been really flexible in terms of rearranging times if I couldn't fit stuff in.

    Things I like about supervisions are the opportunity to discuss and develop ideas, and also the individual attention you get. If you want to know how to improve your work or performance then you have one person who has devoted individual attention to you who can pick out particular strengths and weaknesses. Also I find supervisions reassuring. In an Arts subject you're very independent and most of the work involves reading and developing your own opinions/interpretations. Discussing your ideas and defending them in a supervision is reassuring to get an idea of how its received before going into an exam and finding out the hard way. Also sometimes I've disagreed with the line a supervisor takes and that's proven a very strong motivation for me to devote extra time to researching and analysing the problem to try and prove them wrong :flute:

    The bad thing about supervisions is the regularity. In my subject each exam is accompanied by six supervisions with corresponding pieces of work. Overall there are too many deadlines and its extremely stifling to only be permitted a few days to get to grips with one problem before being rushed onto another. Often I want to go into more depth with a topic and have more time to read and develop my opinions about it, but simply don't have the freedom to do so. I think this is really specific to undergrad education and I expect I'll be more comfortable with the style of work once I'm a postgrad.

    So that's my personal take on them. From chatting to friends in Cambridge I think supervisions vary massively. Some subjects tend to have nice supervisors and some have evil supervisors. I know people who have had supervisors which were really insulting to them or put them down for not reaching unrealistic standards. Alot of people have quite a mix. I think supervisions are different when they're based in college and taught by college fellows and when they're more department based and taught by PhD students. And obviously the subject determines what the supervision will be like. Mine have mostly been fairly chilled. I've been supervised in a cafe before, and also at a grad student's flat with coffee and cake :p:
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    To answer the substance of the original post (rather than the title), my experience in the past year has been that styles of supervision vary considerably depending on the supervisor. At one extreme is the "free" conversation where you are asked at the beginning which bits of the reading you found difficult and - assuming you get a decent conversation going - things just snowball from there, with it very much being your job as a supervisee to make sure that any potential problem areas are brought up in the discussion. The opposite extreme is the hyper-structured supervision, where you move very specifically from one topic to the next with not very much time for tangential discussion.

    I do think they're a great teaching method and the informality can be something you appreciate. But lack of preparation is a real killer if it happens.
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    (Original post by Craghyrax)
    You'll probably find this thread interesting...

    [COLOR=#0099FF]Those are both very unusual situations for me. The 'worst supervision' example is the only bad supervision I've had since I got here. Generally if you make sure you cover the information you're meant to before the supervision, and do the work, then there's nothing that can go wrong. I mean sometimes you don't talk about anything new or particularly useful in the supervision, but it goes fine. Its not the end of the world if you don't do the work either. In my case even if I haven't managed to finish the essay on time I've usually done the reading, so you can still have a fruitful discussion about it. Also sometimes they ask if I've read something which I haven't, but that's also fine because I'll have read other things on the list and they're perfectly happy with that.
    Thanks so much for sharing both those stories!! I am excited for supervisions, but also a little scared! I hope none of my supervisors turn out to be like the one who sent you that e-mail!
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    One of my supervisors told my supervision partner that he was tedious. (He was, to be fair.)
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    (Original post by Craghyrax)
    You'll probably find this thread interesting...

    Worst Supervision

    We had an abnormally strict supervisor on one of our papers this year. He wanted essays submitted two days in advance rather than one day in advance (which is what everybody else in the entire faculty ask for) and he had really stupid requirements for essay formatting in terms of line breaks, margin width, number of sources quoted etc etc etc :grr:
    So I had a seperate Assessed Essay that I was writing (an essay that counts towards my yearly mark: normal supervision essays don't count, they're just learning exercises) So I went up to him after a class and told him that I would really struggle to make the supervision at the time he suggested, could we reschedule. He said yes we could reschedule and suggested another time that was only two days later. I explained that I had suddenly been required unexpectedly by the other supervisor to produce the first draft for the Assessed Essay sooner than I anticipated and warned him that I might not manage getting my supervision essay to him two days in advance.
    So I worked on the Assessed Essay... ended up working overnight at the weekend to get it done on time. Then I slept for fifteen hours or so. Woke up with a splitting headache and went to bed early. The only problem was that by the time I recovered it was the day before this supervisor wanted the supervision essay. So I started the reading. Stayed up overnight to get it done, but had only just started writing the essay at the time he ideally wanted the essay in. I finished it the next day on time for it to be roughly one day before the supervision. I sent him a really apologetic email. I explained about the Assessed Essay and that I'd been in bed for two days unable to work and said I understood if he couldn't supervise me anymore and so on. And the guy totally freaked out and sent a really ranty nasty email back, which freaked the living daylights out of me.
    So yeh :mad: That wasn't a very nice experience. On the plus side, I explained the situation to my Director of Studies and about his really rigid behaviour and she passed on my complaint to the department and agreed it was out of order So it had a happy ending :p:

    Best Supervision
    This one also happened this year. And it was another Assessed Essay (I had two of these this year with a research project and some exams) So it was on quite a difficult conceptual topic which I had no experience on (philosophy) and I did the reading and panicked because it was a bit insane. Put off writing till the last minute (because of said panic) and ended up writing the thing in one long stretch overnight (was writing for about 14 hours). I sent it to the supervisor, who is also the course director and slightly scary. Arrived at the supervision in fear and trepidation, and turned out he didn't have time to read it because I sent it in late, so he started reading it in the supervision and marking it, and then turned around and told me that it was very good and that he didn't really want me to change very much because I might spoil it :eek: So yes - that's pretty much the ideal supervision scenario Got a high first for it too.

