Deciding to get a first

I have decided to get a first in my degree program. For those of you unfamiliar with the UK degree grades this is the equivalent to getting a 4.0 on the US scale. Why have I decided to do this?

John F. Kennedy once said “Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens to you in life.” I don’t want to settle, I want to achieve.

So far, looking back at my average grade, I’m achieving a 2:2. That’s not good enough. I know I’m capable of better (in fact, my marks in several subjects show it), but I’m letting myself be dragged down by some subjects. So, how am I going to achieve this?

Step 1 involved reading “How to become a straight A student” by Cal Newport. I’ve been reading Cal’s website for years, so when Amazon gave me a €10 a few weeks back I decided to order a copy of this and give it a chance. It’s safe to say, I was impressed. To start with the book is easy to read – so many “how to study books” are painful to get through. I read this book in less than a day, picking it up between classes and on the bus home. Secondly the advice is good. It turns out I already followed the advice in the module I scored the highest marks in last year, so I know it works. But now what works has been explained properly to me, so I know that if I keep doing it I can achieve the same results in all my subjects.

I don’t return to university until September, this means I have 4 months (and 10 days as of today) to get ready for next year, and to revise what I learnt in the 2 years before my 2 years abroad. Thankfully I can basically boil this down to “French and German”. Unfortunately I also failed Spanish in my second year and I’m required to re-take the module in September and then take the exam. However, regardless of how good the grade I achieve is, the maximum number of points I can be awarded is 40 – the pass mark. So I will revise the basics for that and then make sure I attend the classes and do all the homework.

I have the recommended grammar books for both French and German, and when I get to my parents house (where they are) in about 3 weeks time I will sit down and make a list of what I should already know and start quizzing myself. Vocabulary is just flashcards, and as I’ve been living in French and German-speaking countries I just need to practice some writing every day. I’ll probably use MacJournal on my laptop to write short diary entries in French and German every day (though maybe I’ll post them on WordPress so people can correct them if they choose).

To achieve a first I need to achieve a minimum average grade of 70, (69 is a 2:1), however I only need the 70 in 100 out of 120 credits. My dissertation (which I’m working on right now) is worth 40 credits, and then French, German, Communication Theory and Interpreting are worth 20 credits each. So even if I don’t do well in one module, I can make it up with the others. I’ve already checked out what exams, coursework and speaking exams I have for which subject so now I just need to work for it.

And this post has ended up much longer than originally intended, but now you can keep track of me! If you have any advice then please feel free to share.