What an unlikely combination of words, I know! However, whether you’re a final year student, are starting a Masters degree in autumn or are currently studying a PhD that requires some knowledge of statistical software, this is perfect for you. Just stick with me.
Like most other final year students, I am currently at the point where revising for my last set of undergrad exams and attending my last few lectures is seeming like too much to handle. As if that’s not enough, I am determined to enjoy these last few weeks with all my friends before some of us go off in separate directions for much needed summer holidays and to start our proper adult lives. It is a lot and no amount of warning can prepare you for the experience but I try to smell the roses when I can. It also helps that I’ll be hanging around over the summer to enjoy this amazing city that has become my second home.
Amidst all of this, I still find time to obsess over the fact that I will be starting my MSc in Behavioural and Economic Science in September. Yes, I am a sucker for academic pain. The combination of the gruelling nature of my upcoming Masters and my need to find anything but the upcoming exams to think about led me to an interesting discovery. The university is running R and SPSS workshops after exams! I understand that it may seem very strange to find this exciting and I assure you that I am desperately looking forward to taking a long leisurely break over the summer. Yet, I can’t help but be happy that I can get an early start on learning R, which will be crucial for a few of my MSc modules. This is me smelling the roses 🙂
If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to learn how to use R or SPSS and don’t trust yourself to actually start doing some learning via YouTube or Codeacademy, I think this is a perfect opportunity. Especially if you’ll be here in the last 2 weeks of June when these are being put on. The R workshops are a total of 8 hours spread over 4 days and the SPSS workshops are a total of 10 hours spread over 5 days. Also worth noting, they all start at 10 am so it really won’t interfere greatly with your other leisurely plans 😉
Upon first finding out about 301 and the variety of workshops on offer, I know that the first instinct many of us have is to pick the workshops that seem relevant and sign up to all of them in one fell swoop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that by itself. However, a couple of things can make that strategy problematic and I’ll share some advice on what you should be doing instead.
If right now, you’re having a look at all the Exam Techniques and Exam Revision workshops we have available and thinking, “sign me up!”, you will find this blog post useful for ensuring that you can utilise the information you gain from the workshops – and smash your exams, of course! 🙂
- WHY: Yes, yes. I know you know why you’ve chosen to attend a particular workshop but think about it. Say you don’t have any group work this semester and have always been really unenthusiastic about the prospect of doing assessed group work, so you sign up to attend a workshop on that here at 301, I’m sure you’ll find it useful because I did myself. Now that’s different from signing up to attend that workshop and 9 others because you just like the sound of them. There are a ton of workshops to pick from and they are all great but it is worth considering your reason for attending the workshop and having in mind that your interest will affect how seriously you take the workshop, your willingness to engage with the material and your drive to get the best out of it.
- HOW MANY: I touched briefly on signing up to 9 workshops at once and I’ll now elaborate on why that may not be the best idea. Quality over quantity applies a lot here but it’s not the quality of the workshop that is in question at all. It’s the quality of information that you can feasibly get out of, and then apply to improving or developing the skills that the workshops aim to provide support with. How realistic is it that after attending 9 workshops in a semester you’ll be able to successfully
- get better at presenting;
- reading quickly;
- taking notes effectively;
- working well in a group; and
- planning your dissertation
and do all of that within 12 weeks! I mean, if you can, fair play to you and please…
Just bear in mind that you have at least 6 semesters in university and if you prioritise your skills needs every semester, the probability that you’ll leave university having gained all of the skills I’ve listed above is most likely a 100%. You can afford to take time and be deliberate about it.
3. THE FOLLOW-UP: From experience, this is the most difficult part. Nothing good comes easy, they say, but it is so tempting to hope that attending a workshop or 1:1 study skills tutorial will set you right up. You do have to make time and work with the advice you have received so that you can make progress. Revisit the slides you get sent as many times as you need to as well as any notes you take. Also make sure to use the resources recommended to you during the workshop. It’s normal to be eager for a marked improvement within say 2 weeks and to be frustrated if you don’t see any. Take your time and after a while you will be instinctively doing things a different way after making those repeated efforts initially.
I hope you find these tips useful and are having a fantastic Easter break whether that is being spent in the IC or somewhere a bit more fun catching some sun rays.
Most of us only think of the library in relation to which one we prefer whether that may be by virtue of proximity, or in my case, the quality of latte I can get from the cafe. No, it’s not all the same and the IC wins. Just in case you were wondering.
