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STUDY ABROAD : Before you leave - Must read

How to get a first-class degree?

Achieving a first-class degree takes time, dedication, and effort. We take you through some of the approaches you can use to increase the chances of earning a degree with this designation.

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We know there’s little doubt that you have high ambitions for what you wish to achieve during your degree abroad. Academic accomplishment is personally rewarding and can also make you stand out to employers and open the doors to further study. Earning a first-class degree may seem daunting, but there are some simple steps and approaches that you can take to give yourself the best chance.


What is a first-class degree?


Before we get into how you can earn a degree with distinction, let’s take a look at what a first-class degree means. To be awarded a degree first-class, you must achieve an average of 70 per cent. Yes, that’s right, it’s the cumulative average for all the subjects you take during your degree.


If you’re unsure how the grading works, check out our guide to understanding the system. Let’s turn our attention to some of the things you can do to increase your chances of achieving a first-class designation.


Stay on top of your studies


While this may seem obvious, getting side-tracked by social life and other activities can mean you spend less time concentrating on your degree. Make sure to attend all of your lectures and seminars. This is a good way to stay on top of course content and course information, such as deadlines and assignments.


Take time to go through the course materials and recommended reading. This helps you contextualise your lectures and better understand your chosen subject. This is especially important for seminars when you will need to discuss topics and actively participate.


Another way of staying on track to earn a first-class degree is organisation. Having a handle on your timetable, assignments, examinations, and materials is very important so that you don’t miss deadlines and can balance your work effectively. If you work hard and consistently throughout the year there’s a good chance you can achieve some great results.


Stay focused on your goal of achieving top marks by using a grade calculator. It’s easier than it sounds. All you need do is input the grades you achieve alongside the grades you need for a first-class degree. That way you can measure your progress and get a handle on how much you need for specific assignments or exams.


Get more top tips on how to revise effectively for exams.


Understand how assessments and modules are graded


To get that first-class percentage you’ll need to understand how you will be graded. This does not only apply to your overall mark, but to how that percentage is calculated. This is usually made up of a combination of coursework, group work and examinations.


Each of the aforementioned categories will be assigned a certain grade weight. For example, let’s say you’re taking a semester-long programme in history. Your overall mark for the module could be something like the following:


  • Exam 50 per cent
  • Assignments and essays 30 per cent
  • Group project 20 per cent


The grade that you receive for the course will be based on this weighting. So, understanding what marks you’ll need to maintain a first-class average is made easier if you have a handle on the breakdown for the modules across your degree.


If you’ve been thinking of studying abroad we have some reasons why you should.


Take feedback on board

One of the best ways of achieving a first-class degree is to commit to continual growth and improvement. A key approach to doing this is by taking time to go over the feedback and comments you receive on your work. Professors, lecturers and tutors are there to give you constructive ways you can improve and let you know where you’re doing well.


Sometimes getting constructive criticism is hard, but it can help you focus on your goals. If you are unsure of the feedback, you have received or need clarification, making an appointment with a lecturer or tutor is a great idea. Not only will you get a better handle on the feedback you can also discuss new ideas, upcoming work, and any parts of the course you’re struggling with.


Find out more about honour’s degrees and some of the universities you could study at in the UK.


Make use of university resources 


There are many resources available at a university that can make a big difference in helping you achieve that first-class degree. We know it’s a cliché, but the library should be one of the places that you are most familiar with. It is a quiet space where you can both focus and access numerous sources from books and journals, to archived and multimedia material.


Often libraries are the first port of call for access to technology services, such as laptops and audio-visual equipment, and that all-important printer. It can also be beneficial to understand how to access the information you need with the help of a professional, for example on subject-specific databases.


Remember that universities often have academic counselling centres or offices, international officescareers services and student wellbeing services. Signing up to these and taking advantage of the expertise on offer will add to your skillset, everything from essay writing to managing your finances. You’ll get a better understanding of how the university works, study strategies you can employ and ways of managing your stress.


Don’t forget that when studying abroad you may also want to consider student medical insurance.


Look after your wellbeing


This is probably the most important thing you can do to keep you on track to earn a first-class degree. Concentrating on your academic life is very important, but don’t forget to look after yourself and enjoy the university experience. You can still achieve academically while making new friends, experiencing a new culture and participating in clubs and societies.


Make sure that you are taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing. Register with the campus clinic or a local doctor, eat as healthily as you can and take some time for stress-free activities that you enjoy. Ensure that you take regular breaks from studying so that you can keep your productivity levels up. Exhausting yourself with all-night study sessions for days on end is not a recipe for success. Remember that if at any time you are struggling reach out to your friends, family and university services to get the support you need.


While we can’t guarantee that these tips will earn you a first-class degree, they do provide a useful roadmap. If you’re interested in continuing your university research we’ve got a great take on how to compare universities and an analysis of the best universities in the UK for 2022. You can also stay in touch with international student news as it breaks.


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