Exams

5 Ways to Prepare for Results Day

With results day only one month away and the honeymoon period of lazy summer days coming to an end, the countdown to the big day is on. From my experiences, A-Level results day really was one of the most nerve wracking events of my life, as it marked the end of 14 years of hard studying and determined the next chapter in my life. Whilst it is normal to experience feelings of anxiety and confusion regarding the results day process, my top tips to prepare for A-Level results day will hopefully ease those nerves and ensure that you’re prepared for all contingencies.

 

  1. Get organised

Firstly, make sure that all your personal details on UCAS are up to date. Whether your fortunes bring good news or bad news on the big day, it is vital that you actually receive the news! Ensure that you login to UCAS in advance, update your contact details if needed and have your track sign in details ready for the day.

Check how your exam results are obtained by your chosen universities. Normally, UCAS sends your results directly to your chosen university, who will then either accept or reject your place. However, this isn’t always the case so make sure to check if there are any steps you must take to secure your place at University.

Compose a list of important phone numbers and contact details. Specifically, I would advise writing down the phone number to the admissions departments for your top-choice university, insurance choice university and the UCAS clearing hotline.

Plan for what you expect in advance. Whilst things could go either way on the big day, start preparing for university life even before you get your results. For example, make arrangements including student finance and opening a student bank account way in advance, as these details can be easily changed wherever you end up.

Finally, don’t forget to organise the small details to stop the last-minute panic. How will you get to your school? What time does your school open? Is your mobile phone fully charged? Organising as much as you can before you actually receive the envelope will give you the greatest chance of success, whatever your results.

 

  1. Clear your schedule

One of the most important things on results day is ensuring that you are actually free. It may sound ridiculous, but keep the entire day free to allow you to celebrate all those years of hard study or have the optimal chance to make the most out of your situation. Check with your school or college what time they open for you to collect your results and attempt to get there for that time. Also, remember that UCAS Track opens at 8am on the big day, and try to log in as soon as possible to check whether you have got into your first choice university or need to make alternative plans.

 

  1. Understand Clearing

Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan. If you haven’t achieved the results you were hoping for, there are many opportunities to get a place at university through Clearing. Clearing is a match-making service, whereby UCAS matches students who do not have a university offer with university courses which still have vacancies. Clearing is officially open from July to September each year, and some universities list their vacancies in advance of results day. However, it’s important to remember that the majority of vacancies are posted on results day itself. For an official guide to Clearing, check out the UCAS Clearing guide at: https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/no-offers-learn-how-clearing-works

 

If you haven’t met your grades, the first thing you should do is call up your chosen university anyway as they may still accept you or offer you an alternative course. Failing this, begin searching through UCAS Clearing to find a suitable match. Once you have discovered courses you are interested in which have places available, contact the admissions department directly to apply. I would advise talking to universities directly and researching them fully to ensure that you make the right choice. Here at Queen Mary, we will be operating a Unibuddy Clearing service. The Unibuddy Clearing service will provide an instant chatbox with our team of Ambassadors to guide you through any questions you may have about Queen Mary and hopefully bring some joy if you have received bad news.

 

  1. Understand Adjustment

Whilst many people prepare for the worst with regards to results day, it is also advisable to prepare for the best as there is a possibility that you could do better than expected. Perhaps, you haven’t applied to your dream university because you didn’t think your grades were good enough. Perhaps you’re now having doubts about your first choice after having received your results as they are better than expected. Essentially, Adjustment is the opposite of Clearing. It enables you to hold your offer with your first choice university whilst applying to other available options which match the grades you have achieved.  For an official guide to the Adjustment process, check out the UCAS Adjustment page at: https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/ucas-adjustment-%E2%80%93-if-you%E2%80%99ve-done-better-expected

 

If you do choose to use the Adjustment process, remember that you have only 5 days to find an alternative place and make a formal agreement with your latest choice and that this decision is confirmed through UCAS. Unfortunately, there is no official listings for Adjustment vacancies, so you must call universities directly to explain your situation and apply for a place. Also note that Adjustment simply gives high achieving students the opportunities to open more doors; applying to a ‘better’ university does not necessarily mean that the university will be better for you as an individual.

