Essay writing tips from a uni student

Essay writing is a huge part of university life and no one enjoys doing them. This blog is going to give you tips on how to write a good essay and avoid more stress!

Make sure you keep your work organised

Throughout the year you should create a folder for each module, so that all of your work is in one place. Lecture notes are usually really useful for writing essays, as they sometimes give you hints and tips throughout the lectures. The lecturer is likely to give extra information that you can write down, instead of just reading the lecture slides.

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Plan your essay

You can do this by first destructing the question. After this, read the recommended reading that is usually found on Moodle and pick out any key and information and quotes that are relevant to the essay question.

You can then write bullet point notes under headings. The essay should start with an introduction, outlining what the essay will be about and how it will be structured. This will be followed by the main part of the essay with your arguments. Finally, a conclusion should be made at the end, summarising your assignment and what your final answer is. However, this structure can change between departments, so make sure you double check with yours!

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Presentation

The presentation of your assignment can actually sometimes gain you marks. In your module outline it should mention how they expect you to format your essay. For example, this could include font, font size, line spacing and whether to include page numbers. Also make sure that your paragraphs make sense and always check your spelling and grammar.

References

The way you reference depends on your department, so you should check your module outline for this. Many students use Harvard referencing style, which involves in-text referencing, using the surname of the author/s, date it was published and sometimes the page number in brackets. There is also a reference list needed at the end, which includes all of your references in full. There are many website online that show you how to do this, or some even do it for you!

Time management

Many students cram writing an essay in the night before it’s due. However, this is not the best idea because if you need to find references in the library or you need to ask your lecturer or teacher a question, then it is too late! Also it is best to have time to plan your essay and have time to thoroughly look for good and valid references. By giving yourself time, you can still socialise without worrying about the 3000 word essay you have to write.

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I hope that this has helped you to understand a bit more about essay writing at Uni standard!

Making Big Life Choices: Getting Past the Fear

Leaving uni is another big step and new chapter of your life. It is moving out of your comfort zone and starting something new. Are you worried about getting a job after uni? Or wondering whether you want to do a Masters? There are many options out there for you to choose from, so it can be a bit daunting, but this blog is here to help you get over that!

Fear of losing fun.

University is possibly one of the most fun times of your life and you may feel that once you leave uni you will miss out and no longer have any fun. However, having a job means that you will have a regular income and you can save up to do fun things with your friends, such as go on exciting, exotic holidays which you may not be able to afford to do at uni!

Increase your savings

Fear of getting a job that you’re unhappy with.

This is why it is good to get an internship, frontrunner placement or part-time job whilst at uni. This way you can filter out what you like and dislike within a working environment. For example, you can find out if you hate working in an office environment, or you may love it!

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What if I don’t get a job at all?

You should start looking in to jobs at the beginning of your final year at uni. Many graduate schemes open around this time and the job usually starts in the September after you graduate. If you get a graduate scheme then this will take the pressure off you throughout the year, knowing that you have a job once you finish uni. It is also good to get an internship over the summer months. This way if employees like you they may offer you a job for when you graduate. You should sign up to job sites online and filter in your job preferences. This way they can email you any jobs that come up that they think will suit your job preferences.

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Should I do a masters?

This completely depends on what you want to do when you finish uni. For some jobs a Masters is needed, so you should look in to this. If you enjoy education and want to stay at uni longer then this could be for you. It is always worth looking in to, but you also have to consider the cost and another year or so where you won’t be in full-time work.

Your life after uni isn’t as scary as you think! Your friends around you are all in the same situation. It’s good to ask people on your course what they are thinking of doing to get some ideas on what’s out there and what might suit you.

Revision techinques

After 6 years of exams I think I have mastered revision now. I know what type of revision to do that makes it more interesting and helps me remember the most information. Often different types of exams suit different types of revision.

My biggest piece of advice for revision is to use more than one method. You could have up to 8 exams. Doing the same thing over and over will get tedious and that is no way to get the material into your brain! Switch it up and make it as fun as possible!

Lecture notes

Writing up a lecture is a great way to start your revision. It refreshes your memory about what you have learnt in your lectures and you can change it into your own words, making the notes catered to you. I like to use colour pens to make each section of information stand out. I will then use these lecture notes to revise from along with the lecture slides.