    Those are both very unusual situations for me. The 'worst supervision' example is the only bad supervision I've had since I got here. Generally if you make sure you cover the information you're meant to before the supervision, and do the work, then there's nothing that can go wrong. I mean sometimes you don't talk about anything new or particularly useful in the supervision, but it goes fine. Its not the end of the world if you don't do the work either. In my case even if I haven't managed to finish the essay on time I've usually done the reading, so you can still have a fruitful discussion about it. Also sometimes they ask if I've read something which I haven't, but that's also fine because I'll have read other things on the list and they're perfectly happy with that.
    As legally blonde mentioned above - some supervisors aren't that organised or reliable which can be annoying. Fortunately all of mine have been fine, and I've only had somebody cancel on me once. Additionally all of my supervisors have been really flexible in terms of rearranging times if I couldn't fit stuff in.

    Things I like about supervisions are the opportunity to discuss and develop ideas, and also the individual attention you get. If you want to know how to improve your work or performance then you have one person who has devoted individual attention to you who can pick out particular strengths and weaknesses. Also I find supervisions reassuring. In an Arts subject you're very independent and most of the work involves reading and developing your own opinions/interpretations. Discussing your ideas and defending them in a supervision is reassuring to get an idea of how its received before going into an exam and finding out the hard way. Also sometimes I've disagreed with the line a supervisor takes and that's proven a very strong motivation for me to devote extra time to researching and analysing the problem to try and prove them wrong :flute:

    The bad thing about supervisions is the regularity. In my subject each exam is accompanied by six supervisions with corresponding pieces of work. Overall there are too many deadlines and its extremely stifling to only be permitted a few days to get to grips with one problem before being rushed onto another. Often I want to go into more depth with a topic and have more time to read and develop my opinions about it, but simply don't have the freedom to do so. I think this is really specific to undergrad education and I expect I'll be more comfortable with the style of work once I'm a postgrad.

    So that's my personal take on them. From chatting to friends in Cambridge I think supervisions vary massively. Some subjects tend to have nice supervisors and some have evil supervisors. I know people who have had supervisors which were really insulting to them or put them down for not reaching unrealistic standards. Alot of people have quite a mix. I think supervisions are different when they're based in college and taught by college fellows and when they're more department based and taught by PhD students. And obviously the subject determines what the supervision will be like. Mine have mostly been fairly chilled. I've been supervised in a cafe before, and also at a grad student's flat with coffee and cake :p:
    **** reading that.
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    worst: when i got thrown out because i couldn't stop laughing, because in the middle of a maths question i had for some reason written "we is happy" (which wasn't at all in context or anything).

    best: the numerous times they get cancelled.
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    (Original post by Craghyrax)


    The bad thing about supervisions is the regularity. In my subject each exam is accompanied by six supervisions with corresponding pieces of work. Overall there are too many deadlines and its extremely stifling to only be permitted a few days to get to grips with one problem before being rushed onto another.
    To be honest I would say that its a problem with cambridge in general, there have been many times when I havn't got a topic or subject as well as I would have liked, and with 4 supervisions a week it generally means that I havn't had enough time to get to grips with something.
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    (Original post by Thread Starter)
    Thanks so much for sharing both those stories!! I am excited for supervisions, but also a little scared! I hope none of my supervisors turn out to be like the one who sent you that e-mail!
    ...
    (Original post by Chewwy)
    **** reading that.
    Gee, I wonder which reader the post was for? :awesome:
    (Original post by generalebriety)
    One of my supervisors told my supervision partner that he was tedious. (He was, to be fair.)
    :rofl:
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    I tend to find unstructured supervisions most profitable; i've had two hour supervisions in pubs before, just chewing over the essay(s) that I had written and going into more interesting areas. I've managed to stick with one supervisor for two years now in several papers, and intend to do the same next year, simply because I don't have the time to get used to another marking/supervision style.
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    (Original post by Catsmeat)
    I tend to find unstructured supervisions most profitable; i've had two hour supervisions in pubs before, just chewing over the essay(s) that I had written and going into more interesting areas. I've managed to stick with one supervisor for two years now in several papers, and intend to do the same next year, simply because I don't have the time to get used to another marking/supervision style.
    I was somewhat jealous of the arch and anthers that I knew, who often got supervised in pubs.

    I've been supervised in the Copper Kettle a fair few times, the supervisor bought me scrambled eggs on toast and some tea.

    The reason why was that he'd given me a five-minute ********** for being late and not handing in an adequate essay (I'd hand-written it as an exam practice) when I'd actually been on a delayed train back from London. The tea and toast was an apology.
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    (Original post by FadeToBlackout)
    The reason why was that he'd given me a five-minute ********** for being late and not handing in an adequate essay (I'd hand-written it as an exam practice) when I'd actually been on a delayed train back from London. The tea and toast was an apology.
    Typical you :p: Get away with murder and get freebies in with the deal!
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    Once both my supervision partner and I fell asleep for a few minutes while our supervisor was talking. And then we spent the rest of the supervision trying to distract him from noticing that pretty much throughout the whole thing we took it in turns to fall asleep. He obviously realised.

    And once I couldn't stop laughing. That wasn't so bad, just kind of funny.
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    Wow, that's bad but almost inevitable at some point in the span of a Cambridge degree...

    My only sleep related problems came from somehow tiring myself out enough to sleep straight through my alarms and thereby miss two supervisions - both with my DoS :pinch:
 
 
 
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