Masters Insights: January 2016 – ‘Tips to cope with your coursework and final exams’

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January is a strange month. Christmas is just over, but memories of Manchester’s lovely Christmas markets are so vivid and the air still smells of aromatic mulled wine. I would really invite everyone to visit Manchester during Christmas time, because it’s simply magical! It’s a great time to chill out before one of the most challenging periods in your whole Masters experience – the exam period in January.

As many of you might already know, in the UK two months sound particularly scary to students: January and May! These are the core examination periods and they are pretty challenging. However, I would like to share with you some tips on how to take the most of your coursework and exams. These are few suggestions not only based on my personal experience, but also shared by the majority of my brilliant classmates.

Prepare in advance
I would say this is the main thing for succeeding in your studies. Although the exams’ period may look very far away in October, in reality it is not! Coursework is intensive and days will seem to fly by. Being able to spend a few hours per day catching up with your notes and key readings will constitute a great advantage in the end.

Manage your time wisely
The MSc in Business Analytics gives you the possibility to practice your time management skills and the ability to work under pressure, which are invaluable skills in the job market. When you write those skills on your CV, you can really say to have tested them!

Several assignments will be due during the year. Sometimes, they have close deadlines and it is in these situations that you can assess your planning and time management skills. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will be able to complete a good project or a report in just one or two days, although students like to whisper stories about those who have managed it! Therefore, it is vital that you agree a good plan with your classmates and for you individual coursework so that you’ll be able to finish in time without stressing too much. This is also very important during your exams in January, as they are spread over only two weeks’ time.

Being effective in managing time will also help you to go through the most intensive job experiences!

Do you need help? Just ask!
If you have never written an essay before, or only have a vague idea on how to write a managerial report, or do not feel very comfortable with academic English writing, do not despair! The University of Manchester offers a number of occasions to boost your coursework skills. For instance, every day the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons (favourite place of the students) organises a session on academic writing. Also in the Main Library, several courses are held on developing special skills, effective essay writing or even dealing with complex financial databases. The Language Centre also runs courses focused on academic writing, public speaking, language skills and so forth. Do not forget that there is also a personal tutor (often a Professor from your course), who can provide a specific support in line with the particular Masters requirements. 

Rely on your groupmates
Group work is one of the assessment methods that you will encounter during your studies. Group projects are ambitious and will often require you to conduct and extensive research and data analysis. That’s why they are often assigned to a group of people. In these cases, unity is really strength! Groupmates are an incredible source for speeding up the time spent in research, analysis and writing. Group activities are also an invaluable occasion to ask your peers about some unclear topics and share your opinions and concerns. Group working is also a good time to test your leadership skills and to show the ability to cooperate with others. These skills will be extremely useful in you your working life. 

Practice, practice, practice!
Studying your subjects in advance is a good strategy and can really lighten your efforts during the exam period. However, it might not be enough. Particularly, exam conditions can be stressful and it is very important to prepare accurately for them in order to maximise your performance. By definition, exams involve some degree of uncertainty about the topic. Therefore, it constitutes a great advantage to train yourself with a good amount of exercises and past exam papers. The more you practice, the less unexpected topics there will be to deal with in the exam. I would say that practising really makes the difference in your final performance. 

Do not forget to relax
Exams are just part of human life and some say that exams never end! Therefore, try to take a positive and dynamic attitude towards your coursework and exams. It is very important that you never forget to save time for yourself: take a seat, a cup of a tea and share a slice of cake with your friends. Chat about your new shoes or the amazing last soccer match in Manchester. I ensure you that everything will seem much better!!

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