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Mind Map:

There are several ways you could use mind maps.

  1. You could write each topic in the middle and write around it the important sub headings. E.g for a mind map about Working Memory I explain the different parts such as visuospatial sketchpad, central executive etc.
  2. You could choose a sub heading and write all the information to do with that subheading e.g for a sub heading on Visuospatial sketchpad I would explain what it does and any research to do with it.
  3. You could get a bigger size paper e.g A3 and write out all the important information from one lecture.

 

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Listen Again

Listen again really is a god send. It has saved me sooo many times from when I have gaps in my notes or I didn’t understand something. It is a way of doing the lecture again in your own time! For one of my January exams I was constantly using listen again! A lot of the content was hard to get your head around, so listening to it again really helped me understand it. It also means you can sit at home with a cup of tea and feel relaxed.

Flashcards/question cards

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Once you’re been over material the best way of learning is to test your knowledge! Create flash cards with a subject on one side and the answers on the other and get someone to test you! Or create question cards and test yourself after you’ve gone over a lecture.

Essay plans

If your exam involved writing essays then making essay plans is a good idea! You might go over your lectures 10 times but when you come to your exam you need to actually be able to write an essay. Most subjects will include past papers so that you can have a look at previous exam questions and plan an essay for that question!

Practice questions

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In exams that you have short answer questions or maths questions the only way you’re really going to know if you are doing it right is by practising! If your lecturer hasn’t provided you with practice questions then ask if you can have some… practice makes perfect!

Teaching someone else

Studies have shown that one of the most productive ways to revise is to teach it to someone else. If you have a willing friend/partner/parent then try and teach them some of the material you are learning. Telling someone else the information can help you to have a better understanding of it.

Study Group

A good resource is using your fellow students! Going over and discussing information together means you can help each other and you are more likely to retain the information. It is also a great way to test each other. Get your flash cards and question cards out and learn together! It makes revision more interesting instead of being stuck staring at the same 4 walls! If you are going to use a study group make sure you are actually going to work because study groups could be a negative to studying too!

There are areas in the student centre were you can form study groups or in the orangery zone too.

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Remember to take care of yourself during exam season. Take plenty of breaks and remember you can do this!

My Dyslexia Story

Like 1 in 10 people, I suffer from dyslexia. However, I have never let my dyslexia hold me back.

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Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/0c/8e/82/0c8e82af8742109489ff85d3f95fcae6.jpg

My Dyslexia Story

I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 18 and started university. I’ve always been awful at spelling and my reading age was below average, but somehow I always managed to be in the top classes for English in high school. When I was 15 and in my last year of high school doing my GCSE my Grandad told me he was dyslexic. He suggested that I should get tested. So my high school gave me a test and it came back with moderate signs of dyslexia. However they decided since the waiting list to see an educational psychologist was 6 months and I was due to do my GCSE in a couple of months they’d give me extra time. My sixth form did the same.

After my A-levels were way better than I had ever expected, when I came to university I decided actually I probably wasn’t dyslexic since it had never actually been picked up by teachers. I did my first couple of pieces of coursework and failed one and got a 48 on the other. I was gutted because I’d really tried hard. This was when I decided to contact student services. They were great and got me an appointment with an Educational Psychologist. Within a couple of weeks I was diagnosed and had been given loads of help by the university with extra time in exams and a cover sheet to go with my coursework to explain my diagnosis.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficultly which may affect a persons ability to spell, write and read. There are many different symptoms of dyslexia. I tend to suffer with poor spelling ( I am having to spell check dyslexia every time I type it), have a limited vocabulary and find it hard to understand long passages of instruction or text.

More Symptoms can be found here

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 How the university can help you

Any advice you would like about dyslexia or any learning disability is available at student services. Like they did for me, they can arrange for you to have an assessment.

If you already have a diagnosis then they can provide academic support, make arrangements for exams and provide you with a cover sheet for your coursework. If you feel you could benefit from their help, pop down to the Silberrad student centre and go to student support on the first floor for any advice.

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Not letting my learning difficulty hold me back

It is great the amount of support you can be offered from university, but what happens in the real world while applying for jobs?

