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7 Tips to Getting a First-Class Degree at University

A university degree is one of the highest forms of educational levels most people will achieve, and it has a lot of prestige to it. However, a First-Class Degree is even a greater achievement, as it shows that you are one of the best within your university cohort. For this reason, many students wonder how they could reach this goal and get the results of which they are proud. It can be difficult to know how you can gain a First-Class Degree, so knowing the tips and hints that have worked for other students can be immensely helpful.

A first-class degree is a high honour which is awarded to students gaining over 70% in their course. It takes a lot of work to gain this, but it gives you greater career opportunities after graduating. The most important way you could improve your chances to fully engage in your course. This means attending all your lectures and handing in all your assignments. It doesn’t just stop there: getting to know your tutors by going in office hours are also key. Other tips include checking your past exam papers for ideas and keeping a healthy study habit.

What is a First-Class Degree?

Most students’ question about this topic is what a first-class degree is. You may know about it as an academic achievement, or a different type of qualification, but often they have no idea what it is or how to achieve it.

Simply put it, a first-class degree is normally awarded when you gain over 70% average scores in your university coursework and work. In some universities, if you achieve a high 2:1 and gain 70% within some of your coursework, you may be given a “first” ( also another name for a first-class degree).

How Hard is it to Get a First-Class Degree at University?

As an academic honour, gaining a first-class degree takes dedication and hard work. They aren’t given out easily and will require you to spend significant amounts of time studying and doing wider research and work to engage in your subject to the highest level.

However, the rewards you get from achieving a first-class degree are more than worth it. It shows to potential employers that you are knowledgeable and dedicated above other candidates in your field. It can qualify you to enter a higher pay scale or role level in your chosen job role.

Engage Fully in Your Course

While this may be obvious, students at university can get wrapped up in the social aspects of living away from home and becoming independent for the first time. This means they forget why they came to university: to get a qualification that will educate them and to increase their job prospects.

Sometimes, students do not attend all their seminars, lectures, tutoring sessions. This then leads to being behind on coursework and content and struggling to understand assignments.  In time this will mean your study time is taken up by trying to teach yourself the content. This isn’t always productive, as you could have learned the content from in your studies, who is also setting your exam. Not only do lectures teach content, but they also have extra tips on how to improve your presentations, essays, or even exam hints. Therefore, it’s key to attend all your lectures and tutoring sessions and engage in them by asking questions and taking notes.

Learning the difference between a seminar, tutoring session or a lecture can be confusing. If you would want to know more about the different types of lesson you get at university, this is a helpful guide can help you understand.

Tutoring sessions and seminars are important. These are where you could ask for clarification on topics you don’t understand and get to know your tutors better. This can be helpful to you while studying, as you know not only what sort of questions, they set out, but also that you can ask for help if you are struggling, as you have established a relationship with them.

Of course, you don’t have to attend every single lecture, but it’s important to only miss them when you have a valid reason, such as an illness, appointment, or secondary commitment. Remember that you are paying for your education, and you should always make the most of it if you want to achieve a First-Class degree.

Check the Feedback You Are Given

In all subjects at university, you will have assignments to complete. These can be essays, practice problems, or even bigger projects such as presentations or even your dissertation. These are keyways to improve your understanding of the content, so you should complete them all, however, the work doesn’t stop once you hand them in.

When you get back grades or corrected assignments, it’s important to compare those to your previous assignments, to see how you’re improving. This can help you to know what your weaker areas are. Therefore, this will help you know what to work on which is important to getting a first-class degree.

Also, when you get assignments back, check through your work or writing for any comments by the marker. These could come from the syllabus, or direct annotations onto the work. It’s key to highlight the sections you have struggled with (as above), but also to see any comments you get are made into action plans of how you can change or apply the skills you would need in the next assignment.

If you have any questions on your grades or feedback, go to your tutor’s office hours and seminars as above and ask about it. This shows that you are a conscientious student, while they are giving you the information you need to improve.

Your teacher is the one grading the course, and remember, a 70% average overall is required for you to gain a First-Class degree. Therefore, you should maintain a good work ethic throughout, and ensure that all your assignments are all up to standard. Applying feedback is the best way to improve your grades overall.

