Assessment Do’s and Don’ts!

Here are some top tips from students on preparing for assessments.  Let us know if you have more to add! Student-comms@bristol.ac.uk 

 

DO 

Get enough sleep.  Yes, we know you’ve heard this before, but we can’t say it enough.     
Sleep is your best friend when it comes to performing well. 
(Read the Sleep Foundation’s Guide to Getting Sleep During Exams.)

 

 

DON’T 

Forget to eat and drink.  You brain needs energy as much as your body does.   
See what the BBC recommends for breakfast on the day of your assessment.

 

DO 

Ask your friends and classmates what they are working on and how they are preparing.  
You will probably feel reassured – or realise anything you may have missed.
 

DON’T 

Try to pretend you’re feeling ok if you’re not.  Talk to someone.  
A friend, a mentor, or JustAsk.  You are not alone.
 

 

 

 

 

 

DO 

Give yourself breaks.  You are better off clearing your head and planning your revision in manageable chunks of time than trying to keep going for hours and hours and hours… 

DON’T 

Put off taking your assessment.  It may seem tempting to give yourself more time but in reality you are just prolonging a stressful situation.   The resit period in August is a safety net if things go wrong the first time round.  Don’t rely on that as your one chance to progress.  

DO 

Familiarise yourself with the format of your assessments.  For in person exams you can look at past papers, and for a lot of online assessments you will have a practice test in the Assessment, Submission and Feedback area of your unit on Blackboard

DON’T 

Forget that there is more to life than assessments!  Not everyone has the same idea about what “success” means and getting good grades is only a tiny part of that picture. 

 

Assessment tips from someone who knows…

It’s Week 23 and you are probably either buried in revision or planning your summer break.  Student Comms Officer Roz caught up with Dom who is in his fourth and final year of a Masters in Mechanical Engineering to ask him how he’s feeling about coming to the end of his course, and what assessments have meant for him.

So Dom, you’re working on your final dissertation which for you is a group industrial project.  Is that right? 

Yes, we’re doing a design and build, and building a product is always notoriously tight for time for engineers.  But it is coming along nicely.

Do you find it easier to meet deadlines when working in a group? 

Working in a group always comes with its challenges. You lose efficiency when you’re working in a team because there’s so much more to coordinate and so much more ground to cover. It can be hard to get the ball rolling, but the more you practice the better they tend to go.  By the time you’re in fourth year, group projects are going a lot more smoothly than they were in first year and that’s kind of the point of having them in first year because it’s a skill you have to learn as an engineer. 

If you’re managing deadlines just for yourself, do you have any tricks up your sleeve or tactics you rely on? 

A technique I use is creating your own calendar and then filling in all the time that you can’t be working, assigning time that you can be, and then dividing up the workload. You end up with this big A3 wall calendar with all the time divvied up how you need it, which is useful when you have, for example, five quite substantial exams.  It really helps to make sure that nothing’s being neglected. 

What’s been the main challenge of online exams? 

The biggest issue is time management as it appears you are set five hours’ worth of questions to do in three, and it’s simply not possible.  You also don’t have access to the years and years’ worth of previous papers so you’ll be going into online exams with less resources to prepare from than in person. 

And how did your experience of in person exams compare to the online assessments? 

So in person you would have a lot more “prove this, show this, derive this” questions that you could only really answer if you’d rote learn that technique.  Obviously, being open book and online, that’s no longer a thing that can be asked because you can just look up the solution. So it’s shifted away from those rote learn questions and more towards things that you’d have to actively think about a bit more, which is good, the way it probably should be. 

Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known as a first year and might have done differently? 

OK, so I would say problem sheets and past papers is definitely the way to go because it’s very easy to find that you understand the topic, you’ve gone through all the lecture content, you’ve read the notes, and you’re like, I’m happy with this and then can’t answer a single question on it!  That’s a very common thing that can happen. You understand all the theory, but to actually get an answer and apply it is an entirely different level that needs to be practised through the problem sheets and past papers.  

When it came to online assessments, did you ever use a Blackboard practice area? 

Yeah, absolutely.  You want to know what the setup of the paper is and what’s expected of you before you go in.  It was good to have access and be like, oh, I’ve got ten of these questions, four of these ones, six of those, and two of the big ones at the end.  

