How to Win at Exams

Finding a fool-proof one-size-fits-all solution for how to win at exams is like trying to find the formula for how to win at life: it simply isn’t possible. We have differing abilities, motivations and expectations. Sometimes life throws us a curve-ball, or a whole truck-full of them, which leaves us playing dodge-ball in a seemingly endless game where we don’t know the rules. However, with a will to succeed, you will get there in the end, regardless of what life throws at you.

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And that’s fine!

The aim of this post is to give you some simple tips on how to survive exam-day. There may not be a one-size-fits-all strategy that gets every one of you reading this post an A* but what can do is give you some tips to put yourself at ease, control your nerves, and put yourself in a positive mindset. These things in themselves can do the trick: avoid panic, relax, and let the words flow!

If you have taken on board the revision hints and tips already posted on this blog, and you have revised thoroughly, then there is no reason at all why you can’t sail through your exam-day without collapsing into a big bag of stress, and come out with a jolly decent grade. All that said, let’s get to it:

Plan your day. This means, especially if you have a morning exam, get up early, with enough time to get up and out of your home without too much stress. Eat something. Pack your stationary – penS- yes, more than one pen. Begging people for a spare pen in the middle of an exam because yours ran out is not cool! Have you got your ID? Please take it, invigilators will check that you are you! Leave the house in good time so that if your train is late or there’s a traffic jam you’re not tearing out your hair in panic. By all means take a drink into the exam with you, but perhaps best to limit any fluids (such as caffeine) if you know that will make you need the loo mid-exam. You will be allowed to leave the exam room, with an invigilator to go to the loo, but it can be distracting for other students, and it does waste time, so best try to avoid multiple trips!

Plan, plan, plan. Planning is such a biggie that it deserves two points. So – getting to the exam: Take your journey in a relaxed a way as possible. Know your exam venue! You wouldn’t believe how many students slip out of exam rooms, trying not to be noticed, because they went to the wrong room and only realised when they saw the exam paper! It happens, believe me. Arrive at the CORRECT venue in good time. When you’re allowed in the room, take a seat. These few moments when people are coming in, shuffling in their bag for their forgotten ID because they weren’t as organised as you, and invigilators telling people multiple times that their phones must be switched off and not on their person, can be nerve-wracking. Breathe.

The exam begins. Listen to the instructions given by the invigilator and read the front cover of your exam paper carefully. If you are in an essay exam with two or three questions to answer, you will likely be told to answer each question in a separate booklet. This is so that answers can be separated for different markers and to aid the moderation process. Please follow this instruction! You must put your correct student number on each answer book, and it is always a great idea to tell your marker which questions you are answering by correctly stating the question number on the front. This seems obvious, but numerous students get these details wrong! Once your invigilator tells you that you can look at the paper, read each question carefully before deciding which ones to answer. Are you decided? Breathe. And let’s go…

Answer the question. Plan your answer before you start writing. This might be just a few key words or sentences to remind you of important things to cover, or it might be a long “everything I know about this topic” preliminary splurge on to the paper. Whatever type of plan works best for you is fine. At the end of the exam, anything you don’t want a marker to consider, just put a line through it. You can ask for extra answer books too, so if you want to go mad with plans, knock yourself out! Now, you’re ready to write! Top tips here include: a. the all important one – ANSWER THE QUESTION! Tailor what you know to the question; an answer that is everything you know about a topic, even if that’s quite a lot of knowledge, won’t tot up really high marks because it will lack focus; b. After every paragraph, ask yourself, “Does this answer the question?” If not, don’t be afraid to make crossings out. You have one shot at getting it right, so markers don’t worry about scruffiness. As long as we can read it, cross out, add footnotes, arrows – in fact, whatever it takes to get your point across – is good by us!

Time management! Very important! If you have three answers to complete in three hours you don’t have to be Einstein to work out how much time you should aim to spend on each answer if I say this – spend equal time on each one. Really. Spend equal time on each one! The reason is that if you rely on one good answer, which you spend two hours on because you know every possible thing to know about this topic, you are taking a massive risk. You’re then left with only 30 minutes each to answer two further questions. Your one strong answer, even if it’s fantastic, is not going to make up for two really poor answers when your grade-average on the whole paper is calculated. Related to this, if your instruction is to answer three questions, answer three questions! Even if you’re unsure it’s better to write something than nothing, which takes me on to discuss….

Brain freeze. What happens if you look at the exam questions and you panic? You know nothing. What even is psychology? What are these weird scribbles on the question paper, because they sure don’t look like words! If this happens – it most probably won’t, but if you do get moments of panic, it’s not game over. Breathe! Take some deep breaths, collect your thoughts, and sit quietly for a few moments, just allowing yourself to feel what you feel. Take a drink, some more deep breaths, and take another look at the question paper. If you have done your revision, you DO know your stuff, but panic can make us feel like we know NOTHING. You know A LOT. It sounds corny, but turn that frown upside down. You know your stuff, you CAN do this. Stress can be a positive thing, because it can give us drive. You just need to become the boss of it. YOU CAN DO THIS! You’ve come this far, you’ve attended early morning lectures, you’ve laughed (and maybe cried) with others on your course, you’ve burned the midnight oil with revision, now it’s your turn to show us what you can do!

You really can do it. Stay calm and breathe! This is just three hours out of your life, and when you get your results, you will be pleased that you persevered.

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Good luck!

Exam Bitesize Series: Last Minute Prep

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You’ve made it to the final post in the @BoltonPsych exam bitesize series! You should be well into your revision by now and in this final article of the series Dr Michelle Lowe gives you some last minute tips on how to get into the exam room feeling confident and chilled. OK, perhaps not chilled – exams stress us all – but at this stage, if you have stuck to your revision timetable, you should have a level of confidence that you would not have had otherwise. At this stage, if you have stuck to the plan and you’ve been revising every day, but you’re still feeling panicked and unprepared, perhaps this is the time to go and book a tutorial with your personal tutor. Remember, your tutors are there to support you!

And remember – you got this!

Now, to some final tips and what to do in the last few days, hours and minutes before your exam:

Last few days.  In the last few days before your exam, stick to the plan! If you have a well planned out timetable that has been working for you up to now, you don’t need to do anything special at this stage. Carry on revising, a little and often. Take regular breaks, and take time out to do whatever it is you enjoy.  Now isn’t the time to go out clubbing to drink yourself into oblivion, now is the time to stay fit, well and focused! If you have stuck to your timetable, there’s no need to burn the midnight oil cramming as much information into your frazzled brain as possible. No need at all. You got this without having to frazzle your brain! Eat well, sleep well, take some exercise, and still to the plan! If you’ve been revising, let’s say, twice a day for 60 minutes each session, carry on doing just that in the few days leading up to the last 24 hours.

