Agony Aunt Ms. Margo: Exam Season

‘Dear Ms. Margo, everybody around me seems to be busy working, but I don’t seem to be half as productive, what should I do.’

Ultimately everyone works at their own pace so don’t stress too much, you might be a person who works really well under pressure and crams in the last few days. Everyone has their own capabilities when it comes to concentration and how many hours they can bear to be in the library. Recognising your own strengths and weaknesses will benefit you. For example, if you are someone who can’t function without social time don’t neglect that trying to do twelve hour study days, because while no one really enjoys studying, if you are truly miserable you won’t work properly and it won’t be an effective use of time.

Now here are the study tips you’ve definitely heard before but still refuse to follow just like the rest of us:

  1. Turn off your phone/disable social media – seriously, you know as well as I do that random articles you found on Twitter don’t really count as extra reading.
  2. Find a study buddy – a friend can helpful when you keep each other on track, but choose carefully.
  3. Drink water, eat healthily and get a regular sleep schedule – boring yes, but you’ll be more energetic, find it easier to concentrate, and Hive will still be there when your exams are over.

Probably the most ‘make or break’ study tip is that you need to find some motivation, if you have motivation to do well you’ll actually follow all the other tips and work hard. No-one else can motivate you – you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, as the saying goes. Ask yourself, why are you doing your degree? Look up some grad jobs online that interest you to see your goal in a more concrete form. Seeing what that 2:1 or first would get you might help with that final push.

Something to remember: it’s really easy to assume other people are working hard, but it’s also really easy to fake looking productive in front of a laptop and really be ‘studying’ which cat Buzzfeed thinks you are and it’s something most of us are probably guilty of. Social media makes the situation worse since people tend to document the five minutes they do spend working with a picture on their story, but they’re unlikely to show the five hours of procrastination leading up to that moment; this makes everyone feel like they’re the only one struggling but in reality you aren’t alone. But don’t use that as an excuse to ignore my previous advice! Everyone else also procrastinating isn’t an excuse not to try, it’s just a reassurance for when you are struggling.

Good luck! (but for real though turn your phone off)

‘Dear Margo, my exams aren’t going swimmingly, and truth be told I’m not fully enjoying my course like I thought I would. I’m only first year and I don’t know what to do, please help!’

First of all, give it time. First year tends to be quite underwhelming when compared to most fresher’s dreams of academia as being a world away from school with lectures and readings that are regularly mind-blowing and fascinating to you. First year courses are designed to be broad overviews and so inevitably end up pleasing no-one. If you stick around you might find that honours classes better live up to your expectations of your course as you can pick your modules to follow your interests (and because by then you know which lecturers to avoid).

Exam performance also shouldn’t be a sole reason to change degrees. Look at the bigger picture, you need a degree that will interest you enough to get through a dissertation on it, and one that you’ll actually want a job in afterwards. You can try to improve your exam performance by changing your studying style before you give in to changing, which is worth trying if this is a degree you’re passionate about.

But ultimately you should go with your heart. You’re probably getting into some level of debt for this and four years is a fair amount of time to spend on something you don’t enjoy. You will even probably struggle to get good grades if you aren’t studying something you’re passionate about, so it’s not worth it. I would suggest talking to your advisor of studies who can give you more personal advice, but the beauty of Glasgow is the four year degree gives you time to make decisions like this during second year, so don’t rush.


-Ms. Margo, Agony Aunt


The views in this article may not reflect the the view of the G.U.U.

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