11 Tips to Get a First Class Degree From Someone Who Got One.
University is a time for progress and evolution.
It's the first chance that people get to move out of their hometown, mix with people from all over the world and to finally do the things that you want to do (this could equally mean playing Quidditch or not doing your washing up straight away).
However, with rising competition for graduate roles, high student debt and more people going to University than ever before, it's becoming increasingly hard to stand out from the crowd.
I graduated last year, achieving a First Class Degree with honours in History (MA Hons) from the University of Edinburgh.
Here, I will tell you my top 11 tips that I used whilst at University, that you can implement today and help you achieve a first-class degree too.
My final and recommended tip to increase your grade at University is a supplement called BrainZyme®, you can read reviews from other students here.
These tips are useful no matter what you study, from Engineering to Business, Computer Science to Nursing.
If you have any study tips that we haven't discussed in this article be sure to let us know in the comments below!
1) Get familiar with your university library
At the beginning of term, have a wander around the section of the library devoted to your subject.
Obviously, you should check out the books you’ll be assigned to read for classes, but you should also be reading around the topic, so pull out any relevant titles that attract your interest and that you think might be useful.
Besides the books themselves, the library is where you’ll do all of your best studying (you’re kidding yourself if you think you can write an essay from bed).
Find a regular study spot that suits you and figure out what the busiest hours are, where you can take a lunch break, and where all the toilets are.
The library is going to be your second home from now on, so make yourself comfortable!
Top Tip: Buying textbooks outright can be ridiculously expensive. Usually, the library will have a few copies of the textbooks needed for each class but these are in high demand. To save money, you need to stay organised. To ensure you get access to all the books you need, start your readings and assignments early. This tip probably saved me thousands of pounds throughout my time at university.
2) Get ahead on your reading
It’s all too tempting to spend your summer soaking up the freedom of no deadlines or tutors breathing down your neck about the next assignment.
But you can’t imagine how much you’ll thank yourself when everyone is struggling through their first week’s reading while you’re already flying through next month’s.
Even if you don’t have the time beforehand to make a huge dent in the pile of books sitting on your desk, just reading introductions, summaries, or reviews of the texts will make you feel a lot more prepared and make starting them when term comes a lot less daunting.
3) Sort out your sleeping pattern
You probably only think you’re a night person because you can stay up as late as you want looking aimlessly at your phone.
But (and this is a hard truth), the earlier you wake up, the more likely you are to have a productive day.
To get in the habit of early rising, adjust your alarm so that you’re waking up a little earlier every day.
Do this until you’re up bright and early, feeling refreshed and ready to face the day without feeling like you’ve been brought back from the dead.
If you find it difficult to fall asleep at night- which can be harder to do the more the stress of uni piles up- make sure you have a comfortable and calming bedtime routine. Invest in some nice-smelling body moisturiser, comfortable pyjamas, and decaffeinated teas.
Turn all your screens off half an hour before bedtime (and try not to use them in bed at all.
If you have to, use a programme such as f.lux which filters out all the blue light), read a good book, and listen to some calming music or rain sounds app.
Try to get around 8 hours, as sleep itself is incredibly important for learning and memory.
4) Keep healthy eating habits
After a long day in the library, it’s understandable to come home and have no energy to cook yourself a healthy, balanced meal when McDonald's is just an UberEATS away.
Additionally, studying necessarily entails sitting down for long periods of time - and snacking at least provides an excuse to take a break from your work.
Beat the rut of meal deals and takeaways by cooking large, healthy meals in batches- homemade curries and pasta sauces will keep you going for a long time and fill you up considerably.
Make your own lunch to take with you into uni and swap chocolate and crisps for healthier snacks like almonds or a banana.
You can also cut down on your cooking time by arranging meals together with friends and take it in turns to make something nutritious and delicious.
Top Tip: Throughout my four years at university, I always took it in turns to cook with my housemates. There was 6 of us each year, so one of us cooked for each day of the week and then we came together to make a roast on a Sunday. This keeps the cost down, ensures you get a nice varied diet, and saves a lot of time. I learnt about so many recipes and ate things I never thought I would because of this, so I'd highly recommend it.
It can be hard to get all the nutrients our body and brain need to function at its best.
That's where brain food supplements come in, ensuring that you have everything you need to be at your most productive.
Learn more about them here.
5) Go to the gym
Exercising is a great way to burn off the stress of exam season, and it can even be a social activity if you make time to go with your friends.
They can also motivate you to go when you feel like you would rather do anything else as long as you can do it from your bed.
Find a gym buddy (shoutout to Kyle, the ripped Irishman who showed me around the gym in my first year) who knows their way around and ask them to show you how.
Even when you feel like you don’t have the time to work out because of looming deadlines, you’ll feel a lot better and more energised overall if you try to fit in some kind of exercise, and you’ll feel accomplished even on days you’ve otherwise spent procrastinating.
6) Think positive
On the path to a great degree, there’s bound to be a lot of setbacks.
You might fall behind, sleep through an exam, or sit in agape silence throughout an entire class because you have no idea what’s going on.