Are there any other resources that you’ve used, for example exam stress workshops

I don’t think so. I think the only thing over the four years that I had used might have been some general study skills workshops in first year, but nothing exam specific.  

Do you find you get stressed about exams or are you quite relaxed? 

Obviously they’re stressful for anyone, but I think I’m a lot more relaxed than most.  I find it’s important to remember that if you’re getting yourself stressed out about it, you’re only going to make it harder to actually remember things in the exam. If you can just take a breath and relax it’s only going to help.  So long as you’re preparing for a good time beforehand and you know your stuff sometimes it’s good just to take a break just before going in and make sure you’re calm and relaxed. 

And how do you personally relax if you need to step away from your work? 

It would be just do something that’s not uni related, get a drink, go do something else, just not think about engineering for a little bit.

I know you’ve had Alternative Exam Arrangements and I just wanted to ask whether it was easy to arrange additional support and were you well informed about how it was going to be set up? 

So I’m dyslexic and after the age of 18 you need your adult diagnostic assessment. You need to get your psychologist report and then arrange an appointment with Disability Services who are fantastic. They’re really, really helpful. They’ll explain everything to you very clearly. They take you through your report and what arrangements can be made within your particular school.   

This can be a huge variety of things, like what extra time would be appropriate for you, what working method would be appropriate for you, if you’re in person, would you still be allowed to use a PC to do your exam?  It can also be making sure you’re in low distraction exam rooms, or making sure the exam room is near bathroom facilities or a whole range of different things that they can run through with you and see what can be altered to make it more supportive for students that need that extra support. 

And lastly, how do you plan to celebrate when it’s all over? 

Oh blimey.  After four years – two years in person, two years online – it feels strange to be coming to the end. I genuinely don’t know and I’ve just been so busy with the project work and also trying to think ahead.  For a

 lot of people that’s applying for work, but for me I think it’s going to be looking for a PhD.  I haven’t really thought about it too much yet. I will probably get to the stage I’ll just need to crash out and do nothing for a while. A holiday would be well needed by that point, I suspect!  But equally it will be good to celebrate with friends after four very, very tough years of both the course and COVID. 

I hope a well deserved break is on the horizon. 

Definitely.  I think that’s what the plan will be – chill out!     

 

Don’t forget that you can access a range of study skills and support to help with your assesssments. Good luck!

 

Happy 2022 & Welcome back!

Welcome back! We hope you had a refreshing and enjoyable break over the winter holidays. We’d also like to wish a very warm welcome to the new international students joining us this term – we’re delighted to welcome you to our University and amazing city, and hope you will enjoy your time here.

Keeping yourself safe

With increasing cases of Omicron COVID-19, we need to do all we can to keep ourselves and others safe. We encourage you to make sure your vaccinations are up to date as it’s the best way to keep yourself protected. Please also make sure you take a lateral flow test before returning to campus, and then continue to test twice a week, every week. You can access lateral flow tests via the NHS website and from Estates Assistant Lodges in University buildings. Don’t forget to record your results on the NHS website too.

You may have already heard that the UK Government has recently changed the rules around testing for COVID-19. Under the new rules, which take effect from next Tuesday 11 January, people without symptoms can start their isolation from the day of their positive lateral flow test and will not need a follow-up PCR to confirm.

The aim is to prevent prolonging isolation for people who may have been waiting for a confirmatory PCR result. You can read more about the isolation guidance on the government website.

Please remember to wear face coverings when inside all University buildings, including in teaching spaces, when walking around corridors, and if you have any in-person exams. Be aware that staff may remove their face covering when delivering teaching.

Assessment arrangements

For our returning students coming back to assessments, we wish you the very best of luck.  Please take a few minutes to read through our assessment support page and familiarise yourselves with relevant details about the exams and remember we have a range of study resources to help you. The SU has put some top tips together about looking after your wellbeing during assessments and you can also make use of our online wellbeing resources.

If you need medical support

We know that our hospitals are currently under a lot of pressure.
If you feel unwell and are not sure where you should go you could:

  • phone 111 for advice
  • visit your local pharmacy
  • make an appointment with your GP (local doctor).

