Hack Your Way to a 1st Class Degree
You’ve all heard the generic advice on how to get a first class degree: read more and party. However – truth be told – this isn’t very good advice, especially if you actually want to enjoy your university experience. So we’ve decided to give you some useful tips on how to get a first class degree that also allows you to party whenever you want. Winner winner.
If you had a choice between trying to learn everything and getting a 2:2 or learning half the course and getting a first, you’d obviously choose the latter. A lot of people stress themselves out attempting to memorise everything they’ve ever read in preparation for exam season, but lecturers and past papers leak a plethora of clues (usually unintentionally) as to what you should be learning.
First, go through all the past papers for each module and find the regular topics and the topics that haven’t come up for a couple of years. There is a good chance that these topics will come up this year. Second, in lectures, listen carefully to what your lecturers say. It is unlikely they will tell you something will be in the exam, but they will usually put great emphasis in explaining a topic that they know will be in the exam.
Lecturers want you to do well – it reflects well on them and the university, so use this to your advantage. They will get sacked if they tell you what will be in the exam, but if you question them strategically they will give revealing clues. For example, if you tell your lecturer that you prefer their teaching over another lecturer’s teaching (develop rapport) and want to know whether you’d be at an advantage focusing on the topic they taught (a subtle way of asking if their topic is in the exam), they are almost guaranteed to tell you something incredibly useful.
Some modules will be tougher than others and some lecturers will be kinder than others. Too many people spend time trying to please future employers by selecting modules that cater to their desires. However, they won't care what module you take as long as you get a first. Many of my friends opted to do a corporate law module during their law degree to help them land a job at a magical circle law firm, but ended up struggling and ultimately failed to get the job at all. On the other hand, I chose slightly easier modules that I knew I would enjoy and could do well in, and still ended up with plenty of job interviews from magical circle law firms.
In addition, some universities openly publish the statistics of how many people get firsts, 2:1s, 2:2s, etc. for each module. If you notice that 40% of participants got a first in one module last year and 40% of participants got a third in another module, the choice should be simple. Often, for example, dissertations have a significantly higher first-class rate than any other module.
Completed It Mate
If you were to learn a new skill, such as an instrument, you’d obviously want to learn from someone who has already developed that skill. In the same way, instead of dragging your balls through glass to learning everything from scratch why not just ask other people for their notes. Many people, when revising for exams, will create a beautiful all-encompassing summary of everything that they need to know. If you can grab yourself a couple of these module bibles then you’re well on the way to getting yourself a first. Why spend hundreds of hours crafting your own bible, when you can just ask Jesus? (*Jesus didn’t write the bible, but you get the point).
Cut Through The Bullshit
One of the biggest loads of crap you will hear from lecturers is that you need to ready everything (and more!) if you really want to a first class degree. Not only is this not true, but it’s also not possible. Ultimately, you only need to know the fundamentals plus a little bit extra for first-class flare. When it comes to reading then, make sure it is primarily focused on what you were taught but then read an extra journal article or textbook chapter to add the cherry on the cake. To comfortably establish yourself as a first-class student ensure you form an opinion about what you are reading too. It doesn’t matter whether your opinion is clumsy or wrong, just have one and make sure you can support it with some semi-convincing evidence. This should be fun. Throw your own bullshit right back at them.