In the last day or so before an exam some students feel compelled to step up a gear and use the entire day to revise. If you can do that comfortably without losing your marbles, who am I to stop you! As a student, I used to go over all of the topics I had to revise on the last day before an exam, which invariably meant spending longer at revision than I had been doing in the weeks previously. That’s fine, but I’ll say again, eat well, and take regular breaks! No one can revise for four, five, six hours straight with no time off. Your brain will shut down and you will end up wasting your time reading the same line over and over. If you do want to dedicate a whole day to revision, take heed of the tips given in the last posts on materials and technqiues. Mix it up! Don’t just read over your notes time and time again. Mix up the ways you engage with the work. Perhaps you might take a walk with your revision notes playing in your ears, or you meet up with a friend and you play a game of questions and answers. Whatever has been working for you in the lead up to now will continue to work today!

Last few hours.  The night before your exam has arrived. It is normal to feel nervous, you have a big day ahead of you tomorrow. But if you have stuck to the plan, you should not be in a state of blind panic at this point! There is absolutely no need to stay up all night cramming if you started your revision well in advance. If you have spent the whole day revising, do not spend the evening of the day before your exam revising too! It sounds corny, but tonight is the night to relax and take some time off, for you. Have an early night. If you can’t sleep, don’t be tempted to get the books out. I’m serious – you got this! Relax!

Set your alarm for the time that you normally get up on a uni day. If that is 7am, there’s absolutely no reason to change this habit and set it for 4am, with the aim of having three hours of revision time before you get ready to leave for uni. That sort of last minute cramming is just not necessary if you have stuck to the plan. All that will do is make you unduly tired in the exam room. No-one is at their best when they have got up three hours earlier than their brain is used to! Stick with your normal routines as much as possible.

Depending on your journey time, it could be sensible to set off for uni a little earlier than normal. When I was a student on exam day I would catch an early bus if my exam was at 10am so that I didn’t need to worry about what would happen if my bus was late. Nothing worse than running massively late and having to run to uni with minutes to spare before the exam starts! I would arrange to meet up with friends who were also doing exams for a chat. If this led to us getting our notes out and doing a little last minute revision, that’s fine! In those last few hours, plan your time and do what feels right for you.

Last few minutes.  So the moment has arrived. You’re outside the exam room and your tutors are inside setting out the exam papers. You and your fellow exam-takers are going to be let in the room perhaps around 10 minutes before the official exam start time. You will be asked to put your bag and coat to the side of the room and you will be asked to switch your phone off. Do it! In this last minute hussle and bustle of people finding a seat, fretting about checking instagram before they let go of their phone for three hours, and whether or not they have time to go to the loo for one last time, it is easy to let the nerves get to you. If you feel like this is likely to happen to you, here’s a piece of advice: turn that frown upside down! What I mean is, the fear reaction that you’re having when you feel anxious and panicky is exactly the same bodily reaction as is exciteness. If you have stuck to the plan and you have been revising a little and often for several weeks, believe me, you got this! Feel proud that you got this far, and you are now in ready to show your tutors just how much you know. That’s a good feeling! Use that bodily reaction to your advantage. Tell yourself that you’re excited to get on with the exam, you’re ready, and you’re going to ace this! Believe me, it worked for me. Give it a try!

So, you’re now seated and the exam paper is upside down in front of you. The moment has come when your tutor tells you that you can begin writing. Don’t just start frantically writing everything that you have ever known about psychology! Take your time! Read each question carefully, and plan your answers. Exam techniques are out of the scope of this series, but it would be remiss of me here not to say that writing down everything you know about a topic is not a great exam strategy! Answer the question with a focused response, you know your stuff, and now is the time to let your tutors see much how much you have learned! Good luck!

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Exam Bitesize Series: Revision Techniques

Hello again. As you’ve come back to read this, the third post in our @BoltonPsych exam bitesize series, it can be assumed that you are now well on your way to effective revision, with a planned-out timetable and some suitable materials. Now, Dr Michelle Lowe addresses some techniques that may help you make the best use of your revision time.

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The most important thing to consider when thinking about revision techniques is this: what works best for you works best. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all 100% guaranteed technique that works for everyone all of the time. So, what I am offering you here is merely a list of five broad suggestions. Try them out, and if some of them work for you, great! Not all of them will work for you, but I’m guessing that at least a couple will! Remember, mix it up. Almost anything is better than sitting watching TV, making a cursory glance at a book now and again! If you already have some revision techniques that work for you, maybe that served you well at school or college, and they are not included below, please do share them with other readers in the comments section!