Firstly, I think it helped me getting a job in a shop. The type of tasks you do while working in a shop aren’t demanding, but it helped me with skills such as problem solving which is something that is affected by my dyslexia. It also helped with my confidence.

During university I have completed a frontrunner position and I am online brand ambassador. I mean I never in a million years thought my writing was good enough to write blogs!  During my interview for frontrunner I had to do a timed assessment, something that really panics me. A symptom of dyslexia is that you generally work slower and need more time to understand instruction. But somehow I managed to complete the assessment and got the job!

I am now in the process of applying for graduate positions. The first one I didn’t mention I was dyslexic. I had to do a online timed assessment and panicked and didn’t finish it before the time ran out. I got an email back to say I had been rejected. Since then I have made sure I have put about my dyslexia on my applications. The latest job has arranged for me to have extra time so I have less pressure on my online assessment.

Understanding dyslexia

People will say “You can’t be dyslexic and do a degree” or “You won’t have dyslexia if you weren’t diagnosed in primary school”…well these just aren’t true. Morale of the blog is I don’t want people to let their learning difficulties hold them back. You can get a degree, just like I am and many other people at this university who suffer from learning difficulties!

The Only Way Is Essex: Why I Didn’t Choose Another Uni

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Oh Essex, the land of fake tans and stilettos, or so The Only Way is Essex would have you think. When I told people I was applying to the University of Essex, people would automatically think of the stereotypical Essex resident. I found myself explaining that Essex was much more than what a reality TV show would have you believe. Along with the four other universities I applied to through UCAS, I researched Essex in great detail. It just really stood out to me as a university and a place that was unique and somewhere I could imagine spending three years of my life.

The Course

Out of all the unis I visited and applied to, I found the politics course at Essex to be the best for me. The content sounded really interesting and introduced me to new concepts. The wide variety of things covered in first year helped me to work out what I was most interested in, allowing me to choose more concentrated modules in second year. When I visited the Department of Government on an applicant day, the staff made me feel so welcome and that I could ask them anything. After starting at Essex it turned out I was right! The Government Department also has a great reputation for it’s research, which is great when those researchers are your lecturers and you’re learning about cutting edge research as it happens!

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The Campus

Essex has a campus that really is one of a kind. Now it might not look as grand as some other universities but it had a vibe that I didn’t get when I visited the other unis I applied to. I loved that everything was so close together and it wouldn’t take ages to go between my lectures. It’s big enough not to feel claustrophobic but also small enough that you rarely make it to a lecture without running into someone you now. I was also attracted to the location of the campus. Colchester is a town with all the shops that you would need and it’s only an hour from London if you fancy a day out. The train is pretty cheap too. I thought it was great that Stansted airport was nearby too. Me and my flatmates made the most of it when we decided to go a spontaneous trip to Dublin to get away from exams!

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The Year Abroad

I’d always known I wanted to do a year abroad so that was a major part for me in choosing which university to go to. After looking at all the other universities I applied to, Essex had the best opportunities for me when it came to study abroad options. I don’t pay any tuition fees to Essex or my exchange university for my year abroad. There was also so many options of countries I could go to. Being the political nerd that I am, when I worked out the US presidential election was happening during my study abroad year I was set on going to America, but there were so many other options too. I have friends all over the world in Australia, Canada, Europe and Asia. Being on my year abroad at the moment too I have also been experiencing the great support that Essex offers to its students who are away.

If you’re thinking about where to go to uni then the best advice I can offer is think about what the most important things to you are about where you’re going to spend the next few years of your life. I know that I made the right decision. Essex is perfect for me and everything that I could want from my university experience!

If I could Start over my Essex Experience: What I would and wouldn’t change

I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my time at Essex. I keep looking back to first year and thinking “wow that was 2 years ago?!”. I have no regrets coming to Essex and doing a degree in Psychology. However, if I could do it again, there are some things I might change and some that I wouldn’t change for the world!

What I would change

Join a sports club

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One thing I do regret is that I never joined a sports club. I assumed that if I joined a team I would have to give up my Wednesdays and weekends for it and with working that was something I couldn’t do. Now I’ve found out that this isn’t the case for some sports clubs, so wish I had done more looking into it! I would have loved to go and meet new people and go to sports fed with a team!

