How I got a first in my exams last year
I hope everyone is not drowning in work too much! Make sure that you take the time to enjoy the sunshine because it is going to start thunder storming this weekend!
I am currently in my final year (for those who do not know) and last year in my exams I got a first. Exams are my strength in comparison to essays (she says). But what you need to remember is that I am in a room where all of these students are also highly intelligent and are good academics, no I mean excellent academics! No pressure…
But these are some tips for a classics student to get the best possible grade:
- Break it up into chunks: the way I revise is that I spend time going through all of the powerpoints and handouts provided by the lecturer and start to make notes. The key bit here is ensuring that I have understood the content. So if you come across a word or a case study that you have not seen before or have no idea what on earth it is – RESEARCH IT! This is the time to focus and absorb as much as you can.
- Rewrite and condense: Now that you have pages and pages of notes start to condense them and put them in a format that suits you. I love mindmaps because physically writing my notes and using colours as well as outlining the links between topics helps me to revise and makes my life easier. The more links and comparisons you can make between topics. You want to make your life easier by having topics that you can implement in any answer that you are given in an exam. So the more you take the time to understand the easier it is to apply that knowledge.
- Learn your primary sources: just by sprinkling some quotes from the Iliad or Horace you can enrich your essays in your exam. Using primary sources is so important because that is how we learn about the classical world! It’s so easy just to get caught up by scholarly opinion, but in exams, this is actually your time to interpret and explore the topics from your point of view. On the exam paper, there will be extracts that you may not have seen before so try your best and apply anything that relates to it.
- Getting the balance right between quantity and quality: For the essays, I always write to the time frame, never the number of points. You have 2 hours, so you have 30 mins per questions since they all have equal weighting now! 2 gobbets and 2 essay questions, that is not a lot of time. So make sure that you are not repeating yourself and that you cover a range of points. Covering a point, literally make your point, use your evidence, explain how this answers the question and stimulates debate within the classical world and move on. Any detail you think of, throw it in there, but the main thing is to provide limited but concise context and then just get straight to your argument. Why is it that you think this way? Outline any counter-arguments that might make your argument seem weak, just ensure that you outline possible answers or rebuttals to counter arguments. No need to be too fancy with your words, just get everything down! You do not have time to sit there and make a clever-sounding sentence, make your point and move on. Just get it down, logical flow obviously is important, but make it nice and clear for your examiner how it is that you got to the conclusions that you made.