Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Revision Techniques


First of all I just want to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who voted for me as March's blogger of the month!! When I found out, it made my day. So thanks again!

Also, I'm sorry this post is a bit later than I originally intended. Revision seems to be taking over my life!

Continuing my little series on revision, today I want to talk about revision techniques. For a lot of people (myself included), it can be really boring when you feel like you're constantly doing the same thing, and when all your revision looks the same as well! Does not make it fun when you come to go over it again!
So I thought I'd share what I like to do, and ways in which I try and test myself and how I (attempt) to make it more interesting - because let's face it, revision is not the most fun activity!

Mind Maps
This is potentially my favourite technique and I think I might have a slight fixation with them! Sometimes they're really detailed and other times brief but I feel like its just a really quick and simple way to revise, along with summing up a lot of information in a good way.

As you can probably tell, I like my revision to look pretty. In my opinion, if it looks nice, then I'll want to keep reading it (hence the excessive use of felt tip pens!). So far this has worked for me, so fingers crossed this continues this year!

Past Papers/Practice Questions/Model Answers
I would say this is probably the most useful technique of them all because nothing can prepare you more for the exam than practising the questions you'll face in the exam. My history resit teacher gave us a booklet containing all the questions that have been on the exam since the syllabus began. This has been really useful because I can then do practise answers whenever I want and I have plenty to choose from as well!
Relating to this, something else which can be really useful (especially for essay-based subjects) is looking at model answers and making notes from them. I find it especially useful to read the answer with the mark scheme, because it helps me to have a clearer understanding of what the examiner is looking for.

Cue Cards
I find these so so useful, for almost everything from Lit quotes to English Language grammar terms, you can cram it full of information or just a few words and its a really convenient way to revise. Once you've made them, they are really easy to carry around so you can revise on the move or bring them to college to revise in your free periods or whenever!
I always revise so much better when I make it more fun for myself, otherwise it can easily get really repetitive! For my GCSE RE exam something I had to know was a lot of key words. So to make revising these more fun, I wrote the key words and definitions on slips of paper then jumbled them up and tried to make pairs. I found this technique really useful and it is a great way to remember things like key words and definitions etc.

Post-it Notes
I think I actually have a slight obsession with these to be honest! These are especially good for small bits of information you have to remember such as theories or quotes. I find these are also really good for "unconscious" revision because you can put them all over the house (or your bedroom if your family aren't too keen on you redecorating the house with revision notes!) and you'll end up reading them all the time. So the information is likely to be absorbed by your brain without having to work too hard!

Summarise Your Notes
Making notes from your notes can be one of the most useful ways to revise. I have always been told that you should "compress" you notes - everytime you rewrite them, summarise the information more briefly. This technique is also helpful if you're stuck for resources such as post it notes or cue cards.

With Someone Else...
Obviously this isn't always going to be the most effective method of revision, but sometimes revising with someone else can really help you. After all, you remember 95% of what you teach someone else! This can be really good especially if you and a friend do the same subject. For example, my friend Hannah and I both study Modern History. When it came round to revision time last year, we would often go for a coffee together in town and would help each other revise the sections the other was struggling with. This was especially useful when one of those topics came up on the exam! It also makes it more interesting to revise with a friend, because you have someone to keep you company. Revision can often be quite lonely when you're stuck in your room for hours on end!

Test Yourself
(Or get someone else to!) This really is one of the best ways to revise, because it helps you to discover what you know and what you need to revise further. You could try and write a timeline for History without using your notes, or you could ask someone at home to ask you a few questions from your notes. This is also a good way to make your revision more sociable, because you can have someone there to ask you the questions.

So that's all for now, I think that next time I'll write something non-revision related - after all, we have enough of that at the moment! 

If you'd like to vote for me as UCAS blogger of the month, I'd be really grateful. You can do that here! Thanks!

Anna x

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Top Tips for Revising

Hello again!

So proud of myself today - I'm getting organised with this blog and so I'm writing this post in advance so I don't have to worry about posting regularly when I'm revising... I hope it works!!

As I mentioned in my last post, I want to do a couple of posts about revision - with exam season fast approaching I really need to stop worrying and get my head in those notes! So today I want to talk about how to start revising, and in next week's post I'll talk about techniques.

In regards to revision, I feel privileged because in Years 10 and 11 of high school I had a wonderful teacher who taught me so many revision techniques and she really supported me as I learnt which techniques worked best for me and what environment suited my revision style best. 