My advice to any first years is look into different sports clubs. Go to the just play sessions and the try outs! Get out of that comfort zone!

Getting more involved at Essex

Even with working weekends, I think I could have got more involved in my time at Essexs! There are society’s I wish I had got involved with in first year such as the Psychology society. I don’t speak to many people on my course and I think this could have been a way to talk to more people and make more friends!

I also wish I had got more involved in volunteering. I tried the teaching assistant volunteering, but since I couldn’t volunteer in a psychology class I tried my hands at maths. However, I was a bit rustier than I thought and had the slowest 1 and a half hour of my life! I wish I hadn’t let that stop me from doing other volunteering activities!

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What I wouldn’t change

Living in towers

 I loved living in Towers! Because of the fact you’re living with 16 people, you are bound to find someone you have something in common with! It was such a mix of people and nationalities and it was a real learning curve. From what I’ve heard from other people it was a lot more social than other accommodations. We had such great time as a group and I am so glad I got to spend first year in towers!

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Not doing a year abroad

There is a massive part of me that would have loved to do the year abroad! I am a traveller at heart and really want to spend some time of my life going to different countries and experiencing different cultures! I would have loved to go to Australia because 1. Who doesn’t love a bit of sun? and 2. To go and travel around the other countries around there!

However, there is a but. There was no way I could go away for a whole year, to the other side of the world! I got home sick living in Colchester let alone Australia! I couldn’t have gone alone! I am planning in June to take some time out after exams and hopefully go to Thailand, so watch this space!

All the work experience I gained while at Essex

 When I comes to jobs I definitely got involved in Essex! In my 2nd year I was a Frontrunner for Residence life. 8 hours a week suited around my timetable. It was so different to what I was used to, working on tills, filling shelves etc. I am so glad that I have Frontrunners to put on my CV. It gave me so many transferable skills and opportunities that I can talk about in job interviews!

I also worked at graduation in the summer. I was a robing assistant and had such a fun four days working with the gowning company. Everyone was so happy and the atmosphere was great!I loved being able to see what everyone was wearing and how excited they all were. It was also nice to watch some of my friends get ready to go to their graduation! I would love to do it again this year!

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Essex; it has been a ball. I have grown as a person here and I can’t wait to go on to my next adventure!

 

3 things that scare finalists and how to overcome that fear

Being in your last year at university is scary for many reasons. I’ve always had the plan that I was going to get my a levels, then get my degree and then… well my plan didn’t reach that far! I feel like I thought I was peter pan and university would never end. Sadly, now I’m realising that it is going to end! I have had so many questions in my final year, so I’ve written my three biggest, terrifying questions below and an answer to overcoming my fear of them!

What am I going to do when I finish?

This is the biggest fear for any finalist that doesn’t know what their next step is. I hoped that during my degree something would come to me. One day I would wake up and figure out what I want to do with my life, but with 4 months until I graduate I still haven’t had that moment! It scares me a lot that I don’t have a plan.

How To overcome this: Start being proactive about figuring out what it is you’re going to do next! Even if it is eliminating options; it’s all about baby steps! Go to the postgraduate talks and open days, start looking for graduate schemes, internships and go talk to the careers centre!

I have applied for a number of graduate schemes and internships. Every couple of weeks I am on the employability and careers page looking at any jobs that might be for me and checking the local job page.

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The Dreaded Dissertation

Below is an accurate representation of any 3rd year and postgraduate student when you say the word ‘dissertation’.

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The thing about your dissertation is that no one ever really tells you anything about it until the end of 2nd year. You just hear the word ‘dissertation’ and want to go habituate in your bed and pretend like it doesn’t exist. What scares me about my dissertation is it is worth 15% of my overall degree. That is a lot for one bit of coursework… and I have always been better at exams!

How to overcome this: Start as early as you can! You are in charge of your dissertation. You are the one that needs to message your supervisor and set up when to meet up. The early you do this, the more time you are going to have and the less stressed you will be.

Will I actually get the degree class I want?

