Results and lessons learnt
So, yesterday I collected my results for my first year chemistry course. I managed a 2:1. Some things that stood out: my inorganic chemistry is pretty strong (perhaps because I enjoy it so much). Organic wasn't too bad but physical still requires a lot of work. Apparently, students tend to do better in labs (it is a bit like assessed coursework) than in exams. With me, it was the other way round. I suppose this is because with labs, I wasn't taking them too seriously. I work best when I am under pressure but I must say that exam stress at university was a whole different thing to me.
I wouldn't say that 67% is the best score but given that this year only counts 10% (and hopefully 5% if I transfer onto the Masters), it is not a bad start to university life. I spoke to my tutor and another academic and got some tips on how to plan my next year so that I improve on the score where next year will obviously count more as well.
So, I've had a think about the mistakes I made and some plans for next year:
- Take post labs really seriously. I love my labs but I became rather immune to the post-lab stress. I suppose I just didn't take them seriously enough. They really do boost your grades a lot. Apparently, generally with people, their exam results are average but labs improve their overall score therefore if you're not too good with exams, work hard on your post-labs (and I shall too, next year!). I am going to thoroughly analyse this year's feedback for post-labs too so I know what mistakes I made to ensure that they are not repeated (got 65%).
- My approach to revising organic (70%) and inorganic (76%) chemistry somewhat worked. I didn't do any exam practise. I only focused on the content and made sure I really understood everything. I really don't like the idea of doing past papers. I disliked it at A levels as well but you don't really have an option. if you don't include the keywords at A levels, you don't get the marks. It doesn't work the same way at university. You get credit for saying the right stuff; however you say it. I could have done even better in these exams if I had structured my revision better and had been able to revise everything. Obviously, if you prefer exam questions, go ahead but the chemistry departmental policy is that exam paper mark schemes aren't provided. I think there was one provided (for an old paper) and for mock exams but otherwise you should approach your tutors for help.
- Pay attention to tutorial and workshop problems. I didn't. See, I only work at the end of the year when I know I don't have an option. I started my revision so early but never really got into it until Easter. I did listen in tutorials but workshops, not so much. This needs to be fixed. Tutorials and workshops not only help you cover all different areas but often require you to research beyond what is taught therefore add to your knowledge and really make you think. If you practise thinking like a chemist throughout the year and applying your knowledge, thinking in the exam would become easier.
- No exam practise for physical chemistry isn't going to do the job. I think the first time I made a graph for kinetics was in the exam. Spectroscopy was a whole different world to me. Thermodynamics was not too bad since I had revised it. Quantum was okay but all the hard stuff I had revised didn't come up therefore I decided to take a quantumy approach in the exam – made up postulates to at least get a pass and I managed 59% in this one. I would, next year, make an exception to my no exam practise rule and really sit down and do exam questions for physical chemistry.
So, overall, I am convinced all my hard-work during my Easter break and term 3 really paid off. All the money I spent on Dark Mocha and the Strawberry Split smoothie was worth it. Having my lunch at 10am so I could spend the day in the library was worth it. Not showing my face to my friends because I can never do group study was worth it (I talk the most, by the way). Speaking to library buddies and imagining failure to motivate myself to keep working was worth it and something I always did at school but not this time – not giving up the day before the exam was really worth it!
What I need to now ensure next year is rather than to turn everything around two months before the exam, work consistently hard throughout the year because I have learnt how little assessed work could add up to make a big change to your final score.
So, to sum up, to do well at university, you need to work hard and have a passion for what you do. That is all!