If you have an injury and think you may need medical attention, but it doesn’t seem urgent, you might find going to a local Minor Injury Unit more helpful than going to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department at the local hospital.

You should only phone 999 or attend the local A&E department in an emergency when you need urgent medical care that can’t wait.

For new international students, please visit our Students Health Service web pages for advice about registering with a GP (local doctor) and lots of useful information about looking after your health and where to go for help when you need it.

Things to do

If you are new to Bristol, there’s lots going on to help you settle in including Bristol Student Union’s  Refreshers events programme. Make sure you also visit the Welcome Lounge run by our friendly Global Lounge Team where you can meet other students as well as get advice and support to help you get started.  We also produce a regular newsletter for international students, so watch out for it in your University email account. You’ll find useful information to help you get used to the uni at our Student Services website.

If you’re planning a night out, it’s important to look out for one another as unfortunately, further incidences of spiking were reported before Christmas. Remember to follow the Bristol Rules to have fun and keep safe. Read the SU’s blog post about safety at night and find out what your elected officers are doing to support safer nights out.

We’d also like to remind you that you can now access your teaching timetable and loads of other useful information through the University of Bristol app. You can download it from the app stores, or update to the latest version if you have downloaded it previously.

Things to look forward to this term include:

  • Source cafés across campus offering tasty plant-based meals and snacks for ‘Veganuary’
  • Refreshers events programme  — 21 to 30 January
  • Time to Talk Day – 3 February. We’ll be planning some activity on starting conversations about positive mental health.
  • SU elections – nominations open between 1 to 23 February. Your chance to elect union officers, course and faculty representatives, network chairs and more.
  • 5K run at Coombe Dingle — 20 March
  • Climate Action Day — 29 April. Keep an eye on the SU website for further details.

We hope you have a happy and healthy spring term.

Welcome to the University of Bristol  

 A welcome message from Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience Professor Sarah Purdy  and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education Professor Tansy Jessop

We hope that you’re all settling in well and enjoying your time in our wonderful city – whether you’re a new student or returning to Bristol. As your studies have begun, we wanted to check in and remind you of a few things to help you get the most out of your time here.

During your time with us, we highly recommend that you explore Bristol, including the different areas beyond Clifton and the central campus. Bristol has so much to offer – diverse food, art, music, as well as museums, parks and waterways. Make sure you visit the newly refurbished Senate House, including brand new bar, The Beckford, and the Bristol SU Loft, which are great places to relax, unwind and connect with other students. While you’re on campus, check out the brand-new meningitis research mural near the Biomedical Sciences Building which aims to motivate and inspire the public to join the fight against meningitis and remember to familiarise yourself with the symptoms.

We all know life can be challenging at times, so we offer a comprehensive range of wellbeing services and support if you need it, including self-help resources and access to specialist services where you can speak to staff. We’ve also put together a study support package to help you develop excellent online and in-person learning techniques. We also encourage you to actively use available teaching rooms on campus, which can also be found on this web page – see the ‘Find a live learning space’ button.

To keep our community safe, we ask you to wear a face covering when inside all campus buildings, including teaching spaces, unless you are exempt. This includes walking around corridors and generally moving around inside buildings. Find out more about how to keep safe on campus.

We also want everyone to have a fun and safe time when out and about in Bristol. So, make sure you look after each other on nights out. Check in with your friends and let them know where you’re going, plan how you’re getting home and keep an eye on your drink. Read our blog post for some useful resources to help make your night out safe .

We hope you enjoyed Welcome Week and finding out about the University and Students’ Union. Please take a few moments to fill in the SU Welcome Survey and share your feedback on Welcome Week, so we can continue to improve our welcome activities!

We hope you have an amazing term with us – we’re really looking forward to seeing everyone on campus this year and to enjoying University life together!

Best wishes,
Sarah and Tansy

Professor Sarah Purdy             Professor Tansy Jessop
Pro Vice-Chancellor                  Pro Vice-Chancellor
Student Experience                  Education

 

Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow Q&A

“The opportunity to have a professional writer review my work was incredibly helpful. The advice helped me achieve the highest cluster of marks I’ve received during my time at university; I wished I’d known about it sooner!”

