Top Tips for Turning Around your First Year Result
If you didn’t achieve the grade you were expecting this year, you might be stuck in the following position:
“How do I go about improving?”
If this sounds familiar, this article will help you identify exactly that. This article will help you come back from a bad first year result.
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If you received a good grade in contract law, for example, start by analysing where you think your strengths were. You can do this by looking at exams and coursework. Next look at your weaknesses. Typically, your weaknesses may be apparent across all your modules so if you can identify and correct them, they may improve your overall grade and technique.
Step #2- Visit your lecturers during their office hours
Your lecturers will have designated office hours where you can make an appointment to see them. I recommend making a note of them on your calendar and visit them often so that you can ask questions and get inside their head. What you’ll find is that each lecturer has a certain thing they look for in an essay, something that can turn a good 2:1 grade into an even better First. Take notes at these meetings and revisit them when it comes to coursework and exam prep.
Step #3- Start coursework as soon as it is released
If you’re like I was, you might think that you produce your best work when under pressure. This means starting coursework very close to the deadline. Whilst you might be able to scrape a decent grade, first-class essays are refined, well-researched and show the examiner that you have fully understood what you’ve been asked to do. My advice for forcing yourself to start writing is to assign yourself weekly tasks. Follow a structure like this:
Week 1 – Understand the title and map the essay headings
Week 2 – Collect articles and take notes
Week 3 – Start writing and produce a first draft
Week 4-5 – Proofread and submit
Step #4- Work to a timetable
Timetables are great at organising your day and allowing you to work efficiently. Even if you think timetables won’t work for you, give them a go. My advice is to start by mapping out when you’ll be in lectures and seminars, then add in blocks where you’ll spend time going over a topic you learnt during the week.
Think about splitting your timetable into 30 minute blocks and ensure that whenever you revise a topic, it’s only for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. This method is the Pomodoro technique whereby you work continuously for 25 minutes and then have a 5 minute break. I use this way of working and it really helps with productivity.
When it comes to revising, many law students will read their notes and hope it sticks. Some might even go about mind mapping or creating flash cards. However, research has shown that these methods are flawed as they don’t help things stick in our minds. The most efficient ways involve active recall (testing yourself) and spaced repetition (coming back to things you’ve revised a week before, then a month later, then a couple months later).
Instead of revising passively by just reading, try writing out what you remember and then go about filling in gaps in your knowledge. And once you’ve revised, give it a couple days and try recalling what you remember, then a week later, and then keep increasing until the content moves from short term to long term memory.
Step #6- Practise exam style questions
This links to the active recall above, and it’s probably something most of us do close to the exams. Practising exam style questions gives you an insight into the following:
What the examiner is looking for
What can be asked
What the exam will look like
How much time you should be spending on each question
If you already did this last year, consider starting past papers earlier. I find that the sooner I understand what examiners are looking for, the more confident I become when exams come around. You can definitely improve your performance in second year by starting past paper questions early on.