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I started university knowing I wanted a to get a good degree class. I’ve always said I’d be happy with a 2:1. I don’t see the point of paying all the money to go the university without the goal of wanting a good degree! But with the work load I have had during my final year, I have had a lot of self doubt about whether I can achieve this! Not only do I have the dissertation, I also have lecture note taking, MCQs, essays and my final exams. I know that a lot of people fear they are not going to get the degree class that they want!

How to overcome this: All you can do is try to be as organised as you can. Plan your time wisely and don’t waste it! Get some sort of diary or planner so that you know when all your deadlines are. Also don’t take on too much. Although it is nice to have money, I have to keep turning down overtime at work, because I just don’t have the time to be working extra hours when I could be studying.

Being a finalist is scary but it is also exciting. Once exams are over in June I am about to start the next chapter of my life whatever that may be. Enjoy being a student while it lasts, but remember that this could be the start of something amazing!

 

Things I Couldn’t or Wouldn’t Have Done If I Hadn’t Gone to Uni

When I was back in college, deciding whether or not to go to uni was a decision a lot of people I knew were having trouble making. Although I knew I’d always wanted to go to uni, it was pretty tough for me to decide where to go and what to study. If you’re having a difficult time choosing what to do after you finish school, you’ll know that the decision is a tough one. Going to uni definitely turned out to be the right choice for me, as there are so many things that I’ve done that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. So if you’re stuck about what to do, hopefully this will show you why going to university can be a great experience!

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Learnt what I am passionate about

This might seem really obvious, I mean you do go to uni to learn! I decided to study Politics because it was my favourite subject at A Level. I liked the subject but I never really took part in politics outside of the classroom. Coming to uni changed that. I was able to choose classes that appealed to my interests which meant that I didn’t get bored and instead I got involved. At Essex, politics isn’t just my degree, I’ve taken part in so many activities in my department such as talking to prospective students at open days, going to talks from guest lecturers and even presenting at the Government Student Conference.

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Met some of the most amazing people

One of the reasons I love university and Essex is that our campus is a community of people of all backgrounds from all over the world. Whether they’re your flatmates, course mates or people you meet on a night out at Sub Zero, it’s so interesting to talk to people who have different perspectives on things. It also makes for great debates in class –  it’s always good to have your opinion challenged! I have made some of my best friends at uni and they’re people I would have never met if I hadn’t come here.

Work, work, work!

Now I know that you can experience the world of work without actually attending university, but for me there’s something about the employment opportunities I’ve had at Essex that I don’t think I would have got anywhere else. First off, there’s so many different types of jobs that you can do both on and off campus. I’ve had the chance to work in a variety of jobs that are really understanding of my studies. I’ve worked for both the Students’ Union and the university. The job I had in the SU store was a great opportunity to make some extra cash, whereas my Frontrunner placement in the Admissions Office gave me the chance to work in an office environment, which is something I’ve never done before. Many departments also ask current students to work at visit days where potential students will come and check out the university once they have an offer. It’s really easy to find employment at Essex and if you don’t want a job on campus then the careers centre is always ready to help you find work around Colchester.

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Bonus: The Paternoster!

This one is definitely unique to Essex. The lift in the Albert Sloman library makes even the most boring study sessions that bit more fun. Will you dare to ride the lift over the top or under the bottom?

If you’re struggling to decide whether uni is right for you or are just having trouble deciding where to go then I hope this has helped to show you why uni can be amazing!

Study Abroad: What I’ve Been up to

My first semester as an exchange student in America is officially over! I’m now on my Christmas break which is great after having two weeks of essays and final exams to do. Although I went back home to the UK for Christmas, I’ve actually spent most of my holidays travelling on the East Coast of the US, in fact I’m writing this post in Boston, Massachusetts!

DSCN2341.JPG The Library of Congress has nothing on the Albert Sloman Library!