So here are my top tips for starting revising and how to be as productive as possible!

1) Find a space that works for you.
Finding the right environment for you to revise can be really hard. I know that in my house, sometimes it can be hard to have a moment to yourself, so I like revising in my bedroom where I know I wont be disturbed. Other people might prefer staying late at college to have that quiet time, or maybe even going to the local library? Also, when the weather gets a bit warmer I like taking my revision outside so I can sit on the grass and enjoy the sunshine while working! I also find it really helpful to tell my family when I'm revising so that they know not to disturb me or blast some music!

2) Bribe yourself!
I don't know about you, but revision is not my favourite thing to do. There are so many other things I'd rather do than sit revising after a long day of college and there are things I want to watch on TV. So I try and beat this. I set myself little goals with rewards at the end, such as when I've finished this section of the topic I'll reward myself with a snack or a quick flick through my Facebook news feed etc. Whatever works for you really!!

3) Take frequent breaks, and lots of them too.
One of the most important revision tips I have been taught is the importance of taking breaks. So many people I know just power through and revise for hours on end, but I've always been taught that your brain can only stand up to 40 minutes at a time. So I revise for 20-40 minutes at a time (depending on how much I need to do, the closeness of exams, my energy levels etc) and then have a 10-15 minute break to check my messages, have a chat to my parents or whatever I feel like doing. Then I go back to revise some more! As part of this, I find it really useful to be regimental about my revision. I come home from college and start straight away and set myself timers. For example, I would set a timer for me to spend 30 minutes revising, then when that one went off I'd set it again for a 10 minute break. This way seems to help stop me getting distracted on my breaks or for revising for too long!

4) Remove ALL and ANY distractions
Whether this be leaving the room if the TV's on, giving your parents your phone so you don't constantly want to check it or even moving that book you're engrossed in out of the room, moving all your distractions will help your revision to be so much more productive. As part of this, I also move my headphones out of the room and all my music-playing devices. As much as I love music, it can be really distracting sometimes, and I understand that hearing words while your brain is trying to remember other words isn't the greatest idea. I've always been taught that if you want to revise to music, use classical or instrumentals. As embarrassing as it is for me to admit, when I'm working I like listening to 'I Giorni' by Ludovico Einaudi (otherwise known as the music from the BBC advert!!) I just find it really relaxing and I always seem to produce good work when I've been listening to it.

5) Make it look interesting!
As you'll see in next week's post, I love making my revision look pretty. I always use felt tips, highlighters and different coloured pens as well to make it look as nice as possible. This is a really good thing to do because colourful notes are more interesting to look at than ones that are black and white! 

I hope these tips have been even a bit useful to someone, please let me know if you have any because I'd love to have some more for myself! 
Next week I'll be sharing some of my favourite techniques for revising, but if there's anything else you'd like me to blog about (revision related or otherwise) just let me know!
Also, if you'd like to vote for me as UCAS blogger that would be fab! You can do that here! Thank you!
It seems crazy that we're about to start this revision and exam journey all over again, but I'm hoping and praying that all will go well and I'll get the grades I want so badly!
We can do this!!

Anna x

Sunday, 13 March 2016

College/Work/Life Balance


I've been wanting to write about college/work/life balance for a while but other ideas have cropped up and seemed more appealing at the time so it's been on the backburner for a while. I've decided that with exam season etc coming up I'm going to write a few posts on revision and other related topics so I thought this one could be the beginning of that! As part of this, if you have any ideas for posts you'd like me to write, please let me know.

Before I start this though, I just want to put in a quick disclaimer:
* I am in no way claiming to be an expert at this, I'm still learning how to balance them myself so I don't end up disappointing anyone! Its a tough learning curve! *

I've had my part-time job for just over a year which (up until a couple of weeks ago) was working on the shop floor in the clothes department of a supermarket. However, recently I've been moved onto working behind the music and video desk at the same store. I've always enjoyed my job because I like the people I work with and I like the environment of the store, but since my move I've enjoyed it even more. My new job is a lot different, and I enjoy the challenges of learning all the new skills, e.g. picking up online orders from the warehouse; using the till and tidying the shop floor among many other things! Over the time I've worked at the company, my hours each week vary vastly during term time, from not working at all to sometimes twenty hours! At the moment I'm averaging around ten hours a week which I feel is a pretty good amount alongside college.