It may surprise you to know that the University Library runs workshops that can also reflect on to get the Academic Skills Certificate. They are called Information and Digital Literacy Workshops and can be great if you’re looking to develop skills beyond those covered in the academic skills workshops we run here at 301.
Having attended the Commercial Awareness workshop myself, I can attest to how helpful it was in helping me better understand a skill that is very well sought after in graduates. After the workshop, I was better informed on what I could do to improve my commercial awareness from working part time on campus. Now, I know how to demonstrate commercial awareness during a job application process.
The other workshops on offer are quite varied and are divided into 6 categories:
- Discovering – useful if you are interested in finding information and images for various academic purposes
- Understanding – for you if you want to learn to use e-books productively
- Questioning – having found information, this aims to help evaluate its usefulness
- Referencing – suitable for those seeking to master referencing for a thesis, dissertation, coursework essay or research project
- Creating – will help you make better presentations
- Communicating – whether this means improving your commercial awareness, finding out how to make info-graphics or starting a blog!
If any of the categories I have described sound interesting to you, make sure to check out the dates and times these workshops are available and book a place to attend them!
The number one con of revising with friends is time wasted on segues about what you’re having for lunch, your weekend plans and the new TV show that will absolutely change all your lives.
That said, it can greatly influence your approach to learning new things and how you think about your module topics. The root of its effectiveness lies in the fact that we take in information in different ways but if you feel like your styles will clash, these tips can help you avoid that while maximising the opportunity to consolidate your learning:
- Do some lone studying beforehand. The aim is to revise with your friends not learn new material that you’ve just been introduced to in a lecture last week.
- Make sure to plan meeting times for studying so that it’s different from you usual meetups and and can be treated as such. Vaguely mentioning to your friend that you will discuss something you haven’t understood on your course may be motivated by good intentions. However, if you don’t explicitly plan to revise together, you may end up prioritising your social plans and forgetting all about it.
- Agree on what topics you’ll be going over together. It is well worth having a planning session where you decide the order in which you’ll be revising topics or parts of your module(s). So that every week, when you meet at say 12 pm on Wednesdays, it is a natural progression from the last week and you can be as efficient as possible.
- Choose a place you feel is best for your group study style. You can book group study spaces at The Diamond, IC or Western Bank and see how that goes. Depending on the module type, you may need to project slides or write your solution on a whiteboard which would narrow down your options. However, if your revision can be done properly by discussing with some notes handy or you’d prefer not to do it in the library, you may consider any of the cafes around. The downside is that you’ll have to at least buy a drink but from personal experience, Steam Yard, Tamper and 200 Degrees serve really good coffee. I have also heard good reviews about Ink & Water. Just be careful not to turn it into a full on brunch date that doesn’t involve any revision as the menus can be quite tempting.
Of course, there are other ways to benefit from having friends to discuss university work with besides revising together. Maybe you’d simply prefer asking your friends about questions you’ve struggled with or comparing solutions to problems. That’s equally great. We are all different so explore some options but in the end stick with what works best for you 😉
A 2 week break out of the 4 week Christmas vacation makes up less than 4% of the whole year. Yup, that’s right! So, spending that time with family and friends without worrying too much about upcoming exams would be fair. I realise that this is not applicable to everyone. If you can only feasibly take a few days or even a week off, that’s even much less than 4% so it is well worth savouring that time and making the best of it.
Besides the above, there are a few other reasons why unplugging for the holidays can be great for you. You can get back to studying for exams refreshed and raring to go. Of course, this a double-edged sword – you may feel like you want to take a much longer holiday than you had planned. A good way to get ahead of this is to sign up for one of our Exam Revision Planning workshops that can help you get a head start on how you will approach your revision after your time off. This way, you’re less inclined to procrastinate because you already have a solid plan.
A break also puts everything in perspective. If you’re having a not-so-great semester because of academic or personal reasons, spending some time with your loved ones can help you feel better and realise that although doing well in university is important, you have other things to be thankful for and celebrate. Maybe it’ll give you just the right boost of optimism to get a lot of work done afterwards.
However, if you absolutely have to be in Sheffield for one reason or the other and will be studying for most of the 4 week holiday, there are a ton of Christmas events around. You can take an evening off here and there. Start with the Peddler Christmas Special or the Christmas Sunday Lunch and go from there 🙂