  1. Buddy up. If you like to revise by yourself, it’s OK, this suggestion isn’t for you. However, if you have friends on your course and you are all revising at the moment, why not spend some revision time together? There’s a range of things you can do to help each other out and make revision more interesting for all of you! Whether you revise together at uni, at home, or while out socialising is up to you, there are techniques you could use to group-revise that even work in the pub! Try each of these as examples: a. Questions and answers. Work with a partner on this one. Both you and your partner prepare a written list of questions on a particular topic that you would like to have tested. Let’s say you’re revising Freud today and your partner is revising Jung. You’ve prepared some questions for yourself on Freud and your partner some on Jung that each of you is going to learn the answers to by the end of your revision period today. Each of you does your revision alone, then you meet up. Swap questions and test each other. These sorts of exercise work best for questions that require short answers (such as key names, dates and theories) but play with this. The beauty of this technique is that you’re killing two birds with one stone. You’ve revised Freud, and you get tested on him by your partner. But by testing your partner on Jung, you get to go over this information as well! b. Round robin. This is a fun exercise if a group of you have got together socially and you are all up for a bit of light extra revision. It doesn’t have to be planned or scripted, and you can literally do this anywhere. Round robin works best if you’re all quite a way through revising a particular topic. It doesn’t work so well if no-one knows anything as you’re just going to freak each other out by your collective lack of knowledge! So, let’s say I’m say I’m with a group of three friends (Gill, Jerome and Pedro) and we’ve all been revising Freud today. We go round the group, each one asking the next a question on Freud, so – I ask a question to Gill, Gill asks a question to Jerome, Jerome asks a question to Pedro, Pedro asks a question to me and so on until everyone gets either bored or too good! c. Past papers. Past papers are available via your student portal and they are a great resource to use on your own or while revising with a partner. Again, best to use past papers when you’re well on with revision, otherwise you’re going to freak out about how much you think you don’t know. When you’re ready, use past papers to test yourself. Put your notes away, choose a question, and time yourself answering it. Give yourself one hour and see how much you know. If a partner does this with you, don’t cheat, both of you must work under examination conditions. At the end of the hour, mark each other’s work.
  2. Note taking. If you took on board what I said in the last post on revision materials, hopefully you’ve already started to prepare revision notes. If you already have well formed notes from classes that’s your starting-point. If you don’t have such notes, and up to now you’ve been relying on your tutor’s PowerPoint slides, now is the time to bite the bullet and prepare a set of notes! It may sound boring, but you cannot revise well without notes! If you have a well-planned timetable, now is the time to make the best use of that time. Note taking does not have to be all that dull; copying word for word from a text book or journal article will be enough to send anyone to sleep. Notes should be a summary of information, not essay after essay that you are never going to want to read again! Get inventive! Depending on the type of information you need to get down, lists are good, as are diagrams and pictures. Colour coding and highlighting key points can work well, whether you are handwriting or typing up your notes. Once you have a set of notes, think about the post card system I mentioned in the last post. Preparing yourself a set of cards is revision in itself!
  3. Posters. How immersed do you actually want to become in your revision? If you are the kind of person who gets obsessed (like me!) then preparing posters could be an ideal way to make revision fun yet effective! If you have the resources and the wall space to prepare a whole set of posters, one per topic, then go for it, what are you waiting for?! Just the thinking time and dedication that goes into prepapring a poster is in-depth revision in itself. Thinking about what information to include and what to leave out, which information is best to present as text and which as a diagram, looking for pictures to add interest, even down to which colours to or fonts to use, is all thinking time that will immerse you in the topic. If you prepare something you’re proud of take a photo and send it to me, I’d love to take a look! If you don’t have the wall space for fully blown posters, why not dedicate some space in your home for other types of display? One way, if space is limited, is the good old card system again! Prepare some cards and pin them up on a notice board, around your bed, or in random locations around your house! A word of warning, don’t do what I did as a rather silly A-level biology student. I was not that good studious of a student so I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but when learning about the brain, I literally drew a very large – way larger than life-size – diagram of a human brain, plus a whole range of accompanying notes directly on to my bedroom wall. Needless to say, my dad really was not happy!
  4. Memory hacks. There are many well known memory hacks out there. For example, primary school children in my day were taught the colours of the rainbow by using the mnemonic: Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain, which incidentally I found harder to learn than the actual colours given that I didn’t know who on earth Richard of York was at the time! But I digress. Memory hacks usually boil down to a well known psychological phenomenon known as chunking.  Basically, chunking is what our brains do naturally when we are learning. It’s easier to remember a group of ideas that are connected than, let’s say, a long string of unconnected numbers, letters, words etc. Finding ways to revise names, dates and theories that make connections with things that mean something to you is a form of chunking that can help you revise.  For example, I’m an animal lover. As a first year undergraduate, I learned key researchers’ names by connecting them with animals. That is easy to do as early psychologists were all too fond of experimenting on poor defenceless creatures. But still – I remember what I learned then to this day, for example: Pavlov’s dogs; Thorndyke’s cats; Watson’s rabbits; Skinner’s rats; Harlow’s monkeys. Any more?
  5. Mind mapping. Preparing a mind map is just another way of getting information out of your head on to the page that you can do pretty much anywhere. Mind maps can be used as a form of note taking, or as a way to test yourself on a particular theory or topic. Mind maps are useful tools when essay planning, and I will cover this in the next post on exam preparation. If you are hand-preparing mind maps to revise from, it goes without saying that your maps need to be clear enough to be able to read them back afterwards! I used to use mind maps to test myself, but it’s up to you how you use them. Get creative!

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Remember with revision the key is to work smarter not harder!

Next time, I will take you through the last preparations to make before your exams, and will also cover some key points about what to do when the day arrives.


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Exam Bitesize Series: Revision Materials

Hello and welcome to the second in the @BoltonPsych exam bitesize series. In this post, Dr Michelle Lowe will be covering revision materials and making the best use of those materials in the time you have planned out for your revision.

Since you have come back to the blog to read the second article in this series, I assume that you are taking your revision by the horns. You have a plan that works for you. Now you want to get on with it. Great – let’s do exactly that!

Let’s get a couple of things straight first:

1. Reading the PowerPoint slides that your tutor made available on Moodle over and over ad nauseam is not the best use of your revision time. Although this style of revising is better than no revision at all, even if you did learn every set of lecture slides word-for-word the chances are that this type of technique would not get you very good grades. Why not? Simple. Because PowerPoint slides are usually just a set of key points. They are not detailed enough to be able to provide you with enough information within any given topic area to answer every possible question that may come up on the exam paper.

2. Sitting with notes or a book open while you watch TV is not revising. That is watching TV. Stop kidding yourself! If this is what you’ve been doing and calling it revision, you need to have a harsh word or two with yourself and go back to read my previous post on revision planning!

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With that said, now let’s get on and consider five ways to make revision materials work for you!

