Most "How to get a first" articles will give advice on revision, practice and hard work. Mine, on the other hand, will provide simple tricks to give you a natural, biological advantage. My mantra is work smarter, not harder. These worked out pretty well for me, and I still had time to go to cheeky Justin Timberlake concert up in Manchester with my girl.
1. Food glorious food
I love eating so I figured having brain food was an excellent way to help my grades at uni. To boost your memory snack on blueberries, walnuts and dark chocolate through revision season. I would also eat half a tuna sandwich an hour before my exams, and a banana right as I walked into the exam (so the magic would kick in the whole way through).
Omega-3 also improves your cognitive function, but its a long term effect so start taking cod liver oil tablets once a day starting at the beginning of the year. Throw in a multivitamin tablet too if you struggle to get your five a day of fruit and veg.
2. Zzz. . .
Studying is well boring right? Reading a textbook is like a cure for insomnia. If you are about to drift off, set yourself an alarm for 10-20 mins to keep you alert upon waking. To memorize what you've studied, indulge in a 1 hour nap, about 7 hours after the time you wake up in the morning. The above is confirmed by scientific studies.
My second sleep tip is to get a consistent night time routine. Forget about pulling an all-nighter before a deadline or exam. As I always told myself, this is the time when the brain assimilates information, without you even trying. Invest in some silicon earplugs if outside noises threaten your brains'n'beauty sleep.
What I liked about term 3 at Warwick with no lectures was that I could go to the gym whenever I wanted. This point is super important: DON'T stop going to the gym in order to study more. Again, exercise is scientifically proven to improve your cognitive performance, so a revision sesh after a workout is awesome. Working out also makes you feel better with endorphins so it could cheer you up after horrible moment of degree doom.
The same principle applies before a test. If you can, jog to your exam to get your blood flowing and brain ready to rock it.
A lot of people will have heard that listening to Mozart's music supposedly makes you brainier. However I saw a documentary that put the theory to the test and found that listening to heavy metal temporarily improved cognitive function more than Mozart. This was is because the extreme sounds stimulate your brain more than the soothing notes of classical music. I didn't listen to heavy metal, but I did use lyric-less classical music to drown out other noises when studying, and I listened to some lively tunes just before I headed into exams.
5. Smart choices
When it comes to choosing subjects, pick easy modules that play to your strengths. Simples! Don't pick something challenging just because your friends are doing it or because you think it will look good on your CV. You probably won't use that knowledge for the rest of your life and in my experience employers don't check your modules anyway. You will be more proud of getting a first in your overall degree than about having taken a "hard" module. Use any past papers/assignment questions you can get your hands on to decide how to load up your coursework/exam ratio.
To work smarter not harder, follow these simple tips. This might be controversial, but don't revise for more than hour at a time! Its scientifically proven that our concentration dips after 35 minutes anyway, so take a break and do something else for a while. Don't study when it doesn't suit you either. I'm a morning person so I refused to work on anything new after 5pm. I'd just chill then leaf through the day's work once near bedtime.
Cut out as much material as you can from your revision. I'm not saying to take crazy risks, but don't study crap "just incase". Things to drop might be topics that your professor presented weakly, topics that require too much extra research or things that you personally don't like (therefore you would be unlikely to bring up in an answer). Try to get synergies across subjects, for example, a lot of business modules have sustainability or culture as their last topic.
I hope this article helps you in achieving your goals. As you've seen, these are the easy ways to boost your performance in your degree that go beyond the obvious components of being clever or putting in lots of effort. Do you agree? Comment below!
- REVIEW: Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott