Like any typical law degree, my grades were a 50/50 split between second and third year. In first year, I got a first, but in second year (after a series of 2:2s, low 2:1s and a 3rd) I got a 2:2.
53.1% to be exact.
When I got this result, I remember feeling great despair and had already started imagining not being happy on my graduation day. I went from feelings of motivation to accepting a bad fate completely.
I remember looking on the Student Room to see if anyone had ever been in the same position as me, but the search was to no avail. I did see two comments that stuck out to me: one said I could graduate with a 2:1 if I basically never leave my room, and the other blamed ‘me’ for my grades.
I decided to write this blog and let others know my story so that if anyone were ever in my shoes, they could get the guided encouragement I couldn’t find, but also know that it is possible to still get a really good grade.
You will find that most students are quite quiet about their grades, and it wasn’t until graduation that I realised that many people got a 2:2 in their second year – and also turned it around.
In second year, I picked modules based on the topic and what I thought I would enjoy – I soon realised that this was not the best decision. For example, I took a module: ‘Intro to Criminology’ (something I’m passionate about), but the assessment was a 5,000-word essay. Safe to say that I did not do so well.
In my final year, I decided to do things differently and be more intentional with my degree. Before the first term started and when modules had just opened for selection, I spent 1-3 hours in total researching all the modules. As well as reading through the module information pages in depth, I also asked people in Warwick Law group chats if they studied the module and how they found it.
This was my criteria for deciding what modules to do:
It wasn’t until second year that I learnt that poor essay etiquette can result in you losing grades, even as much as 10 marks.
For example, I often got reduced marks due to plagiarism. I never intentionally stole someone’s work, but because I did not reference sources properly or quoted way too much of their work, it meant that it counted as some form of plagiarism.
To mitigate this risk in my final year, whenever I quoted a scholar I tried not to use more than 3-5 of their words. Sometimes, I would try to be extra careful and only quote one word and rephrase the rest (from a personal analysis point of view).
I was most shocked to find out that there is such a thing as self-plagiarism. Once you have submitted (published) an essay, you can not copy your own words into another essay – at least not without referencing yourself.
Referencing in essays is a very tricky thing to get right without practise, and when it’s done wrong that’s typically when the issue of plagiarism comes in.
Another thing I got marked down for was writing under the word limit. In my first year, I was unaware that if I wrote 10% under or over the word limit, I would get marked down.
If your tutor or university are offering sessions and resources on essay etiquette, do not take it for granted. You can also ask your tutors for guidance or to check the state of your referencing so far.
Check out TLP’s guide on how to structure & write a First-class law essay.
If there is one thing I will stand by, it is to ‘bother’ your tutors! Many people are shy to ask their tutors questions – but there is no way you can pay over £12,000 for your education and not ask all the questions you want.
Once the modules are over, and it is time to write your essay or revise for your exam, many tutors are unreachable (many even go on holiday!) so you need to take full advantage of seminars and contact hours.
If you missed something, ask them! if you’re struggling with something ask them! If you need clarification, ask them! This is not restricted to your module tutors – bother your personal tutors, bother whoever!
The mindset you should always have when you’re writing your essays, is that your work should be contributing to your field. This is what differentiates a 1st from a 2:1 – not regurgitating common concepts. Excite your tutor with what you write and introduce them to ideas that are new and refreshing.
Let’s say I submitted an essay one day, I would always come back maybe a few hours before the deadline to review my work again. When you’re writing something like a 4000-word essay, where you are constantly reading your work over and over, it is easy for your mind to ‘fill in the gaps’ and no longer pay attention to things like spelling mistakes.
You should constantly be reviewing your work! It is also best to wait a few hours or days before your final review to give your brain time to refresh so that you can review your work with a fresh pair of eyes!
To also get fresh eyes on your essay, you can ask others to peer review it. I made sure to do this with every essay. This is good for spotting grammatical errors that your brain has started ignoring, but it is also a good way to find out if the ideas in your essay can be followed coherently and successfully.
It is important that you are not the only one who can understand it, since it is being marked by someone else – someone who will spend tireless hours reading other essays too.
Before my final year, when I got a 2:1, I wouldn’t bother reading the feedback because I got a good grade and knew I was done with the module for good. (The sentiment was the same for all grades I got, to be honest.)
But in my final year, I knew that if I wanted to elevate from a 2:2 or 2:1 to a 1st, I had to pay close attention to the details in my feedback. This brings me to point 8.
Mock assessments are a great way to get feedback and find out if you are going in the right direction with your essay. In university, you will have the opportunity to do formative assessments. These are assessments used to evaluate your progress and do not count towards your final grades.
I would encourage you to always take the opportunity to do them. If it’s an essay, you should use it to write about ideas you want to explore in your final assessment. If it’s a mock exam, you should complete it based on your knowledge at the time and not try to cram, so you can accurately identify areas you need to do more revising for.
In the Sociology module I got 88% in, I did a formative first and got a 1st. When I did the summative (real/weighted assessment), I simply expanded the ideas, as I was assured they were of a high calibre. In another scenario, I completely changed a reflective journal I had started for my final assessment after having the first few pages marked and achieved 68%.
As I mentioned, if you submit your formative essay, for example, it would be self-plagiarism to now copy it for your summative.
Your degree is only 3-6 years of your life, and the last stretch of your degree is only 1. You need to remember this when it comes to making sacrifices. It might be hard to say ‘no’ during the holidays, but there will always be another Easter or Christmas. It’s all about making those sacrifices so that you can reap the rewards later.
This also goes for working. I often did 10-hour shifts once or twice a week during my final year, because I needed the money. But in the final stretch of my degree, I knew I had to make that sacrifice so I could succeed. After my final exam, I had around 3 months before university officially ended and I had to move out, to work as much as I wanted.
To be completely honest, there was never a module I had where I attended every seminar and did all the seminar work. For many modules, I basically never attended them. This was because with most of my modules, we had a selection of assessment questions to pick from and each week was covering a different topic for each question.
Subsequently, with the topics I knew I wasn’t going to write on, I chose not to spend crucial time on it. Instead, I prioritised seminar work that actually contributed to my essays. I did have a module where we were given a grade for class participation, so obviously in a scenario like that I made sure to be present.
This may not be the best advice to give and obviously with a risk like this you will have to use your discernment. I’m just trying to emphasise that your seminar workload should not negatively impact the quality of your final assessment – especially if that’s 100% of your grade.
I did make sure to attend the seminars in the final week(s) of my modules though to ask questions and get more insight for our assessments.
To conclude, these are the tried-and-true methods that worked for me, but you may need something different. It’s all about being adaptable and resilient and find your feet as quickly as possible. Good luck!
Loading More Content