  1.   Where? Although where you revise is not a material is such, it is an important consideration. Technically, you could revise anywhere, but some places are better than others, some places work better for some people than others, and some places (such as in the middle of a busy motorway) are just plain crazy. Let’s assume that you’re not crazy, and that you do have some choice in where you revise. For most people, being quiet with no distractions aids concentration. If this is you, is there somewhere at home that you can use as your regular revision haunt? If so, you’re sorted! However, maybe you have young children or you live in a shared house where there is always music playing or people buzzing around you like annoying bees? If so, where else could you go to get some peace and quiet? Did you know that our university library is more often than not open 24/7? It’s a godsend for many students who have hectic homes! In better weather, try revising outdoors. When I was a student, I used to take a book or two out to a local park in spring, sit under a tree and read. It’s a relaxing way to work, and not to be sneezed at (unless you have hay fever, perhaps). However, perhaps you’re someone who likes hussle and bustle and you prefer to revise where there are some noises? That’s OK too. A colleague that I used to work with swore that he got more work done in coffee shops than in the office. He said that the constant coming and going of people helped him zone into what he was working on. That would definitely not work for me, but it did for him, and if this is you, then regular visits to Costa might be what you resort to doing – and that’s fine!   In short, where you revise is something personal to you – choose what works!
  2. Your Notes.  We’ve already established that reading your tutor’s PowerPoint slides over and over is not the best way to revise. But what if you have a set of your own notes that you took in lectures, would reading those over and over be OK? Yes and no. If you have the ability to take down quite a lot of information in class (and it is always advised to take some notes in class, by the way) then you may well have a decent set of notes that can form the basis of your revision materials. But it is never a good idea to use just one type of material or one technique (techniques will be discussed in the next post in this series) as you will get bored with it. Mix is up! This is how I used my notes to good effect, and this may work for you too! I always took handwritten notes in class. As my handwriting was poor I used to type up these notes after class. Call me a geek but it became my regular routine and it served me very well. What I built up week-on-week was a file per topic that I could add to as I read more around the area. I could add in notes as and when I came across new information and it kept all of my information organised! This adding to in itself was revision of sorts, but the beauty with this system came when it was time to start to formally revise. I could print out notes per topic, highlighted, colour coded, and read them as and when – on the bus, in the park etc – but also, I could adapt them easily too. One little system I prepared was using postcard sized… well, cards… that you can get from stationary shops. For each topic I’d write out a few cards with key information, names, theories, dates etc. and I would take a few with me each time I went out anywhere. If I was in a queue in a shop I would whip out a couple of cards to read over. Seriously – I did this! It could work just as well for you – give it a try! No, I did not factor in queuing time as part of my revision plan, call that a bonus. But what I did factor into my plan was the time I spent on public transport. My bus journey to and from uni was around 45 minutes each way. There is 1.5 hours of reading time right there, all my own, that would have been otherwise dead time in my day! If you travel by public transport, this method could work for you too. However, if you drive, we will come back to something similar in point 4.
  3. Text Books, Revision Guides and Journals. Students frequently ask me about text books or revision guides. At undergraduate level, especially if you are now beyond level 4, I definitely do not recommend you spend money on revision guides. If you have one or more already that perhaps you used at A-level, fair enough, take a skim through and if this helps you digest key names and dates, fine. However, revision guides are going to be too basic for you now, so move on from these and concentrate your time on higher level learning. I’m also a little reluctant to recommend specific text books, and using text books just to revise if you have not opened up a book all semester can be a risky business. If you are at the beginning of a module and you want information about books, no doubt your tutor can point you in the direction of some reading. However, as there are many psychology books on the market, having a browse around the library shelves or the e-books system could be very useful to you too. Honestly though, getting a great degree is not about how much money you spend on books. You could graduate with a fantastic first class degree and have never even picked up a psychology text book. “Wow. Michelle, tell me how!!!” I hear you cry. “Simple”, I reply, “Journals!” Journal articles are up to date, specific and to the point. They should comprise the basis of your study materials at undergradate level. Once you have some notes in order, then my advice is concentrate on building up those notes using journals. More on this in the next post on techniques.
  4. Audio. If you don’t have much time available or your want to supplement your written revision materials, audio can be the perfect way to do this. The audio I’m on about here is the self-made kind. The equivalent of taking notes with you on the bus. When I was a student some of my peers taped themselves reading their notes, which they then played in their car, when walking the dog, or in the gym. This isn’t something I tried out for myself, believe it or not I hate the sound of my own voice, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness. However, give it a try, and let me know how useful you find it!
  5. The Internet. In this final point, I’m giving you a word of warning first. You should know in this day and age of “fake news” never to believe anything you read on random websites or hear via un-verifiable sources on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube. Basically, any Internet source that you (hopefully!) would not use as a source for an assignment (such as Wiki) you should also consider not a suitable source of revision material. If in doubt, ask your tutor, but in short, it’s best to stick to the peer reviewed academic sources that we bang on about in lectures – namely, journals and academic books! That said, the Internet has a lot to offer as long as you’re discerning. YouTube was not a thing when I was an undergraduate, but nowadays I practically live on it. I’ve got a YouTube news show playing in the background while I write this article! If you’re like me and you find all sorts of weird and wacky information on YouTube, then by all means use it to supplement your revision. There are thousands of psychology lectures on there. It only takes a small amount of research to find out if the speaker is an academic worth listening to, or not. I certainly wouldn’t use YouTube or other Internet materials instead of doing formal revision (though it’s probably better than none!), but as supplementary materials, fine, knock yerself out!

That’s all for now. In the next post we will take a look at some effective revision techniques. That will be out next week.


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Exam Bitesize Series: Revision Planning

This is the first article in the @BoltonPsych exam bitesize series. Read the introduction to this series here. In this article we will be considering how to plan your revision effectively, realistically, and in a way that doesn’t send your running back to bed in complete denial that exams even exist in your world.

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Hopefully, you’ve established WHY you want to do well in your exams, and that you intend to put the hours into your revision to give yourself the very best chance to get an outstanding grade.

Great! Let’s start at the beginning. Taking a little time to plan out your revision is important. Here are five tips to help you plan out your revision while keeping yourself sane and healthy throughout the process.