 

  1. Relax

Finally remember that all the hard work is done. The grades that you have achieved are no longer within your control so worrying about them is simply wasted energy.  Despite my words of wisdom, I remember pacing backwards and forwards in my bedroom the night before results day, counting down the minutes until I knew my fate; causing myself unnecessary stress for no reason whatsoever. Instead, I would now recommend following the advice of one of my favourite professors and watching the abundancy of cat videos on Youtube or contemplating the Seven Wonders of the World to alleviate the anxiety.

 

Good luck!

Stepping Out of First Year

img_6451Exams are finally done and there goes my first year! It is crazy to think that being in a three-year course would eat up a lot of time but now I’m done with one-third of the way as we speak. In the grand scheme, life passes by in the blink of an eye. I would honestly say this year has been one of the greatest years in my life. It started from coming here alone without anyone that I know, a shy Indonesian kid that tried to make his very first friend. I went through thick and thin with my closest friends that eventually found me, and helped me with the struggles that I face, may it be my studies or even my relationship problems! I’ve got to learn that there are good people out there that become your good friends and that you can depend on them regardless of many circumstances.

img_5245img_7329

img_7252I even joined clubs here that promoted my physical well-being, simultaneously allowing me to experience further university life and what it feels to be like to be in an international environment. I managed to even experience working part-time in a foreign country, and performed several gigs around London with my band. However, we should all keep in mind that this would not be able to be achieved if all we do is stay in our comfort zone. Reach out of your comfort zone – be tired, be ambitious, be stressed, and in the long-run, you will realise that you have become a stronger version of yourself, and that everything done was worth it. Now that my first year is over, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in my second year!

One Angry Nan and 76 Minutes I’ll Never Get Back

On the 19th of May, at exactly 12:00 my final exam was over, marking the end of the academic year.  As much as I am looking forward to summer and being a relatively stress-free human for a few months; I am feeling particularly reflective. As well as experiencing all the typical student scenarios; coffee induced late nights in the library, intoxicated Wednesday evenings at the student’s union and subsequently rocking up to your Thursday 9am lecture half still in your pyjamas at 9:10; the most rewarding and exciting moments of the year, are a collation of completely unexpected, spontaneous and terrifying scenarios.  Here are a few of my favourite:

The Time my Grandmother Came to London and Got Very Mad at Theresa May
I had an unexpected phone call off my mum one Wednesday morning, explaining that my Nan and her two friends would be travelling to London to take part in a protest.  I was instructed to go and ensure that she “didn’t get herself into any trouble.”  Assuming this was a slight exaggeration on my mum’s behalf, I arrived at Parliament Square with intentions of a relatively calm afternoon with my Nan.  However, when I emerged from Westminster Tube Station, all I could see was thousands of women draped in purple sashes labelled “WASPI”, yelling, singing and waving their fists towards the Houses of Parliament.  A few hours later I found myself in the heart of that crowd, with my Nan, learning about their struggle and chanting along with them.  After living in London for two years, my first genuine experience at a protest was completely accidental but a completely irreplaceable adventure.

The Time I Got Lost at 4am
We were somewhere in central London, it was 4am, I was exhausted, my friend had just lost her Oyster card, our phones were on low battery, and we weren’t entirely sure of where to get our next bus from.  We decided to walk down the road towards the street map, and stopped to check the name of the street we were on.  Tired, lost and so very ready to be at home in bed, we both looked up at the street name.  Turn Again Lane.  London was surely mocking us.  We looked at each other, both perplexed but desperate enough to be willing to take advice from a street sign, without any exchange of words, we turned around and began walking in the opposite direction.  As if it were a miracle, within 30 seconds we could see our bus stop and within a few minutes we were on our bus, driving through the city centre.  It became clear that being lost in central London isn’t actually something to be hugely concerned about; I mean, I wouldn’t suggest looking to inanimate objects for advice; however, the number of maps, night busses, and people in the similar situations as you almost ensure that there is a way for you to arrive home safely.

The Time I spent 76 Minutes Stuck in a Lift
Living on the 5th floor meant that, occasionally, I had to overcome my slightly irrational fear of lifts.  One morning I was supposed to be travelling to South Wales for a family party and I was running extremely late.  I hopped into the lift with my shoes still untied and clothes falling out of my not very well packed bag.  I was so preoccupied with composing myself that I failed to recognise that the lift was not moving.  It wasn’t until the lights turned off that it dawned on me; I was stuck.  None of the buttons were working.  Everyone I phoned was busy.  After being stuck for 15 minutes, I had to call the fire brigade.  They arrived swiftly but were at a loss when considering possible ways to get me out.  When it got to the half hour mark, I had stressed, cried, gotten frustrated with myself for being lazy and not taking the stairs, called my mum, and finally, accepted the fact that I was probably going to spend the majority of my day completely alone in a glorified box.   One of the firemen stayed outside the lift the entire time, and we discussed a variety of topics from my increasing levels of hunger to the British weather; until finally, after 76 minutes, I was released.

