Ace Your Assignments: Undergraduate Essay Writing

Hello! I am back with another installment of my ‘Ace Your Assignments’ mini-series. Previously I have shared my top tips for presentations and handling assignment feedback, so today I will be revealing my advice for undergraduate essay writing. When I was waiting to start university, and during my first ever essay, I was really worried about how best to approach essays so here is what I wish I had known.

  1. Reference as you go
    PLEASE don’t worry about referencing, you will be shown what to do in your first semester and before long it will be second nature. However, get in the habit of referencing as you go or at least having your reference list ‘almost right’ as you go. Getting to the end of a 3,000 word essay and then realising you have a list of 20 articles and 10 books to go back and reference is soul-destroying.
  2. Make rough notes in another colour as you type
    As I start writing my essay based on my plan or draft, I will get new ideas or angles to use. I have learnt the hard way that you will not ‘remember that later’, so quickly switch to another colour and type your new idea next to the point it sparked from. Once you’ve typed the bulk of your essay, you can go back and add in those in.
  3. Get the nonsense out of the way first
    At college, I got away with never planning essays properly or doing drafts but my best work at university has stemmed from a solid plan that was talked through with a tutor followed by submitting a draft to check my style was a good fit for the assessment. Plans and drafts get the bad ideas out of your head and into the bin, leaving you with the good bits. Even after the drafting stage, I combat writer’s block by just typing all my thoughts onto a page and then deleting the nonsense.

If you have any pearls of wisdom to add, feel free to share them below!

Sam xo

Ace Your Assignments: How to Handle Feedback

Following on from my previous post, Ace Your Assignments: Tips for Presentations, I’m back with another installment! This time I will be giving my top tips on handling feedback, something I was really nervous about as a prospective student. This can be applied to assignments when you get to university but elements will also apply to feedback you might get on your personal statement, university applications, sixth form work etc. So, without further ado…

  1. Give it time to sink in
    Good or bad, when I check the marks for a piece of work at uni I always look at the marks/grade first and then lock my phone or laptop and go and process the news. I did the same at college. If I’m pleased, I take the time to be proud of myself and let my loved ones know. If I wish I had done better, I give myself a little bit of time to mope and maybe eat some comfort food. Once that is done, I settle in to read the notes/feedback that the assessor has left for me.
  2. Ask for a 1 to 1
    Once I have had time to process my grade and digest the feedback I was given, I prepare some notes of my own in response to the feedback and, if necessary, I book a 1 to 1 with the relevant tutor at uni to discuss the grade. I don’t do this every time, but if there are some elements of the feedback that I don’t understand or if I read the feedback a few times and still don’t grasp how I can implement it to do better next time, then I send the email and get a meeting booked.
  3. Comparison is the thief of joy! So…
    Don’t fall into the comparison trap! Congratulate your coursemates who are pleased with their grades and support those who are disappointed, but please don’t compare their grades to yours. We are all on our own university journeys and we all have different strengths, sit back, and focus on you.

What would you add to the list?

Sam xo

Ace Your Assignments: Tips for Presentations

I am back with another mini-series! Much like my money-saving tips series earlier this year, I have created a series of posts that will cover a range of tips to ‘Ace Your Assignments’. Many of you will be prospective students; these posts can be applied to your sixth form assignments or used as a handy guide to reassure you that university will be FINE! When I was choosing a course it was important to me that exams weren’t the only assessment method, but the thought of doing presentations did fill me with dread.

Whether you are already at university or currently finishing your qualifications in order to secure a place, you’re likely to find that presentations will come up at some point in your assignment or interview process. Without further ado, here are my top tips…

  1. Consider your timings

    At sixth form level, you may be given some lenience on the length of your presentation. However, if your presentation is for an interview or even a graded university assignment, you will be penalised for going under or over your allotted time. A lot of people make the mistake of guessing or basing their timing on how long it takes to read their presentation script…big mistake.

    You will read in your head at a different speed to reading aloud and you may also READREALLYFAST or stumble over words a lot if you are nervous! These factors will impact your time so at every stage of the writing process, stop, and time how long each section takes to actually present out loud. If possible, record yourself on your phone and play it back.
  2. Practice REALLY makes perfect!