A few hours after my last exam ended I was on a flight to Washington DC to explore the Capitol (nerdy political pun intended!). One of the great things about DC is that pretty much every attraction and museum is free. I went to the zoo and got to see some giant pandas which was pretty cool, although they were very lazy! Now being the politics student that I am, a trip to Washington wouldn’t be complete without seeing the places where the US is governed from. I visited the White House, which is much smaller than I expected, and had a tour of the US Capitol building which was really interesting. The building itself is huge and really beautiful.

dscn2406 Sunset over New York City

After a few days being in DC, I headed up to New York City. New York is a place I’ve always wanted to go to and I wasn’t disappointed! It is possibly one of the busiest places I’ve ever been to, but that’s sort of what gives the city its character. I explored Times Square and saw the School of Rock on Broadway which was amazing! I also went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner where you’re served by show tune singing waiters and waitresses, something that I very much enjoyed, especially when we were given a performance of some Les Miserables. After seeing the bright lights of Broadway I headed down to the 9/11 museum which was extremely touching and a very appropriate way to end my time in New York.

img_20170107_1047204742 It might look pretty but it was also about -6!

I went back to the UK from New York for Christmas, but time flew by until I was back in the US. I visited Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania. I had returned to temperatures below freezing and some pretty heavy snow! Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States and is the city where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, so it’s full of history. It’s also a very pretty city and it made for some great photos. I also made sure to try an authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwich. It’s basically what it sounds like and it is delicious!

received_102028450956458571 Being a terrible British person and throwing tea away!

After Philadelphia, I headed up to Boston. Boston is another city that’s very significant historically and politically. My first day here I went to a really cool museum where I got to throw some tea in Boston harbour in homage to the Boston Tea Party. I also made time for some shopping, particularly because Boston has one of the very few Primarks in America and it was just as cheap! It was just like being back home!

It’s now time for me to head back to Flagstaff to begin my second semester at NAU. I can’t believe I’m already halfway through my year abroad! It’s gone so quickly but I’m looking forward to making the most of the time I have left here. Speak to you soon!

How to conquer your degree in 2017

New year, new you…right? This also means a brand new university term. More lectures to go to, more coursework to do and… the dreaded exams in May. Talk about the fun being over! But, if you follow these suggestions, I reckon 2017 will be your year and that you will ace your degree!

Studying Tips

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University of Essex Flickr

Get a diary: The best way to get organised for the new term is to get a diary or some sort of planner. This way you can plan your week to get all the work you need to get done!

Check your module outline: The module outline will explain how you are being assessed for that module. It will tell you when your coursework or coursework test is and how much % it is worth. Having this information is really essential for you to be able to plan.

Start coursework early: With the diary to write your coursework down and the dates from the module outline, you can start planning! Start coursework with plenty of time. Your best work is not going to be done in one all-nighter with a red bull in one hand and a pot noodle in the other!

Go over lecture notes:  The best way I have personally found to revise for exams is every week to re-write my lecture notes into some form of revision materials. It helps you go over the lecture content, get it into your head and then you’re already one step ahead of your exam revision!

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Start revision early: I do a psychology degree and lots of research has shown that it is better to revise over a longer period of time than cramming it in the night before. So, if you do 20 hours revision in a 6 week period this is better for you than doing 20 hours in 2 days!

It’s a good idea to start thinking about revision at the end of 2nd term. You’ll have a whole month off at Easter and that is a great opportunity to start some revision. You’ll thank yourself when the exams get closer!

Keep healthy and happy

Take breaks: The whole idea of starting coursework early and keeping up to date with lectures is so that you have time to take breaks and spread out your work load. You are allowed a night off! Make sure university doesn’t become your life and you give yourself plenty of breaks! Do a favourite hobby such as watching a film, playing a sport or going and socialising with friends!

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Exercise: I know I dropped the E word, but actually it’s not about keeping fit this time. Exercise can actually help your studying. Cardio activity helps to brain produce chemicals that increase the functioning of learning and memory. So get those running shoes on because it will help your studying!

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Think about your diet: There are a number of foods that are supposed to help you concentrate. These are green tea, water, fatty fish, blueberries, avocados, leafy greens, nuts, flax seeds and most surprisingly.. dark chocolate! Last exam season I got through 3 big bars of dark chocolate. I’m not sure if it helped with concentration, but having a couple pieces of chocolate kept me going!

And lastly.. get plenty of sleep!: Not only will getting the recommended 8 hours sleep a day make you feel ready for the day, it also has learning benefits too. During sleep our brain goes over information we have learnt over the day and that helps our memory. How can you expect to get that 2:1 when you show up to the exam on 2 hours sleep?!

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Conquering your degree this year is all about planning your time wisely and looking after yourself.  I hope these tips have helped!