  1. Start early. No I don’t mean getting up at 4am every day to hit the books. I mean, start revising NOW. At the time of writing (beginning of April) there’s about 7 weeks to the next exam period. If you haven’t started to revise already, get on it! I’m still shocked (after 20+ years of teaching undergraduates) that some students only start revising a week before their exams. That’s not revising, that’s a recipe for panic and disaster! Seriously, the brain works better with a slower drip feed of information, rather than late night, last minute cramming. You’ll retain more information, and surely be less stressed out, if you start early, do a little and often, and do it with a plan in place!
  2. When? When is the best time to revise? The obvious answer is, when you can! If you have a busy life, perhaps you have a job or children, or both, and you genuinely do not have very much spare time, that’s OK, don’t panic. Only you can work out exactly how much time per day you can dedicate to revision, but there’s two things here that may help you out in your time-management: a. little and often – it is better to do something every day than nothing for a week or more at a time and then trying to cram it all in within a few hours. Even if you only have 30 minutes a day, even if the only spare time you have is on the bus or in the car, that’s fine. There are ways and means to make the best use of the time you have available. We will look more into the types of materials you can use to make the best use of time in the next post; b. time of day – when are you most alert? If you do have a choice of when you revise this applies to you. If you don’t have a choice, don’t worry, any time of day is better than no time of day. But if you do have a choice, think about it. When does your brain work best? Mine works best early in the morning; if I have something I need to concentrate on, perhaps doing some SPSS analysis, or writing this article, I spend the first couple of hours of the working day on it. As lunch time approaches I get less alert. By mid afternoon, I’m goosed. You may be like me, and if you are, then do your revision in the morning. If you can do your revision when your brain is at its most alert, you will take in more in a lesser amount of time. Work smarter not harder!
  3. How much time is enough time? I get asked this a lot, and my answer is always non-committed. It depends. If you’ve been attending your classes regularly, you bave been keeping up with reading, and taking an active approach to psychology (e.g., watcing YouTube videos relevant to the topics that will come up in your exams) then, great… you have a head start to your revision process. Whether you realise it or not, you will already know more stuff than does the student who has not attended regularly, and when they have been in class, they’ve been zoned out on their phone, with no afterthoughts about psychological topics at all outside of university. The latter situation begs the question – why on earth are you at university at all? But that’s not the point of this post, so let’s move on.  In short, there isn’t a magic figure – do THIS much revision and you will ace it. Rather, it’s about doing what you can, making the best use of your time and revising in an effective manner. It is better to concentrate on a topic for 30 minutes with no distractions than sitting in front of the TV for 3 hours with a book open while calling that revision. That’s not revision, that’s watching TV! In some ways, less is more, as long as what you do is effective. We will go into this a little more next. It’s time to plan your timetable!
  4. Your timetable. Yes, I do want you to plan out a physical timetable! It will help you stay focused and honest with yourself. Chapman (2015) goes into some detail on this, but no need to buy the book if you would rather not. Chapman has also prepared a useful YouTube video to make his case clear – watch here.  Whether or not you choose the Chapman method is your call, but I certainly would advise you to follow the general gist of what he has to say. Three points worthy of note: a. Time – (recurring theme, as it’s so important!) as above, work smarter not harder. Revise something every day, even if you only have 30 minutes at a time to spare. But within your timetable, it’s important to factor in breaks too. This is especially the case if you plan to put in several hours at a time. No-one, and I mean NO-ONE can concentrate for four or more hours straight with no break. Don’t beat yourself up if your mind wanders. Your mind may be telling you that it needs a break. Take one! Even better for your brain if you plan those breaks ahead. It’s about giving yourself permission to relax a little, even if that’s just for five minutes or so. b. Topics. How many exams do you have? And within each exam, how many topics do you need to revise? Work this out NOW. Chapman gives you permission to revise some topics more than others. That’s good advice, but be honest! Don’t use this JUST to revise the topics you like. Often it is the topics you don’t like so much that need the most work put in at this stage. But once you have worked out how many topics you need to cover, then work out between now and the exam week, how much time overall do you have available to get all of your revision done. Now can you see why it is important to plan out this stuff and why it is vital to start early! c. Mix it up. One sure fire way of boring yourself silly with revision is to work on the same topic for hours and days on end, going round and round in endless circles. A change is as good as a rest. Sometimes a switch of topic can be the thing to wake up your brain and keep the revision going for a little longer, rather than ditching all the good intentions you had for the day in favour of watching cats on YouTube. The cats will still be there in a couple of hours, and you will appreciate them better when you have less exam guilt (you know, that feeling you get when you know you should be revising, but awww, just look at this, another cat doing something silly)! Also, if have to change your plan, that’s OK too. Sometimes the best intentions in the world are not as realistic as we originally planned, or perhaps life throws you a curveball at a really bad time. If the curveball is big enough to completely stop you in your tracks, that’s a good time to go and talk to your personal tutor. Remember all of your tutors are here to help you out and the university has a great support network in place for you if you need us. We’re top in Greater Manchester for student satisfaction for good reason, you know!
  5. Look after yourself. This one may seem corny, but it’s true. No exam in the world is worth making yourself ill for! Yes, exams make us all feel stressed, but with good planning and some good techniques in place that stress will be manageable. Sleeping is vital! If you have a well-planned out timetable, there’s no reason at all why your sleep should suffer because of revision. If you are the sort of person who is only able to function after 10 hours of shut-eye, then take 10 hours out of every 24 to sleep. Listen to your body! We all know that junk food, cigarettes and alcohol are bad for our health, but if these are things that help you cope, this perhaps is not the best time to go cold turkey on any of them. Just use them in moderation. Take a cigarette in one of your planned breaks, if you are a smoker. Go and eat some junk food or go out for a night at the pub if your revision plan is on task. Just don’t use these things to escape or to excess. Use them as treats. Yes, it’s corny but true – our brain needs water and nutrition to function properly. Instead of using energy drinks or coffee as your liquid of choice while revising, choose good old H2O. Eat some fruit instead of a bag of crisps. Have a jacket potato instead of chips. I’ll leave the healthy eating tips there, suffice to say, feed and water your brain well and it will thank you! Finally, take time out each day for you, if you can. Relax! Whether that is listening to music, going out for a walk, or going shopping, it’s up to you. Being in revision mode doesn’t mean that you have to give up everything you enjoy. In fact, doing what we enjoy can make us much more effective learners.

In the next post, which will be out sometime next week, I will be looking at revision materials. In the meantime, get planning!


Follow Dr Michelle Lowe on Twitter: @drmshlowe

Michelle can also be found on ResearchGate

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Exam Bitesize Series: Revision Tips for Busy Students

Over the next few weeks, Dr Michelle Lowe will be setting out some snazzy tricks and tips to make your revision painless. OK, not exactly painless, but definitely more effective and maybe even enjoyable!

Although Michelle will be providing insights from her own student days and from the two decades of experience she has gained from working with psychology undergraduates, she will be drawing quite a lot from David Chapman’s (2015) book, The Lazy Student’s Revision Guide. This is a book aimed at High School students; Michelle recently bought it for her son, who is in Year 10, studying GCSEs. Unfortunately, Chapman does not say what to do when the student is too lazy to read the book, so Michelle has read it instead, and found it excellent. A++++++++ Highly Recommended.

This series of bitesize blog posts will be spread over four articles across three weeks. The first article will be out in a couple of days, and then posts in this series will follow weekly. We will be covering:

  1. Revision planning – including timetable setting and looking after yourself.
  2. Revision materials – including tips on how to use notes, books, Youtube, past papers, etc.
  3. Revision techniques – including memory hacks and learning what works for you.
  4. Last minute prep – including what to do in the last few days, hours, and minutes before your exam.