    Properly timing and recording your presentation will serve as a wonderful opportunity to practice your presentation too. It is so important to practice your presentation out loud consistently! You will find certain sentences cause you to stumble and lose your flow, which will make you flustered and stressed when you are presenting. Save yourself the embarrassment and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Reading it a few times will not cut it.
  3. Pick the right prompts

    You’ve prepared, preened and practiced your presentation…you’re ready, right? Not so fast! If you feel confident going into your presentation with no notes/prompts, go for it. However, most people like some kind of cue card or notes sheet to prevent them from experiencing a total mind blank or being tempted to stare at the presentation slides and read off the screen. Make sure your notes are easily read (size 8 font is a no go) and well organised (no time for “one second…sorry…wrong page”).
  4. Keep the slides interesting where possible

    If you have practiced enough and your notes are well prepared, there is no need for your slides to be text-heavy. This will bore your audience and can make it look like you haven’t put much thought into your slides. Aim for a mixture of key points from what you are saying/reading, photos and relevant graphics such as charts and quotes.
  5. Have some water with you whilst you present

    Presentation rooms are often hot and bright and you are talking with no interruptions for a lot longer than the average day. Add to that a dose of nerves and you often get a very dry mouth that makes talking clearly difficult! Have a glass or bottle of water with you and don’t be afraid to pause and take a sip, it is often a good way to compose yourself if you can feel yourself becoming flustered.

That’s a wrap! Feel free to ask questions or share your own tips in the comments below, guys.

Sam x

How to Boost Motivation Levels during Exam/Assignment Season

Annoyingly, I often find myself beginning to lose the motivation to really try during exam/assignment season. The end-of-semester exhaustion sets in and deadlines seem like they will never end. I get tired and feel like I’m wading through mud. This sends me into a cycle of procrastination and kills any productivity.

Luckily, I’ve been like this since sixth form so I can spot the signs and have slowly developed ways to get myself through the slump! Top tips coming right up…

  1. Remember your ‘why’

I go back to the reasons I wanted to study counselling and psychotherapy in the first place and remind myself of why I am on this journey. I want to help people and I want to make a difference to the mental health of as many people as possible. That is my ‘why’!

2. Focus on the end goal

I like to look up potential masters degrees and job titles I would like on websites like Prospects and read up on the entry requirements for them. Remembering the grades and qualifications I will need to reach my goals helps me to focus and gives me something very real to aim for. I also have job alerts set up on Indeed so that every few days I will be emailed a list of vacancies for high level, well-paid jobs that I dream of working my way up to.

3. Plan in some rewards

I always have a little list of things I am going to do or buy after each deadline. At the end of my first year, I had a bag of bath bombs and treats from Lush in my bathroom and each piece of work I completed got me something out of the bag. Handing in my final assignment meant I could have a bath with a facemask and all the luxurious extras and I let myself book some things like hot yoga classes that I had been daydreaming about whilst hunched over desks. Simple but effective!

What do you do to stay motivated?

Sam xo

My First University Presentation

Before University, I was expecting that I would be assessed on written assignments, examinations, and OSCEs. I wasn’t expecting to have to present.

Although I’ve presented numerous times in the past, I felt nervous for my first University presentation, even though it was in front of only a few people – probably because I would receive marks and feedback for the first time. Months on, I can reflect and share my experience.

Preparation

Unlike other presentations I’ve given, University presentations (like other assignments) require us to cite credible academic sources. At first, I wasn’t sure what to do, but with support from my lecturers, I soon had the ball rolling. To find resources, I mainly used Google Scholar, PubMed, and the University’s online library.

With the research done, I checked BlackBoard to find a guide to making presentations. One key piece of advice given was not overloading slides with text. But how do you share all your research while keeping your slides brief and not overwhelming the viewers?

It’s about verbally expanding on bullet points, which I used as a prompt. The clearer what you say and how you say it, the more marks you get, but University doesn’t expect us to be perfect presenters, especially so early into our courses. I learnt what I wanted to say for each point, and although this was more difficult than relying on a script, I have to know the content for my career, so it helps.

Tips

With that said, it’s practically guaranteed we’ll forget something to say; even the best presenters forget but don’t get discouraged. Only you know what you planned to say! 

Practice makes perfect, but I struggled to practice alone. However, a few coursemates and I booked a room in the library to rehearse together before the presentation. I found I was more confident presenting in front of them than I was by myself! 

Final words

Our assessors gave us both positive feedback and areas to improve on, so I’m looking forward to doing better next time. I’m certain I’ll be more confident and improve on the score I’m already happy with. Hopefully, this anecdote puts any worries you might have at ease.

-Tony

How to stay motivated

We are all prone to procrastination. Finding motivation can be really difficult when you have a lot on your plate, especially if deadlines are looming. I definitely fall into Netflix trap now and again but I have my strategies to get back on track with my work and studies.

