Psychology as a degree is quite subjective, there are rarely right or wrong answers in exams. You may ask – how do I get a first in my degree then?
During three years of studying Psychology, I have learned from my mistakes and good experiences.
Now I have a bank of knowledge on what improves grades and what approaches lower them. Read on for tips on getting a first class in your psychology degree!
1. Don’t bother taking notes in class unless it’s essential
I spent my first year and second year trying to write down what the lecturer was saying and what was on the lecture slides. I thought that writing everything down would aid in remembering.
The problem is when you are concentrated too much on putting all the information on paper, you lose track on the meaning of what is being said.
Watch the lecturer. If you are scared about forgetting what was said in the lecture, invest in a recorder. Most lecturers tend to put their lecture slides online as well.
2. Read the mark schemes carefully
If any of your modules are coursework heavy, make sure that you read the mark scheme before starting assignments.
Make a list of the things that you need to include in your work to get a set grade. This will help to guide your assignment.
Reading the mark schemes is also helpful for exams because it will inform about what the markers are looking for in the answers.
3. Read journal articles for your modules every week
Being on top of your reading is crucial. There’s nothing worse than coming to your revision and realising that you need to read 20+ papers, nobody has time for that! Save yourself some time, read journal articles for your modules every week.
Even if it is two articles per module a week, it will still save a lot of time. When you read an article, summarise its sections and main points in a word document, colour code important references, keywords and theories. These notes will come in handy in later revision.
4. Include additional reading in your essays
Additional reading is one of the main features of a first-class essay. Independent reading tells your lecturers that you are an independent learner, able to find relevant information in databases by yourself.
Lecture slides and recommended reading only scratch the surface of the taught material. As a university student, you are an explorer of knowledge.
Follow on the theories and keywords that you have learned from the lectures. Looking at review articles for a general overview of the field is an efficient strategy
5. Answer the exam question
My lecturers have addressed that the main problem bringing students down in exams is not answering the question. When you are asked to write about ‘a’ do not start writing about ‘b’, basically stay on topic.
In the exam, stress could take over and you may be tempted to dump everything you know about the topic on paper. These brain dumps will lose you a lot of marks. Be specific, answer what is being asked
6. Adopt an active approach for remembering references
When I started my Psychology degree, I struggled to remember long lists of references. The trick is using an active learning approach.
I find that collating the references as a list and including a simple sentence for each is helpful. You can have a separate reference list document for each of your lectures.
Listening to the audio of the reference list will aid your memory. There are some great programs such as Balabolka that converts your text to an mp3 file.
In addition to listening to your references, revise visually using flashcards – Cram is a great website. Some other tricks to remember references include:
Reading your references in funny voices
Talking about the references to other people
Doing practice essays
Making essay plans with the references
Drawing a picture that relates to a reference
7. Put the most effort in your dissertation
Your final degree grade is mostly comprised of your dissertation, this means that you should put the most effort in your final research project.
Starting your project research in the summer before the start of third year will save you a lot of time. You can also watch some videos on advanced statistical procedures and other things that you may have not been taught in lectures.
In terms of the dissertation itself, do not research a topic because you find it interesting. Have a clear rationale and form your hypothesis based on prior evidence.
8. Be selective in choosing the topics to revise
Revising all of the topics that you have been taught in your modules is not a great idea – not every topic will come up.
Familiarise yourself with the structure of the exam paper. Say if you have to answer two questions from a set of six in an exam, pick about 4-6 topics to revise (most modules have 10 lectures).
It becomes easier when you have two lecturers teaching a module as the exams tend to have an equal balance of questions from both lecturers. This will give you some clues for deciding what to revise. YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING!
9. Make links between the topics
Psychology as a subject is broad, however a lot of topics relate to each other in one way or another.
If you feel that there is an idea that links to something that you have learned in another module – still include it in your answer. This will show the marker that you are able to connect ideas and think outside the box.
10. Put your mental health first
Above all else comes your mental health, take a day off when you are feeling unwell. Learning and remembering is more effective when your mind is clear.
You can push yourself to keep on working but too much pressure on self will lead to breakdowns. Stress can also lead to serious illness by increasing the cortisol level in your body. So, take care of your well-being.
These are all the tips that I will share with you this time. I hope this will help to make your studying easier – whether you are doing Psychology or something else (a lot of these tips can be applied to other courses!). Let me know if you want me to dedicate a post on any of the points mentioned in this post. Do you have any studying tips to share?