It goes without saying that if you are interested in learning from this series, you are intent on doing well in your exams, and the reason you’re going to spend any time at all revising is because you want to pass your exams and eventually graduate with the best degree class possible – maybe you’re aiming for a gold tassel? With this in mind, Chapman (2015) asked his readers to spend two minutes answering three simple questions:

  1. Why are you revising?
  2. How much do you want to pass your exams?
  3. Why do you want to pass them?

He suggested writing down the answers and pinning them up somewhere prominent, over your desk maybe, or, if you live on your phone, make a wallpaper out of them. When revision gets hard, on days when motivation is on the down-low, reminding yourself of the reasons why you’re revising and why these exams matter to you, might just be the thing to keep you going!

UoB


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Jung: Remembering the Collective Unconscious

In this post, Dr Michelle Lowe discusses her rediscovery of Carl Jung. This article was written in July 2014 when Michelle was between jobs and had way too much time on her hands. It’s an interesting, though somewhat meandering read, and deserves to see the light of day again, after being deleted from the Internet when Michelle got bored of summer blog writing.  The content of this posts are Michelle’s personal views. All comments welcome!

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As an A-Level student in the late ’80s and an undergrad in the early ’90s, Sigmund Freud, with his psychodynamic approach to therapy and his psychosexual stages of growing up were a staple of the curriculum. At A-Level, I recall we spent weeks on Freud, every stage carefully explained by the tutor, exampled by often quite funny situations she had seen in her own children. At undergrad, less time was spent on this, but still, it was examinable material, so I learned it, parrot-fashion. Jung was merely mentioned as another psychoanalyst with some different ideas than Freud. Something about the collective unconscious – badly explained and not, as I recall, exampled (not understood by the tutor?) – and that was that.

Once exams were done, courses were passed, and I moved on, I have given very little thought to psychodynamics and psychoanalysis; the term “collective unconscious” was long forgotten. Even as a university lecturer, I set very little store by what Freud has to say. I would tell students that I wasn’t particularly interested in psychodynamics, so please do read up on it, but… (the tailing off would in unspoken words be, “… Freud isn’t very important, so read that quickly, then spend your revision time concentrating on the important stuff…”)

Fast forward.

Last week [July 2014], I attended a three-day training course on male sexual trauma and recovery, the trainer a therapist and trainer from Canada, whose organisation has been running programmes that give sexually abused men a safe space and male-centred therapy in which to begin to heal. Nothing like this exists in the UK (yet). In the course of this training, the trainer covered psychodynamics. Not Freud and his psychosexuals, but rather one of the Neo-Freudians – someone called Berne. I’d heard of him and his ego-states, but know little. But this is taught to men in the programme. It’s simple, understandable and relates well to the type of therapy offered. Great! My interest in psychodynamic theories is open to exploration again.

Unrelated to the training course, maybe a few days or a week before my attendance, one of the YouTube content-creators that I [no longer] subscribe to brought out a new video. This guy – “Ephemeral Rift” – is one of the many “ASMR-artists” that have popped up on YouTube in recent years. ASMR is an interesting phenomenon that I will dedicate a blog to in the future [I never did]. All relevant here is that Ephemeral Rift brought out a video about his interest in Carl Jung. I watched the video and fell asleep before the end (that’s the idea with ASMR videos btw) and the fact that I’d watched this video would have been inconsequential had it not been for my renewed interest in psychodynamics…

So, enter Dr Carl Gustav Jung. I want to know all about you!

Even though I tell my students not to, the first place I Iooked for information was Wikipedia. (Do as I say, not as I do!) [Seriously, DO NOT use Wiki as a source of information for your assignments. It is not a reliable peer reviewed academic source. It can be edited by anyone. That *anyone* could be a numpty with no psychological knowledge at all. Don’t risk it!]

Wiki was forthcoming, and actually, the first two paragraphs, I knew most of already. Ephemeral Rift told me, or somewhere in my brain, I recall this from reading books at A-Level [see here if you want to read the full Wiki entry about Jung. Remember this is not suitable information to include in assignments though!]:

“Carl Gustav Jung (26 July 1875 – 6 June 1961), often referred to as C. G. Jung, was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. Jung proposed and developed the concepts of extraversion and introversion; archetypes, and the collective unconscious. His work has been influential in psychiatry and in the study of religion, philosophy, archeology, anthropology, literature, and related fields. He was a prolific writer, many of whose works were not published until after his death.

The central concept of analytical psychology is individuation—the psychological process of integrating the opposites, including the conscious with the unconscious, while still maintaining their relative autonomy. Jung considered individuation to be the central process of human development.”

Interesting enough, but it is Carl, the man that I’m interested in here today… There’s a little bit of interest on Wiki:

“Emilie Jung [Carl’s mother] was an eccentric and depressed woman who spent much of her time in her own separate bedroom enthralled by the spirits that she said visited her at night. Jung had a better relationship with his father due to his mother’s eccentricities. Although normal during the day, Jung said that at night his mother became strange and mysterious. Jung said that one night he saw a faintly luminous and indefinite figure coming from her room with a head detached from the neck and floating in the air in front of the body. Jung’s mother left Laufen for several months of hospitalization near Basel for an unknown physical ailment. Jung was taken by his father to live with Emilie Jung’s unmarried sister in Basel but was later brought back to his father’s residence. Emilie Jung’s continuing bouts of absence and often depressed mood influenced her son’s attitude towards women — one of “innate unreliability”. This was a view that he later called the “handicap I started off with” and that resulted in his sometimes patriarchal views of women.”

Ah ha… and there’s more…

“Jung was a solitary and introverted child and was convinced from childhood that, like his mother, he had two personalities—a modern Swiss citizen and a personality more suited to the nineteenth century. “Personality Number 1,” as he termed it, was a typical schoolboy living in the era of the time. “Personality Number 2″ was a dignified, authoritative and influential man from the past.”

Wow…

Moreover, Wiki tells us that Carl had undiagnosed fainting spells, hated school, and went into psychiatry even though it was not highly prestigious and people thought he was wasting his intellectual talent. He was a doctor in World War 1, through which he strove to make soldiers’ conditions better. He married, had five children, yet constantly had affairs with other women. His meeting with Freud, as a young man of 30, was highly influential to his work. Yet, the two disagreed on specifics. Carl disengaged early from the psychosexual approach, and rather concetrated on the spiritual, and he did not believe that sexuality formed the core personality.

Wow, again…

Me neither. Psychosexuality doesn’t work for me at all.

I like Carl. And until a few days ago, I didn’t know it.

Let’s leave Wiki there, as in my few days of learning about Carl’s life, I have come across some things that Wiki doesn’t tell you.

On YouTube, I discovered a BBC podcast – In our Time, a discussion of several experts in psychoanalysis on Jung. [it’s definitely worth a listen]

Utterly fascinating.