College is a lot of work, and a lot of hard work. On top of my three A2 exams this summer, I have also decided to resit four of my exams from last year. This means that on top of my normal lessons, I also have three extra classes a week. These classes are all at times which have involved me making sacrifices for them, but although this is really tough at times (and every week I question why I'm putting myself through it!!) I feel like the long-term benefits will outweigh me staying in college till five rather than quarter past one on a Tuesday!! Not only do I have these extra classes, I also have almost all of last year's revision to do on top of this year's! Luckily, once I start revising I am quite good at sticking to it, but it's the starting that I find most difficult...!!!

And finally, life. Up until recently I've had a fairly quiet social life but over the next couple of months all my closest friends are turning eighteen... (AT LAST!!! Been waiting so long for you guys!!! ;) xx) and this means a lot of parties - definitely not complaining though!! I'm really looking forward to all the birthday celebrations and exciting things I have planned for the next few months. It's going to make all the revising and work go so much better when I have these to look forward to!

My beautiful best friends and I celebrating Hannah's 18th!
So with a very busy few months fast approaching and the need to start revising some time very soon I thought that there might be other people who are in the same boat as me. So here are a couple of things I try to do so that my college/work/life balance is somewhat prioritised right... Like I mentioned earlier, I am no way perfect at this, its a big process of trial and improvement!!

1) Explain. To everyone!
Obviously your friends and family know the stresses of college, and the hours you're at work as well. But maybe work and college don't know about your other commitments? I wouldn't talk to them too much about how you "need" to go to that party, but maybe phrase it in a way like "sorry, I wont be able to do that overtime because I have a commitment already"? Or if you're meant to be working when you have other plans, decide whether you're going to book it off as holiday or if you'll just go to work anyway. And tell your college teachers about work and your managers at work about college! I had a chat this week with my manager and she couldn't have been more lovely about my college commitments, I really felt that she understood me and how college has to be my priority. Gotta get those grades!!

2) Decide where your priorities lie.
Its really important that we learn to decide what is most important. For me, college is number one and then work and life seem to be constantly wrestling with each other for that second place spot! Some weeks I just want to work work work work work whereas others I would much prefer to just lie in bed watching catch up TV on my laptop all day. Priorities eh?!

I hope this has been even slightly useful to any of you, I quite often feel like I'm constantly juggling everything but it'll all pay off hopefully come summer when I get the grades I need, have the money to go on holiday and I still have my friends!!

Until next time!
Anna x

P.S. If you want to vote for me as UCAS blogger of the month, I'd really appreciate it! You can do that here. Thank you!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Firm Choice Applicant Day


Last Saturday was my applicant day at Liverpool Hope University. This was a really important day for me because it's my firm choice uni and my last chance to visit before I 'hope'fully start in September! (Apologies for the awful pun!) I thought I'd share with you some of the things that happened on the day, and share some tips to help you prepare.

I had been looking forward to it for ages because I absolutely love this uni! I went to two open days - one in June and another in September, and fell in love with both the course and the university itself. On top of this, I have also joined a Facebook group chat for people going there and I was excited about the opportunity to potentially meet some of the lovely people I've been talking to!

The day started off with a general Arts and Humanities Faculty welcome, with the dean of the department welcoming everyone and then sharing with us information about the faculty as a whole (along with sharing the usual statistics and highlighting the university's achievements.)

Following this, I attended a Creative Writing talk and taster workshop. The lecturer talked about course content for around half an hour, where she went into detail about how the course is taught and visiting lecturers, among many other things. One of the things that appeals to me most about this course (and makes it stand out from most other Creative Writing degrees) is that whereas most courses have an extremely heavy focus on the creative aspect, the course at Hope focuses on both the creative and commercial aspect. The course is very new (this will be just the second year it has been run) and innovative and my future lecturer was hugely passionate about it. Following the talk, the lecturer invited us to take part in a creative writing exercise. She handed out piles of postcards around the room and invited everyone to choose one (including the parents!). We had to choose the one that stood out to us the most, and then pick ten words to describe it. After that, we had ten minutes to write about it. The only rules were that we had to include the ten words, and we also had to write continuously. She then invited us to share our writing, which many people did. I absolutely loved seeing the postcards that other people had picked and hearing what they had written. It was lovely to be an environment with people who were just as passionate about writing as I am!