From my first experience calling 999 to accidentally protesting the rising age of pensions with my 60-year-old grandmother, this year has been a series of peculiar events; but I honestly don’t think I would change a thing.  Soon I’ll begin organising my Summer; even though knowing my luck, none of it will go to plan.  I look forward to the slightly terrifying, unsuspected chaos that will almost definitely unfold over the next few months.

 

 

 

 

Good Grades, Social Life, Enough Sleep – How About All Of Them?

Exam time is here! That means a few things:

cramming, cramming, and cramming…and loads of coffee perhaps.

Is cramming necessary though? It is natural for university students like many of us to

stress everything into last minute but                                   of course, that is not wise at all. We all

talk about setting a neat time table and                              creating to-do lists but in the end do not

follow  them  at  all.  Then, how do we                                 prepare  well  for exams,  while getting

enough time to rest and relax? People                                 usually believe that you can only choose

two  out of  these  three:  good grades,                               sleep, and social life. Lucky enough, we

 can     do  the   simple   maths    here.                                 24 hours  for  three   aspects  of life we

        would like to indulge  in. That                                   sounds like 24/3 and that gives us 8.

Eight  hours  of sleep,  eight                                   hours of  studying, and eight

hours of relaxing. Eight hours of relaxing and eight hours of studying is a LOT

of time when you  come to  think  of  it. This simple  8-hour rule  for these

three aspects vital to the lives of university students who wish to obtain a first

in their degrees, get enough sleep for daily energy, and parrrrr-tay! Now, following

the   eight-hour   rule   isn’t  too                                      difficult. That just  means you only

need  a  little  bit of  discipline and                                    not following the timetable wouldn’t

be  much of an issue. What  comes                                     with this eight-hour rule is efficiency

with  this  time.  Be productive  and                                      be efficient – study hard, play hard, and

eventually this while exhaust you to                                     a  good  level where you can get into  a

deep  sleep.  Studying  for 2  hours                                     can  give  you so  much when  you are

focused,  imagine what 8  hours                                       can give you! Relaxing for the same

amount of time can bring you                                     so much  enjoyment  as well. Is

  this  rule difficult?  Definitely not, and it’s definitely worth a try.  Now,  to keep

 track of any  other things, you  can simply make notes on your phone

   and make sure you would not forget any other things, may

    that be giving your parents back home a phone call,

meeting a friend for brunch, and more.

I recommend you all to give this a try this – and hopefully the results would amaze you!

Caffeine, Confidence and Careless Planning: A Personal Guide to Revision

Advice on how to get the most out of your revision, from information on visual aids to what foods you should be eating, is available everywhere.   As someone who is prone to stress, I often feel overwhelmed with everything that I am told I “should” be doing whilst revising.  After years of trial and error, I have found a few things that really work for me:

1.       Mathematics can be intense and overwhelming so I find it incredibly useful to take a few hours to remind myself why I’m doing the degree.  If I’m finding a module particularly wearing I’ll find an article, book or video loosely based on the subject to spark my interest again.  For example, after reading through my probability notes for a few hours yesterday and very almost losing the will to live, I decided to watch a video by Vsauce about the maths behind shuffling a deck of cards (which, by the way, is mind blowing).

2.       Finding a suitable place to revise was actually a bit issue for me.  At home I get too easily distracted but I can’t deal with the silence in the library.  Coffee shops were my saviour.   When I’m struggling to revise, I walk to a local coffee shop, order myself a drink and set out all my revision on a little table.  I enjoy working within a lightly bustling area; I can concentrate well but also when I need a break I can get some fresh air and take a stroll.  Obviously, the big upside to working in a café is the possibility of a constant supply of caffeine which is extremely alluring. 

3.       One major issue I used to have whilst studying for exams was confidence.  I would always compare my work and results to my friends’ and subsequently be far too hard on myself.  During exam season, I find it useful to remember that people work at different paces and revise in diverse ways.  It is for this reason I tend to steer clear of ‘group revision’ as I know I am more comfortable going through things at my own speed.