Make Your Essays Your Own

When writing your essay, it can be tempting to look to previous critics, or other students to try and figure out the “right” opinion on a topic. Indeed, multiple students formulate ideas based on critics, without considering their personal feelings on the topics. However, if you want to get better marks it is key to formulate your own opinions.

If you find this confusing, remember that it is always best to form an opinion for your “thesis statement” or main point in an essay then use critics to back it up, not the other way around. There may be a provided essay structure to follow, but do not be constrained by this. Formulaic essays without development and debate are a sure-fire way to drop marks and not engage your teachers.

The best way to make your essay engaging is to find a fresh perspective on the topic. If you can convincingly and correctly back up your argument while staying original, this is where you will gain the better marks. Professors have usually taught the same courses and subjects for years, so finding something new or original to bring them will make them interested. This is the best way to raise your marks, and raising your marks is key to getting that First-Class degree.

Find Your Interests Within Your Degree

The whole idea of a university degree is to improve your understanding of a certain area of study. Therefore, it is always advisable to choose a degree that you are passionate about. However, inevitably within the degree, there will be topics that you are more interested in, as well as those that you do not enjoy.

For this reason, you may pay more attention to some areas, and neglect others. As the First is gained for the whole of the course, not just the units you enjoy, it is important to give attention to all parts when revising. However, it is also key to spend time developing your knowledge of the parts you enjoy with further research and reading. This can even help you in the parts you don’t enjoy, by finding links between the two you can deepen your knowledge and find things you like within all the topic areas.

Throughout your course, make notes of any areas you particularly find interesting or wish to know more about. These can be invaluable when you come to write a dissertation or presentation and suddenly have no idea what topics interest you. Further reading you have done will also be especially important at this point, as it will give you a head start in preparing what you need to complete these.

Check Past Exam Papers

Getting consistent high marks on exams is key to gaining your first-class degree. Students can be extremely stressed by the unknown nature of the questions or the content when it comes to exams. However, there are ways to reduce this and even guess what may be on the exam.

The first way is of course to attend your lectures. Along the way many teachers give hints about the content of exams and what you should revise, so making a note of this is essential to achieving the best marks you can in an exam.

Another way to look at past exam papers. Most university courses will have a bank of old papers for each module in the library, which you can look through for ideas on questions. Another way to predict the topics is to look through and make a note of which question areas come up every year and topics that haven’t come up in the last few papers. These are the most important areas for you to focus on in revision (although be sure to cover everything at least once), as they are the most likely to come up.

This technique can also help you prepare, as you can practice answering past questions and see what style of questions often come up, which will help you to revise in the right way. For more information about techniques that help with focus and revision, check out this Think Student guide.

Get to Know Your Tutors and Lecturers

This can be one of the hardest parts of learning at university. In school and college, your teachers were likely very hands-on and tried to get to know you and to ask for your work. However, in university, you are required to make your own way through the course and motivate yourself to complete your work. This can be a difficult transition to make for many students.

One way to make this transition easier and lead to a better degree is by getting to know your tutors. Some tutors hold office hours, where you can go and ask them questions about the course. If you have a question about an assignment or you are struggling with a topic, the best way to find out what to do is to attend office hours and speak to the person who knows the course best: your teacher. You will probably be told the office hours at the start of the year or in the syllabus, so pay attention to these.

Stay Healthy and Take Breaks

When in a new environment like university where you are now responsible for your health and care as well as your academics it can be easy to let it slip up by the wayside. However, it’s not possible to get good grades if you don’t take care of yourself, as the saying goes – if you do not take breaks, breaks will take you. In other words, you will burn out and be unable to finish your course.

One way to do this is to eat healthy meals and get regular exercise. Your body needs to be healthy for you to do the work it needs to. Your brain will struggle to understand the content if it’s not correctly fuelled. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having treats – it’s a great motivator and is healthy to sometimes indulge yourself!

Another keyway is to take breaks from work – go out in the evening some days and others stay in and watch a film or do another relaxing activity. If you are keeping on top of assignments and reading, with a little extra work, there is no need to be overwhelming yourself with study time every second of the day. If you are feeling overwhelmed, or you cannot complete all your work, speak to your supervisor or student advice service, they’ll be able to help you.

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