Some of my thoughts on what the experts said [but don’t believe me, listen to the podcast and make up your own mind. Comments welcome whether you agree with me or not!]:

1. The split between Freud (the older man) and Jung (the younger) was dreadful for the both of them. They sent heart-wrenching letters to each other. We noted their theoretical differences in hard, dry A-Level classes. But we were told nothing of the personal heartache; and that is the most pertinent and perhaps more relevant information to note than the basics of a somewhat befuddled theory. Jung’s personal letters to Freud detailed the sexual molestation that he suffered as a child. Jung was both attracted to Freud as an older man, a father-figure, yet at the same time, repulsed by this relationship. A story heard all too often in survivor-testimonies! How budding psychologists need to know this! Why aren’t budding psychologists told this???

2. Jung was a terrified child, with a deeply troubled mother, whose personalities confused and petrified him. As a psychiatrist, he was his own first patient. He, himself, hungered to intergrate himself, having now being considered as having psychotic childhood episodes. He struggled with his personalities all his life. He was a wounded healer. A rescuer. How many of us that study psychology can say the same?

3. The frictions between theoretical Freudian and Jungian perspectives have been apparent in the different and separate ways that they are utilised in psychotherapy. Freud looked from on-high at his patients. Distant from them. Jung healed alongside his patients. He listened. He respected. It is noteworthy that intergration between perspectives is now beginning, but it is also noteworthy that Freudian therapy has been the dominant psychoanalytical body for many years.

4. The collective unconscious. What on earth is it? Individuals, families, groups, nations, humankind, have things in common. A collective psychology. We have similar brain structures, surely we behave in similar ways in similar situations? Of course – well, maybe. Social and evolutionary psychology could produce many scientifically-sound, testable ideas here. Neuroscience can now give us a much more detailed insight into the “collectiveness” of individual brain responses. Jung would be astonished, maybe, by the depth of science that could test this notion. Yet, Jung went beyond what we would now consider testable psychological variables of the “collective” individual. Jung argued that different cultures – diverse, collective bodies of people living all over the world – have come up with very similar ideas. Religions. Rituals. Rites of passage. Myths. Story-telling. Emotions. All notions that we, as a species, understand today. This is where is idea of “archetypes” comes from. Patterns, the stories, of humankind. A deep similarity across, what is now over 7 billion people. WOW.

5. Jung, really, was trying to understand the psychology of humans from way, way back. Early man and woman. Our evolution. They – the archetypes – are common to all of humankind across time as well as space. As such, we should be able to empathise with our fellow (wo)man regardless of where we come from or from when we came. A social glue across time. WOW. Why the hell are we not teaching Jung from pre-school upwards?

6. He defined “God” as our collective unconscious. WOW.

I am becoming a Jungian convert.

[I am still a Jungian convert. Subsequently, within the same summer I read Jung’s biography. Definitely worth a read if you want to know more about Jung the man as well as Jung the psychiatrist]

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Are we Killing Students with PowerPoint Kindness?

In this article, Dr Michelle Lowe takes a personal journey into the world of her undergraduate self and asks whether the use of PowerPoint as a teaching aid is all that it’s cracked up to be.

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During my undergraduate studies, PowerPoint wasn’t a big thing. In fact, in my first year of study, even the internet wasn’t a thing. Well, it was, but my uni hadn’t yet taken the plunge. Coming back into second year after the summer break was life-changing for students and staff alike. A whole load of investment into modernity had happened as I had frittered the summer away. Uni now had Internet connectivity; SPSS, instead of the mega-confusing and frankly befuddling stats program I had been terrified of using in research methods; and it seems, a staff team who must have had some sort of (poor?) summer training (or maybe no training at all?) into the use of PowerPoint. What joy was in store for our education now our uni had joined the modern world?

Through my second and into third years of study, more and more tutors were giving PowerPoint a try.  PowerPoint was billed as the bees-knees of presentation-giving. But is it really all that it’s cracked up to be as an educational tool? My undergraduate self wasn’t convinced, and now a quarter of a century since then, and with 20 years-worth of teaching experience under my belt, I’m still not so sure.

Anecdotally, hands down, I believe that my undergrad self learned more from the tutors who resisted the PowerPoint surge and didn’t use visual aids in class than those that did. What I noticed was simple. Those tutors that used either PowerPoint or a no-tech alternative (such as hand-written notes on pieces of clear acetate, which was shown using a projector prone to overheating) were likely to stick to a script, even if they were not looking down, reading from a sheet of paper (which I always found an infuriating and soulless way to learn). Scripted tutors would either read through literally dozens of slides almost word for word, or maybe meander a little if a student dared to ask a question (no-one did) or more likely, the tutor had a lightbulb moment of original thought not included on the slides. Either way, though the latter type of tutor were valiant in their occasional scope to sharing original thought, their teaching styles tended to be soul destroying affairs that I resented getting up and dragging myself the 10 or so miles into uni for the regular 9am starts.

Conversely, however, those tutors that came into class without slides, with nothing but their brain as lecture materials, were a joy to get up and out for. My favourite lecturer was Barry, a 50-something Irish man with specialisms in friendship and dodgy jokes. He used to walk into the lecture theatre and walk out 2 hours later having given his all, every single time. He never used notes, regardless of the topic it all came directly from his brain. Students had to do two things in his lectures in order to learn: 1. Take notes; 2. Stay awake in order to take notes. It worked for me, and now as a lecturer myself, I realise that keeping the class awake is pretty important if students are going to remember anything of what was said. Barry’s lectures were enlightening, entertaining, and honest. I can remember their content even now, twenty something years later, while those tutors with the fancy slides, I remember nothing, I struggle even to recall their names.

Yes, of course, I understand that some topics need more than just an entertaining lecturer who has a brain full of psychological facts and figures. In maths, for example, I figure that perhaps writing out equations on a board for the class helps out.

maths

But do visual aids need to be the slide after slide of static text, or fancy animation after fancy animation?

No.

Writing out equations on a board as a visual aid is different than death by bullet point, in my view, for one reason. In the former, the tutor and students are both engaged together in the session. In the latter, both are engaged, but more often than not, engaged in a struggle to stay alert and interested, each hoping that they make it to the finish line without the other noticing the distant stare of boredom in their eyes.