4.       Finally, I find it most useful to be ridiculously organised during exam season.  Revision timetables are my strength, however I must remind myself to be realistic.  If I had followed the first timetable I had made for myself this year I’d be clocking a solid ten hours of revision a day, and subsequently, probably would have died after about a week.  Setting myself unattainable goals is a bad habit; I am never going to be doing ten hours a day and that is completely fine.  I find it important to set myself reachable goals at the end of each week and if I was unable to finish everything one week I go back and assess what the issues are. 

There is roughly twenty-two days, one hour and 35 minutes until my first exam.  I am soon to be completely submerged in scrap notes, past papers and post-it notes.  My hands are decorated with black ink smudges.  I am simultaneously completely exhausted and also experiencing a caffeine-induced spark of motivation.  My brain seems to be completely incapable of completing any tasks that aren’t maths related; for instance, after making a cup of tea, I proceeded to put the milk in the cupboard, tea bags in the fridge and spoon in the bin. 

Revision sucks.  There is no point in sugar coating it.  However now that I have found my own little preferences, it sucks just a little bit less.

Second year – a devil in disguise ?

Yes, yes it is. I am not sure exactly how it happened or what it even is that happened, but my uni life is not as together as it seemed to be. One month ago everything was a bright pink, with some shades of red from my lipstick. Lectures were worthwhile, classes did the trick and the coursework went smooth – it didn’t exist. Now- a completely different story. With midterm season at its peak, opening the actual textbooks made me realize I didn’t know why Marx thought that there is a tendency of the profit to fall, I couldn’t figure out what makes a random sample random and I most certainly couldn’t tell you the relationship between Phillips Curve and the Aggregate Supply (the dark side of economics). Oh, did I mention the utter madness caused by desperately seeking an internship for the summer ?
What had happened to my inner peace being…well, so peaceful ? I jumped from red on my lips to grey on my soul, without even a warning. We are expected to know everything and we are questioned on everything; this everything I’m talking about is about 4 times bigger than it was last year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot more interesting, but I miss the days when reading the slides and going to classes were an almost guaranteed first. They tell you first year is to adjust, they don’t tell you that second year is to survive.

It may be that I am overreacting, since I am writing this at a high point on my stress scale, but I think you could do with a warning: don’t underestimate the workload and don’t assume you can cram 3 months worth of lectures in one night- you will be proven very wrong. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

With Christmas break just around the corner and 2 more midterms to go, I am determined to start fresh next term, put on my red lipstick and make sure I study constantly, thoroughly, to avoid midnight breakdowns…Who am I kidding ? It’s university, if you don’t have a meltdown, it will definitely find a way to give it to you. But that’s what makes it the ‘uni life’ we all crave for, doesn’t it?

Review of my second year of study

Today I finished the last of my official revision lectures before my exams, so I thought I would summarize what I thought helped me successfully study throughout my degree so far.

Buying the correct stationary equipment

For me, having eight modules (The number of modules for my degree) to study for can be difficult, however when you have the correct stationary, this can help you to keep your notes tidy so that they are easier to find when you need them. The top 3 stationary equipment I would recommend is a folder for each module, sticky labels (To label your work such as the name of a topic for particular notes.) and punch pockets (To ensure your notes do not get ripped by getting caught in your folder.). Below is an image illustrating the stationary equipment I use:

An example of a labelled sticky label on a folder with notes inside a punch pocket

An example of a sticky label on a folder with notes inside a punch pocket.

Time management skills

As I have discussed in my previous blog “Revision tips 101” having time management skills is essential for balancing study time with leisure. Without balance, in my opinion, you could  face problems such as falling behind in your studies or even neglecting your personal health by not doing any physical activities (i.e. walking, jogging, sports etc.) . I set myself deadlines for when I want tasks completed, alongside scheduling time to relax.

Asking for help when you are unsure about something

When you are unsure about something when studying, the worse thing you could do is nothing. Explain to your teacher what you are having trouble with and get help. I have found that by asking questions I see concepts from another viewpoint and I benefit even more.

I cannot stress how important the tips are that I have mentioned, and I hope this will help you in your future studies.

 

 

 

Revision tips 101: Quality of revision vs Quantity of revision

Since everyone is most likely preparing for their exams, here is another blog on revision tips I have learnt over my years of studying so far.

