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About this book

A lively and original perspective on gaining an outstanding degree from a recent first-class graduate. Combines personal experience, scientific research and motivational anecdotes from students to create a comprehensive guide to academic success, with strategies to immediately boost grades and improve confidence.

Table of Contents

The Fundamentals

Frontmatter

1. Degree Choice

Abstract
‘At 17 years old I had no idea what to do with my life so I simply picked a subject I enjoyed. Over the past four years I’ve had a love-hate relationship with chemistry but following my final year spent in research, I’d have to say I loved it.’
Michael Tefula

2. The Growth Mindset

Abstract
‘I have been fortunate enough to value the importance of education from an early age. I learnt that a good education would open doors for a better future for myself. I also recognised the importance of always challenging myself to reach the potential I believed I possessed as an individual. It was this mindset that helped me attain good grades throughout my academic education.’
Michael Tefula

3. Work Ethic

Abstract
‘It was always at the back of my mind — that I would love to get a first. But in the first year I got quite a lot of 2:1s and thought maybe that was what my intelligence equated to at university. In the first term of the second year, things got worse and I didn’t do too well in my exams (I averaged 58.5 per cent). I thought my dreams of a first were all but gone. However, I really got my head down in the second semester and managed to pull my average up to 65.5 per cent. By the first semester of the third year, I had pulled my average up to 70 per cent!’
Michael Tefula

4. Happiness and Grades

Abstract
‘Most of the time I was happy at university and quite fulfilled. Getting a good mark in an essay obviously gives you a boost, but I also found that a close network of friends is very important to being happy. The times I felt most down were when I’d been working really hard on an essay, or on my films, and working so much that I hadn’t had time to spend with my friends.’
Michael Tefula

5. Support Systems

Abstract
‘I wasn’t always a straight A student. I only started to get into the habit of hard work when I got into college. This is because the majority of the friends I spent time with were hard workers. This is what motivated me.’
Michael Tefula

The Strategies

Frontmatter

6. Memory Mastery

Abstract
‘Try various techniques. The key to actually memorising things is unaided repetition (i.e. you can remember everything every time without any prompting). Also, I always listen to music. In my mind I figured that if I can remember/work while distracted by music, I will be able to do it in the exam without it, where my attention will be fully engaged to the task. Another tip is to compare past exams to find similarities such that you prepare for the actual exam format.’
Michael Tefula

7. Task Management

Abstract
‘In my first and second years, I paid attention to my work, extracurricular activities, as well as “play” (i.e. going out) and still performed well in both years. However, by the third year, I found it quite difficult to manage these aspects. I was also the president of a career-focused society, which became very time consuming. Therefore in the second semester of my final year, I handed over the position to the vice-president. I think that in the final year it is essential to have a very strong focus on studies and therefore this was my priority and the majority of other things became secondary. However, I still managed to meet up with friends three to four times a week and picked up on dance and going to the gym.’
Michael Tefula

8. Procrastination

Abstract
‘In absolute truth, prioritising was the only management tool I used, and there were certainly times where my academics were not a priority. For example, during my year-long tenure as President of the Kent University African Caribbean Society, my studies were absolutely secondary. There were also times in which I was completing essays the night before their due date. Whilst the superstructure of my academic style was perhaps erratic, there was an infrastructure that established my success: attendance to seminars and lectures, and keeping up with the reading. Those two things are the growth factor for any student.’
Michael Tefula

9. Lectures

Abstract
‘When I had breaks between lectures I would go to the library and do the recommended reading for lectures I had had that week or the week before. If I had a short gap I would photocopy the relevant chapters so that I could read or highlight them at home. If I had longer I would read and make notes. I used my diary extensively so that I didn’t get too far behind with the required reading, tutorials and essays. By doing this I always felt on top of things.’
Michael Tefula

10. Body and Mind

Abstract
‘I’m young enough to live by the work hard, play hard manifesto, and to some extent, that’s what I did. However, getting at least seven hours of sleep is a mini-obsession of mine. It makes my days far more productive and enjoyable. One thing that surprised me in the first year [of university] was how I was the only one who seemed to eat three meals a day. Everyone else seemed to have no rhythm to the way they ate! So eating relatively healthy food at normal times probably helped me be on the ball a bit more.’
Michael Tefula

11. Study Environment

Abstract
‘Overall, I prefer to revise and write essays on my own. However, I still found it useful to discuss material with others.’ ‘One of the things that contributed to helping me get a first was working with a set of people who are studious and perform well in exams. Not only will this push you to work harder to keep up with them, but it will also serve as a great source of knowledge in case there are things you do not understand.’
Michael Tefula

12. Coursework

Abstract
‘I think in any subject area it’s really important to use your creativity in the work you do, as examiners and tutors probably love to be excited by something that’s different.’ ‘As a Humanities graduate, there was always plenty of room for nuance and innovation. Memory was not very important, but rather the fresh connections you could make between texts at that given moment.’
Michael Tefula

13. Exams

Abstract
‘I believe exams are largely about technique and memory. To that end, I’ve always been lucky with a good memory under pressure, which has helped me greatly.’ p]‘[To revise] I get all the information about a particular module on one A4 page and go over it in numerous different ways. Teaching it to my younger brother helps lodge it in my own mind, as well as talking about the subject matter with friends and family.’
Michael Tefula

14. Concluding Remarks

Abstract
This chapter contains three short sections on expectations; jobs and employability; and making the most of university.
Michael Tefula
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