After this, my parents and I went to the canteen area where we were able to spend the meal vouchers the uni had provided on a delicious hot meal. My Dad and I enjoyed garlic chicken and chips, while Mum ate chilli and rice. I thought this was a really nice gesture from Hope: Many people had traveled from all over the country to be there and the weather was miserable, so it was lovely to sit down and enjoy some hot food.

I then had my one to one meetings with my future lecturers in both Creative Writing and English Literature. In all honesty, I was really nervous about these meetings. Although the applicant day letter had described them as an "informal chat", I had no idea what to expect and I wanted to give as good impression of myself as I could. First up, Creative Writing.

I wasn't as nervous about this meeting, because I had just met my lecturer in the subject talk. But I'd had nothing to worry about! We had a lovely chat, with her asking me about what I expected from the course, my future ambitions and then she offered me the chance to ask her any questions I had. Luckily, I'd thought of a couple in advance so I was able to ask her these. We then talked about a few things I'd included in my personal statement, and I told her about this blog. I'd started writing it after I'd submitted my application and so it wasn't mentioned on my personal statement. She also talked in greater detail about how the course is run, and then it was over!

After this, I went to find my parents (who I'd left to explore the campus....) and filled them in on all the details from the chat. It was time for my English Literature one to one, so I found the room and entered. Although the environment seemed a more formal and interview-like than the previous chat, the lecturer was really friendly and this immediately put me at ease. He talked about the course for a couple of minutes, then went on to ask me questions about my personal statement. For example, I had talked about World War I poetry, and this is something I had mentioned. It turns out that he lectures in it and it was great to talk to someone who is also passionate about it. We also discussed different critical theories (such as Marxist, feminist and post-colonial interpretations) as I had also included this in my statement. There was also a student ambassador in the room, and so the three of us were able to talk about the course, and areas of literature that particularly interested us. We then talked about some of the out of college activities I had mentioned, I particular the two pilgrimages to Lourdes I have been on. I really enjoyed this, and we had a laugh talking about all the unique religious items you can find in Lourdes (e.g. glow in the dark statues of Jesus). The chat was then over and had been a lot more relaxed than I had anticipated!

"He who welcomes you welcomes me, and everyone who welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me"
(Matt. 10:40-42)

After this, I met up with my parents again and we went to the English Literature talk and taster lecture. I really enjoyed this talk, particularly the lecture element, as he talked us through three poems from different time periods and explained how the poets had been influenced by each other. It was also great to hear more details about the units we will be studying, and also the field trips that are on offer, as this is not something frequently mentioned in many English Literature talks! 

The only thing we had left to do was to sort out accommodation. One of the lovely student ambassadors took us on a tour of the halls on the main site. Although I had visited Hope twice before, the only accommodation I could remember seeing were the halls that I want to live in - the 'Harry Potter' halls as they are affectionately known. Our student ambassador was really helpful and took us around the halls and we were even able to ask other students their opinions as we went around. It was really nice for my Mum (who used to attend Hope) because she was able to go to see her old halls and even found her bedroom! After we'd looked around them all, we were able to go and book my halls for next year! I'm still finding it hard to believe that it's actually happening!

The day was really enjoyable and it was great to meet a few people who I've met through the group chat, even if I didn't see many of them! Applicant days are jam-packed and there's  a lot of information to take in, so here are a couple of tips to help you make the most of it:

1) Get there in plenty of time
If you arrive early, you have loads of time to find where you're meant to be, register, grab a drink and some food before it all gets started. My parents and I always try to get there with around half an hour to spare in case of any unexpected stops or traffic in the journey.

2) Don't worry!
As I mentioned before, I was really nervous about both my meetings with the lecturers, however, I actually ended up enjoying them! So don't be nervous - just think of it as a good opportunity to get to know your future lecturers and for them to get to know you! Also, not all universities have these meetings so there's even less to worry about!

3) Ask all the questions you might have
This is probably the last chance you'll have to visit the university before you potentially start there in the autumn and so it's really important that you get everything off your chest. Before you leave, ask yourself if there's anything else you want to know, and if you have enough information to make a good decision about where to firm. 

I hope that this has been useful for you, and I hope that you enjoy any applicant days that you have. I would really recommend you attend one because mine was really useful and I learnt so much more about the university. It has really helped me to realise that Hope is the place I want to be studying for the next three years!

Also, if you'd like to vote for me as UCAS blogger of the month I'd really appreciate it :) you can do that here!

Anna x