Hours and hours of revision? 

Let me begin by giving you all a bit of background: in the past especially while completing my A Levels, I had the mindset of “As long as I do lots of hours of revision, then it means I have revised well.” However, how many of you have experienced the feeling of revising for so many hours but still not understanding anything by the end of the day? This is exactly how I used to feel and it was mainly because I didn’t want to feel guilty for not revising for many hours and because I wanted to do well in my exams. What I did not know was that although I was revising for many hours in a day with minimal breaks, I was not actually absorbing the information from the study content. The quality of your revision helps you to think, “How much am I really understanding during my hours of revision?” and “Could I revise in a more efficient way?” In my case, what I did was instead of revising for hours in a day, I would revise for approximately 40 minutes just before I felt myself becoming tired, and continued revising when my brain felt ready.  For me this could be as short as two minutes or even up to an hour. In addition, in my opinion, as long as you fit your breaks into your revision timetable, there should be no reason why you shouldn’t be able to revise for as long as you want. Below I have given an example of a timetable which could be used as a guideline. It shows how a set timetable can be repeated every day:

Revision timetable

An example of a revision timetable with breaks.

 

What is the best way to revise?

The main message I would like you all to take away is that when it comes to revising, it is always best to revise in a way that suits you. Some people may prefer revising for an hour or more with minimal breaks, while others may prefer revising for 20 minutes and having small breaks in between revision periods. At the end of the day, everyone is different when it comes to revising and there is no right or wrong way, so why not try see what suits you when you next revise … ?

Creative Assignments

I might have mentioned before that on my course we only have exams in first year, and then usually (there are modules that do have exams) it’s 100% coursework. Therefore, we end up with quite a lot of coursework to work through in the year, which might sound scary, but don’t worry, it’s not too bad! I’ve mentioned that one of the fun parts of my course was that we got to go on quite a few trips, but another fun part is the creative assignments we get to do.

In the past I’ve done scrapbooks, written a 3000 word creative article and even created my own Google Map. Recently I had an assignment due where I had to create a number of portfolio pieces, and there was the possibility for a creative element. Seeing as it was for my British Culture in the 1950s module, I decided the best way for me to do mine was by typing out each assignment on my typewriter. I wanted to make it look like a war file, like in the films, so I also bought a plain, brown cardboard folder.

My workspace

My workspace

I typed out all the pieces and also printed a few black-and-white photographs to stick in. It might sound like it took a while to create them all, but the assignment was actually fairly manageable. We had to do six pieces, around 400-600 words each, and one 1000 word essay piece. We were told at the start of the year though, so could do them one-by-one, each week. One of the weeks we also had to do a presentation, and we could use our notes and handouts as a piece. As each week was themed, we could divide up the pieces that way. I’d already typed them up on my laptop in advance, it was the physical typing on the typewriter that took up the majority of my time.

My pieces included a historical research piece, a personal story, a review, the obligatory 1000 word essay, a poem and my presentation notes. The variety was nice, and each piece involved a different element of challenge.

However, I have to say that I spent a lot longer on it than any other assignment I’ve done at uni. It took a very long time to individually type each one out, but really it was fairly enjoyable. It’s nice to get to do something different, especially when it’s an assignment that is worth a fairly large chunk of my final grade.

My typewriter, mid-assignment

My typewriter, mid-assignment

The chance to do a piece of creative writing is also fairly unusual in terms of university English courses. Not many universities offer a creative writing element, and it can be fairly encouraging when you’re assigned one. It breaks up the fairly standard, long essays and I tend to find I put a lot more thought into exactly what I’m writing, how it’s laid out, and what the idea behind it is.

The finished assignment

The finished assignment

Overall, it turned into a bit of a nightmare, I’ll admit. I ended up putting in so much effort, and spending so much time on it that I got very, very stressed. However, as soon as I realised that I was going to get it in on time, and everything was going to be fine, I was genuinely proud with what I’d produced. I had hand-typed every single piece, 16 A4 sheets, and put real effort into its presentation. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to do these creative pieces, they’ve been really fun but I wasn’t even aware they offered the opportunity when I came to Queen Mary.

One piece of advice I’d offer is that after first year, when you get to begin to choose your modules, ask at the module fair about whether there is the opportunity to do something creative. I wish I’d looked into it more, and it wasn’t until third year that I really began to check what sort of assignments each module offered.

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