Take away the distractions
Personally, my phone is the biggest hindrance to my concentration. If I get a notification, I’ll check it but then end up aimlessly scrolling through social media. At the start of this year, I downloaded an app called ‘Hold’. There are so many different study apps but this one is by far my favourite. When you press the Hold button, you earn points for every 20 minutes you stay off your phone and with the points you get you can claim different rewards, these are usually beauty, lifestyle, music travel offers and many more. Give it a try. The other big distraction I have is my surroundings, I either need a silent environment or a cosy environment. I love working in the library when nobody is there, but when it’s busy I just end up getting irritated – luckily the library at Edge Hill has little pods you can book so you can work in a quiet room on your own in a nice, productive environment.

Motivational playlist/music
I have a playlist on Spotify titled ‘Should be studying’ and it’s a nice mix of motivation and chill. Some songs give your brain a break and others get you focused and dialled in. You need balance when you’re working so taking timely, regular breaks are also very beneficial to your motivation. The other music that really gets me in a study mood is the ‘lofi hip hop radio’ on the ‘ChilledCow‘ Youtube account. It’s not lyrical, so it sets a very chilled, productive ambience.

Break down tasks
The first thing I do when I know I have a lot to do is make a to-do list and from this, make further to-do lists about how to achieve them. This helps to make them easier to tackle and achieve. With assignments, for example, I will start by evaluating the essay question, then get out the books I will need and read wider from those. Breaking it down into these segments helps to keep motivated as you are completing subtasks.

Thanks for reading. You can do it!

Amy

Your First Assignment!

Hey everyone, welcome back to the blog and for all the first years, I hope you have enjoyed your first at Edge Hill and ready to start your course! When I first started university I was slightly confused as to how I write an academic assignment because of how different they were from my high school.

So here are a few tips from me to you on how to look for support on your first assignment.


Reading is such an important step to writing your first assignment. I know that sometimes you just want to get straight into writing the assignment but it makes the whole process a lot easier when you read, read, read all the information you can on the subject. Make sure you highlight all the quotes that could be useful for supporting any points you make and write down the references.

Support classes are also very useful when writing your first assignment especially when getting used to Harvard Referencing. We had people come in and talk us through how to use and where to find the Harvard Referencing Guide which I found really useful and informative.

When I found that I was having a hard time with one of my assignments, I booked a one to one appointment through Uni Skills. I was able to meet someone and talk to them about what my assignment was about and they give me advice on how they think would be the best way to structure it. I found this really helpful and it gave me the motivation I needed to complete the work. Follow this link! https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/ls/uni-skills/

I hope that this helps someone starting their assignments and good luck in your first year!

“It is nobody’s responsibility but yours to discover your assignment and to execute that very assignment.”

D.S. Mashego

Tackling Assignments

Hello everyone, since we are in the midst of the time of year when everything is due I thought what better way to take people’s minds off the subject then by talking about it some more… I study Film and TV production which deadline wise finishes pretty early with all my deadlines about to be wrapped up by tomorrow so here’s some things to keep in mind if your still going.

Learn from your mistakes: First year for most is kind of an introductory year in some ways, for most degrees, first year assignments don’t actually count towards your final third year grade although I know this can be different depending on what you study. Whether you enjoy this idea or not for me personally when it came to essay writing making more mistakes in first year meant that as I was working through essays this year, I knew certain things not to do.  I even compiled a word document with all the don’ts I had learned of essay writing, which I look at before starting a new essay because I keep forgetting, some examples include:

• Explain things in detail

•  Don’t go off on tangents

• Don’t ask questions, answer them

Pick something that isn’t too hard to research. Some assignments require finding external literature on your own chosen subject, while this can make it tempting to pick something niche that is interesting to you, it is also important that you pick a topic with readings already on it or you could find yourself spending a lot longer researching than if you picked something easier in my opinion.  Basically, just make life easy for yourself!

I find breaking up work into sections makes it easier to complete, so for example on one day doing work I would focus on deciding what I’m going to write about then plan it into sections with bullet points, another day gathering readings/ researching what I’m going to write and then subsequent days doing maybe a 1/4 to a 1/3 of the essay. I’m not a big fan of doing a whole essay in one day as my brain tends to turn to mush after a few hours looking at my screen.

Hope these help at least a little bit and if your here  reading this rather than doing an essay then hats off to you buddy.

Jordan

 

 

 

 

One Down, Two To Go!

Hey everyone! As you may all know, I am studying BA (HONS) Primary education with QTS here, at Edge Hill University and  I am fast approaching my final 2 weeks of the course, I thought that it would be nice to go through what I thought about certain aspects of the course.

You can read my previous blog that I did in in February, telling you all about the course – https://blogs.edgehill.ac.uk/insideedge/2019/02/10/what-is-the-primary-education-course-all-about/. However, as I said, this blog will be more about what I personally think about my course, to give a deeper insight.

Hope you enjoy!