The difference between someone who gets a first class degree and someone who doesn’t is that someone who does really well doesn’t get discouraged by doing badly.
They instead see it as a chance to improve, a challenge for them to show off what they can really do.
Remember how much you want to do well, and take a second to visualise how good it’ll feel when you get the results you want.
It’s well within your reach as long as you don’t give in to negative thinking.
As weird as it seems, positive thinking has some scientific backing. We've compiled a go-to guide for using positive thinking for personal and professional development that we think you should definitely check out.
7) Take breaks
You probably don’t need to hear this if you’re spending all your time procrastinating.
But if you don’t want to completely burn out you need to take some breaks from your work, actual breaks that involve being away from screens, not just scrolling through Facebook on the library toilet.
Go for a walk while listening to a favourite album, have some friends over for dinner, or just go to a bar for a drink or two (but be careful not to overdo it!).
Click here to check out our guide on avoiding burnout.
8) Get to know your lecturers
It’s true that your tutors can sometimes seem harried and overworked, and it’s hard not to hold a grudge against someone who gave you an abysmal mark for something you slaved over.
But your most important asset at university will be (surprise!) the people who are there to teach you.
Go to their office, email them with any questions, and stay behind after class if there’s something you’re not sure about.
A cunning little tip for doing well at uni is to find out what your tutor’s real interest or area of expertise is (are they a communist? Do they hate eighteenth-century poetry?) and try to cater to this a little in your essay.
Don’t push it too far or make it too obvious, but you’d be surprised how much their bias can show up in your mark.
Sneaky, but it works.
9) Stay organised
Buying a physical planner, even one to just keep on your desk, is handy for having all of your deadlines and plans in one place, and the satisfaction of crossing something off a to-do list is a lot higher when you can properly scribble it out.
Keep your uni notes, readings, and lecture slides properly labelled, whether online or in print.
Give documents a date as well as a title that’ll instantly remind you of what it’s about.
You could even stick a post-it note to the front of some notes to remind yourself of the major points.
10) Set bite-sized goals
The key to succeeding at something that seems huge and impossible is to break it down into manageable chunks.
Every Sunday night, write down the things you’re aiming to get done for the week ahead.
Divide them into three categories:
- Crucial Tasks - Things you need to get done (e.g. deadlines).
- Important Tasks - Things you want to get done (e.g. readings).
- 'Extra Mile' Tasks - Tasks that it would be nice to do (e.g. background reading, further research etc.)
Once you know what to do, the important thing is to start the harder, more important tasks first.
Otherwise, you might put them off until it’s too late to even try to do a good job, and waste all your time on the smaller more insignificant tasks.
You can also make tasks that seem daunting (say, writing a 4,000-word essay) easy by breaking them down step by step.
In this example, you may break down the steps as follows:
- Do background/introductory reading into the topic.
- Review the primary sources.
- Review the secondary sources.
- Plan your argument.
- Find more supporting evidence for your argument.
- Start writing the essay.
Each of those steps can be broken down further.
For example, for the first step, you may break it down into:
- Find a list of useful readings.
- Complete reading 1.
- Complete reading 2.
- Complete reading 3 etc.
Not only does this mean you get a greater sense of satisfaction due to ticking more things off your list, but, as we said above, it makes a daunting task more manageable.
Top Tip: A big mistake students make is to passively read. You will be a lot more productive if you employed an active reading technique, such as the SQ5R technique.
Watch: How to increase motivation quickly!
11) Our favourite - BrainZyme
If you are a student, you have probably seen some press about the rise of study drugs on campuses.
These substances, sometimes called nootropics, have been used by students to help increase their productivity and ultimately, their grades.
It is our belief that BrainZyme® is the best study supplement currently on the market anywhere in the world - and can give you the energy, concentration and focus you need to excel in your studies.
Watch: Reasons to Choose BrainZyme®.
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A new university year is a fresh start. Whether you're a nervous fresher or your dissertation is just around the corner, following these tips will undoubtedly help you get the best result you can - it worked for me.
No one method is going to work the best for you, so we highly recommend you try out the different techniques listed here and also linked below.
Procrastination, lack of energy and lack of concentration are three main reasons why people don't study as much as they should.
Many people turn to pharmaceutical nootropics to overcome those three negative traits, but always remember there's another option.
Natural nootropics, such as BrainZyme, can have extremely similar effects to study drugs such as Modafinil and Adderall but without the side effects.
If you'd like to learn more about how you can use BrainZyme to help improve your grades, then please click here.
Alternatively, please feel free to check out the following related articles:
Study Skills: 15 Study Skills you NEED to succeed at school or University.
The Ultimate Guide to Cornell Notes: Can This System Help You Get Better Grades? | Best Study Tips.
The Ultimate Guide To The Primacy Effect: Get Better Grades With This Technique | Best Study Tips.
The Ultimate Guide To The SQ5R Active Reading Technique: Can This Help You Get Better Grades? | Best Study Tips.
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* = Anecdotally, the improved concentration from BrainZyme enables increased motivation.