Student Advocate tips for… revision and exams

 

Desks and chairs in a large exam hall
Photo by Akshay Chauhan on Unsplash

Our Bristol Futures Student Advocates come from every faculty in the university, and are here to support you to grow your skills and become an even better student.

In this post, Martina and Joanne share their top tips for revising well and acing your exams …

Use your ILOs

Martina, 2nd year Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry student

Look at the intended learning outcomes (ILOs) both for the whole module and also for each lecture to make sure you’ve covered everything. If you like to rewrite your notes when revising you could try to break them down by learning outcome and if the ILOs aren’t provided you can try coming up with them yourself!

Make a plan

Joanne, 2nd year History student

When going into essay exams, make a time/word count plan beforehand and make sure you stick to it. Although you won’t know the topic beforehand, having a general plan of attack and overall structure can help a lot to stay on track!

 

Check out the Study Skills Blackboard page for more tips on Revision techniques.

 

 

Letter to my undergraduate self: Therese Kelly – ‘It is okay to ask for help and to say you don’t understand something’

Inspired by the Big Issue’s regular feature Letter to My Younger Self, we’re asking staff to think back to their own experiences as a student and tell us what advice they would give to their undergraduate selves.

This month we’re introducing our newest Study Skills Tutor, Therese Kelly, who will be working with students in the Faculty of Social sciences.

Photo of Therese, the author of the blog post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What and where did you study? 

I studied for a BA in the Anthropology of Religion at the University of Wales, Lampeter. Then 15 years later I went back to uni and did an MA in Social Anthropology, here at Bristol. I am now finishing a PhD in Social Anthropology through Manchester University.

Did you experience culture shock when you started university? 

That’s an interesting question. It was more the location that was a shock rather than the university itself. I grew up in London and then opted for a university deep in the Welsh countryside, in a very small farming community. This was partly because I was a young mother with a child, and I wanted to be somewhere less hectic. I was a mature student of 24 when I started my degree; I became a mother when I was 20 so waited until my son was old enough to go to school before going to university, and Lampeter seemed lovely. It was a wonderful place to study! It is a very small university, and it didn’t take long to become part of the student community.

What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it? 

My time management was awful when I was an undergraduate, especially during my first year. I always left it to the last minute to write an essay. One essay I handed in two weeks late and so it was marked down 20%. If I had submitted it in time, it would have got 70%, a first, so I was gutted! I learned pretty quickly after that to plan my writing time better.

What are you most proud of about your time at university? 

I was, and still am, a shy person, the difference is I have learned to manage it. When I was in the first year, I was part of a group giving a presentation about a Hindu temple we visited for one of our modules. I can still remember how I felt when it was my turn to speak. The blood rushed to my face, my heart was beating in my mouth, and I was so nervous I struggled to focus on the people in the room, I was terrified! I managed to get through it but thought, I must get over this fear. So, I signed myself up for presenting at as many seminars as possible and each time I did it, my ability to talk and present improved. I believe it was one of the bravest things I have done for myself.

What was the best bit of feedback you received? 

I didn’t think my work was any good most of the time as I had very low self-confidence. But after having completed an essay that I actually enjoyed writing, the lecturer said in the feedback that I had ‘clarity of expression’ and that the essay was ‘a joy to read’. I was so happy that my essay was not only readable but that someone got joy from it too!

What advice would you give to your undergraduate self?

I could say, PLAN YOUR WORK! I could have reduced so much stress and got a better mark if I had organised my writing better. Saying that, getting a 2:1 rather than a first is still a great achievement and I did really enjoy being an undergraduate. So, what I would say to my undergraduate self is that it is okay to ask for help and to say you don’t understand something, and enjoy the fresh air and the wonderful countryside!

How I make notes: The 5Rs

Photo of Molly, the author of this blog post By Molly Jackson, Translational Health Sciences student and Bristol Futures Advocate

The way we take notes is a big influence on how well we learn, and this differs greatly between individuals. As students we are often told to make notes throughout our lectures and use them to answer exam questions and provide essays with references to both literature written by experts in the field and our own opinions. This is often overwhelming, especially when we are provided with a high volume of information in a lecture and do not know where to start with how to record this information into notes.

After struggling in my first and second years of university with extensive pages of long notes piled on my desk never to be revisited, I began to wonder if there was a method out there to make use of notes as well as just making them. Following some extensive googling and asking fellow students on their approach to notetaking, I decided to try the Cornell method which breaks down notetaking into 5 easy stages…

An overview of the 5Rs of note taking, adapted from the Cornell Method (Pauk 2001). Record. Make note of the key facts you learn throughout your lecture. Reduce. Summarise key facts into short bullet points. Recite. Write out your short bullet points into a resource that can be revisited. Reflect. Use the bullet points as a starting point to develop your own opinions. How does it relate to other topics you’ve learned? How is this relevant to literature currently published in the field? How can you apply your critical thinking to this topic? Review. Regularly review the resources you develop in the lead up to exams or as part of essay preparation.
An overview of the 5 Rs of note taking, adapted from the Cornell method (Pauk 2001)

I found that using this approach breaks down complicated topics into bitesize pieces that can be used to build back into a bigger picture with wider reading and your own opinions. The best thing about using this method is that, as we all learn in different ways, this approach can be tailored to the individual and gives you a chance to be creative. For example, for the visual learners, the recite and review stage could be carried out in the form of a diagram or mind map, and for auditory learners, in the form of a song. It has also been scientifically proven that this technique is highly effective in a range of disciplines!*

Page split into 5 sections titled record, reduce/ recite, review, reflect - relevant literature, and reflect - own opinion. There are notes in each section on the subject of Parkinson's Disease.
Notes for a final year essay

The only question left to ask is what is what kind of learner are you and how can you build this into the 5Rs approach to develop achieve note taking success?

 

*Some examples of the evidence:
  • Evans B and Shively C. Using the Cornell Note-Taking System Can Help Eighth Grade Students Alleviate the Impact of Interruptions While Reading at Home. Journal of Inquiry and Action in Education. 2019;10:1-35.
  • Donohoo J. Learning How to Learn: Cornell Notes as an Example. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 2010;54:224-227.
  • Hayati A and Jalilifar A. The Impact of Note-taking Strategies on Listening Comprehension of EFL Learners. English Language Teaching. 2009;2.
  • Quintus L, Borr M, Duffield S, Napoleon L and Welch A. The impact of the Cornell note-taking method on students’ performance in a high school family and consumer sciences class. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal. 2012;30:27-38.