Assignments…

Okay, lets get this one out of the way first. Throughout the whole of my first year, I had 8 written assignments, ranging from abut 750 words to 2,500 words. This may seem like a lot but in the Primary Education course, there are currently no examinations at the end of the year which, I think is a blessing in disguise.

Personally, I prefer to work on things in my own time and so, working on assignments periodically works better for me as I can have the time to properly plan them out and not stress about time limits. However, what I will say is that assignments can be stressful because of the deadlines and often the word counts are hard to abide by. I have luckily never had an issue with deadlines and this is because I start my assignments at least 3 weeks before they are due which is my BIGGEST advice. This means, I start reading around the subject and plan out what kind of structure I want my essay to follow.

 

Lectures

Not to sound like a geek but, I really do enjoy my lectures. I feel that in this course, because the content can be quite hard to follow, the lecturers try their best to make the lectures more engaging and easy to listen to. For example, we had a lecture on Maths Mastery and, I am not going to lie to you, Maths is not my favourite thing in the world however, I really really enjoyed the lecture because it was fun, it was engaging and it didn’t involve reading reams and reams of notes and calculating numbers! 

You could say this made history as it was the first maths lesson, in my life, that I smiled in.Image result for maths

Seminars

How are they different from lectures? Well, it does not include the entire course sitting in the one lecture hall. You are split into groups of at least 25-30 and have the same timetable. For example, my class have Computing, Science, Maths, English, Foundation and APD together and so this means we all have the same teacher and have our own small group chat online where we can ask each other questions and ask for advice. Image result for university lecture

In a way, I prefer seminars to lectures because they are a smaller group of people and you can connect and communicate better with teachers and with each other rather than feeling nervous about asking a question in front of 300+ people in a lecture hall.

However, that being said, I do enjoy the APD lectures we have on a Friday morning because, they are like a small introduction to what we will be learning about in the follow up APD seminar that afternoon.

My goals going into 2nd year…

I have had such a good experience with my first year on the Primary Education course with QTS and I hope that I can bring this into my following two years. I have been thinking about what goals I want to set myself for my second year so that I can get the best out of my course;

  • be more confident and answer questions in class – this will really help with speaking in front of people and communicating.
  • identify the areas I need to work on in professional practice
  • keep on top of my assignments and continue to meet deadlines in good time
  • enjoy my time!

So, that was just a small run-down of what I personally think of some of the main aspects of my course. Of course, a huge aspect of the course is the professional practice but I know that will require a more in depth post at some point. In the mean time, take a look at my post about my first professional practice! https://blogs.edgehill.ac.uk/insideedge/2019/03/17/my-experience-of-my-first-professional-practice/

I really hope that you enjoyed this post and found it useful, thank you for reading, Lauren x

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”

– Phil Collins 

 

Using Your Holidays Wisely!

Hey everyone and HAPPY EASTER!

I hope you are all stuffing your faces with chocolate eggs and having a nice chill day. However, don’t forget to keep up with all the work you have to do before going back to University.


As I am on my Easter holidays at home in ‘wee’ Ireland, I thought I would share my tips on how to use the uni holidays wisely and still be able to enjoy your time at home.

Utilise your time!

You have so much free time now that you don’t have classes and lectures, why not use this time to get ahead of the game before returning back?

Set yourself a goal everyday in terms of work

For example, I would set myself a word count goal on how many words I want to get written in my assignment. This way I know how much I want to write and then if I get over that word count, I can have more time to spend with my family and friends (and dog).

Use your time alone to catch up on reading and studying

Being away from the distractions of university and halls can be great thing if you want to catch up for time lost. 

Do the most work you can do early in the day so that you can relax with your family in the evening.

I have mentioned in a few blogs that I love waking up early and getting my day started. When I am at home, waking up early, taking my dog for a walk and then getting started on my assignments is the best way I could start my day because I find that I am way more productive in the morning. Try it!

Start to write out a study plan or an assignment writing plan for when you go back to Uni so that you are super organised smash the term.

Returning back to university after a long break can be quite daunting especially when you know you have studying to be doing or assignments to write. I like using my time off to start planning study sessions or plan out an upcoming assignment so that I have a head start. Image result for you can do it


I know that going home for holidays can be very distracting as you have family to catch up with and friends to see, but remember that Uni can be just as distracting especially if you are living in halls.

I love coming back home for holidays, and to be honest, for the first few days I do take time to spend with my family however, I always make sure to stay on top of my work and assignments so that I have less stress to deal with upon returning.

Hopefully this advice is helpful. I really do try to utilise my time off at home to really get into my work and assignment writing. It feels really good knowing that I am ahead of the game!

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

-Bruce Lee-