OK, OK – interesting anecdotes from my undergraduate self aside, what does the empirical literature say on the successful use of PowerPoint as an educational tool? I conducted a quick search on Google Scholar using “PowerPoint in education” as my key term. The literature on this issue is actually quite extensive. I don’t know why that surprised me, perhaps because PowerPoint has just been a standard expectation of something you must use in class that provides students with something to look at, and importantly, notes to read back afterwards?  During this quick literature search, a couple of points stand out as worthy of note:

  1. PowerPoint is so heavily used the number of presentations generated per day is mind-boggling – over 30 million daily according to Hanft (2003).
  2. The evidence as to the benefits of PowerPoint in educational settings is frustratingly mixed.

Early research, summaried by James et al (2006), showed improvements in recall in classes taught with the use of PowerPoint compared to those using “traditional” visual methods of that time (i.e. acetates displayed using an overhead projector; Lowry, 1999), although sometimes the opposite is the case (Amare, 2006). Interestingly, students think they learn more when lecturers use PowerPoint (opposite to the views of my undergraduate self) than when they don’t (Bartsch & Cohen, 2003), although this study found that students only actually learn better when PowerPoint is used some of the time. Indeed, evidence was stacking even in the early 2000s that PowerPoint presentations with animations, complicated graphs, and various other bells and whistles was completely distracting and hindering to recall of facts later. Other potentially detrimental effects of PowerPoint-use were not at all alien to my undergraduate self. Namely, PowerPoint can reduce classroom spontaneity (Murphy, 2002) and hinder discussion of content (Hanft, 2003). Is this, as my undergraduate self observed, because the lecturer scripts their class around PowerPoint and dares not deviate from the deathly journey into bullet point hell?

This begs the question, what does the recent research say on this matter? Surely, as PowerPoint is still so well-used in university lectures, there must be benefits not realised in the early literature on the topic? Well, actually, research seems to be just as conflicted as it was over a decade ago! For example, a detailed discussion by Worthington and Levasseur (2015) concluded with a statement very well-known to my undergraduate self – “Sometimes old tried and true pedagogical lessons trump new was of deploying classroom technology” (p.21).  See also Kernbach et al (2015) for a very useful systematic review.

So, was my undergraduate self right? Present lecturer and research self thinks so – but with all that evidence in the bag, why are we still killing students with PowerPoint kindness? Perhaps, it’s because we’re afraid to stop?

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Leave your opinion in the comments below. I would be very interested to hear what students think about the use of PowerPoint in class.

Follow Michelle on Twitter: @drmshlowe

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Foundation Psychology: How the Right Tuition can Strengthen your Profile by Simon Macdonald (2018)

Simon Macdonald, one of our current Psychology with Foundation students, talks about employability and how the right tuition can strengthen your student profile:

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For me, there have been many rewarding aspects from my Psychology Foundation year. I remember how apprehensive I felt before the first semester started, mainly because as a twenty-four year old adult, it’s been several years since my most recent experience in an academic environment. I assumed many of my peers were going to be much younger than I and straight out of college, something which might leave me at a disadvantage. This could not have been further from the truth. I quickly discovered some of the best aspects to studying at the University of Bolton is the various age groups, cultures and religious backgrounds which are recognised and make up the student body. I realised the initial uncertainties I had were shared by others in similar positions to mine, something which brought many of us together.

The Foundation degree continued to build my confidence through this emphasis of student support and friendship, which makes all the difference when you struggle to understand something and there are people around you who want to help. Our lecturers pride themselves on their detailed, but varied, module teaching, always encouraging fresh ideas and student participation. What I have found particularly beneficial of this degree is how, even at such an early stage, valuable attention has been made of our employability once we have completed our learning. To develop us further, our lecturers design regular workshops which focus on important skills, such as working in a group and presenting material to an audience. Because of this, my peers and I are already building our experiences of extracurricular activities apart from University studies, as a means of standing out from the crowd when we are applying for positions in our chosen fields.

This has led to applications for volunteering positions in areas of employment which I have an interest in, such as Education. I have seen first-hand how passionate and invested the faculty members in the Psychology department are in their students. Making a difference like this is something I have wanted to pursue, and one of the luckier benefits to being a Foundation year student is the doors that are opening as a result. Employers want to interview the best candidates for their vacancies, which often gives those in higher education an edge. Building these relationships early, and gaining as much experience whilst I can, is key to a student’s prospects and the lecturers are always there to assist and advise when needed.

My studies have provided me with the insights and learning I know will only continue as my degree progresses. Getting the best out of my environment and fulfilling my potential were the two most important things I wanted before I started my Foundation year, and these are the sort of guarantees a student at Bolton University can confidently expect to receive.

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@BoltonPsych is Number 1 in Greater Manchester for student satisfaction (NSS 2017)

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Foundation Psychology and the Bolton Award by Sara Maymond (2018)

Sara Maymond, one of our current Psychology with Foundation students, talks about how the Bolton Award can strengthen your engagement with your studies and your employability skills:

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Going into the foundation year of my psychology degree I thought it would be enough for me to just attend lectures and complete the weekly tasks. Yet the further we went into the semester it became clear that to graduate alone is not enough. A student profile must be created. I have learned that employers are looking for graduates that bring something more to the table than just a degree. They want someone who has stepped out of their comfort zone within university and has not only the academic skills but social skills too.

Being someone that has worked since leaving high school and even going into management roles I thought I didn’t need assistance when applying for jobs, but after learning about how narrow the job market is now for graduates, creating a student profile would only be beneficial. There are many opportunities within the University of Bolton for a student to do this, such as joining or creating a society, volunteering at the student union, or becoming a student representative. But it was the Bolton Award that appealed to me for various reasons. They offer assistance with creating a professional CV and interview practises that will surely help when applying for graduate jobs. They also provide volunteering opportunities at university or within the community, further aspects of the Bolton Award that help build your student profile. Being a parent, I thought it would be difficult to find the time to commit, but after being told it can be completed within the four years of my degree cemented the fact that it is achievable. On completion of the Award there is a ceremony where you are presented with your certificate of achievement, a worthy note for your CV and a nod to the hard work you have completed.

Applying to the Bolton Award is not something I would have even considered on my first day of university. I was feeling out of touch and not up to scratch compared to the students fresh out of college. I could not remember the last time I had wrote an assignment and I had certainly never stood up in front of a room of people and given a presentation. Almost weekly I was pushed to partake in group tasks and not soon after I became more comfortable. I started working with people I had never spoken to in class before and my confidence grew. Somehow, after the first semester, these are tasks that I now enjoy doing. I feel, thanks to the foundation year and the opportunities like the Bolton Award, it has enhanced my prospects after I graduate.

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