 

1. What is a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow? Tell me a little about your role. 

A Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow is a professional writer who, through individual coaching, works with Higher Education students to improve their writing. Occasionally we work with staff too, and we can cover many different types of writing, not just academic essays – but essentially my role is to help students on a one-to-one basis with their written submissions. As well as making practical suggestions, try to share some general tips or approaches that the students themselves can adopt in the future. It’s not proofreading but an attempt to work through the particular writing issues faced by an individual student. 

There are four Fellows at Bristol and I started in October, working two days a week (the rest of the time I’m writing!). I’m really enjoying it and though mtime as a Fellow concludes in May, will be back at the start of the next academic year – by which point, I’m hoping the world might look a little more normal… 

You can see an RLF Writing Fellow by going to bristol.ac.uk/bristol-futures/royal-literary-fellows/ and sending one of us an email. We’ll then reply with a link that allows you to book your first session at a time when it’s convenient for you. 

2. Why were these roles created? 

I think there was a feeling that students might sometimes value additional help with their written work, and that the one thing professional writers know a bit about is writing! The idea was that authors could be placed on campuses throughout the UK to provide some additional one-on-one tuition. They’re independent of the host university, and not all Writing Fellows are academics – I happen to have a Masters and have lectured at another university, but I very rarely have specialised insight into my students’ subject areas. However, I’ve been writing professionally for almost thirty years, so I hope I know a little about planning, structure and, most importantly, the nitty-gritty of clear written English. 

3. How do you work with students? What sort of issues can they seek help on? 

Sometimes a student will come to me who’s been seeing the same criticism repeated in their essay feedback and we’ll talk about how they might be able to improve in that area. Sometimes they’re already doing well but they want to see if they can find a way of nudging their marks up a little. Or perhaps they feel they’re struggling quite badly – what is an essay anyway, and what is academic writing?!? I hope I’m sympathetic on that point: I was never formally taught to write essays at school or polytechnic (perhaps I should explain: a long time ago, there were things called polytechnics that functioned alongside universities…). 

The Study Skills department is the first port of call if a student’s major issue revolves around dyslexia or English as a Second Language. But generally, if someone has a concern with their writing while at university, or thinks they’re capable of better marks and that somehow their written work is letting them down, then hopefully that’s where myself or one of the other Fellows can help. It’s free, it’s confidential and, as Bob Hoskins used to say in adverts for BT, it’s good to talk.

4. Do you have to be an English Literature student/undergraduate etc? Who can access the service? 

We’re here for everyone! I’ve actually spoken to very few English Literature students so far, but I have seen people studying Criminology, Anthropology, Public Health, Psychology, Economics, History, you name it. I’ve even seen someone studying Medicine which, because my wife is a GP, was great fun. I’ve spoken to almost as many people who are working towards their Masters or PhDs as I have undergraduates, so I think the scheme casts the net pretty wide. In fact, the only work we’re not allowed to take a look at is Creative Writing, which I completely understand, but does feel a bit odd, as that’s what I used to lecture in.

5. Can students still access this support virtually? 

AbsolutelyIn pre-pandemic times, students would see us in person, but for obvious reasons, everything is done online at the momentIt’s a shame I’m not on campus – I was due to be based at Beacon House – and I’m sure I’m as tired of video technology as anyone, but the students I’ve met have been very understanding. 

We use platform called Whereby, which is a bit like Zoom, but it’s more secure and (I think) easier to use. And I’ve had very few technical issues so far. It can never fully replace meeting students in person, but I suppose it can have its advantages, especially as we get more and more used to doing these things from the comfort of our homes. I don’t live in Bristol, so at least it means my commute to work is short 

6. Whats your top writing tip for students? 

Writing is editing. It really is as simple as that. Of course, research is vital, and of course you have to get the first draft done. But that’s the start of the process, not the end. I’ve tried to take this view when I’ve written novels or soap opera scripts, and it’s advice I followed when I worked on my Masters. I’m not saying all writing problems disappear if you give yourself enough time to revise and polish your work, but it’ll certainly help. 

7. Whats your favourite part of the writing process? 

Finishing! Partly because I know how important editing is, as I just said, and partly because I do find writing that first draft quite difficult. That’s not to say I dislike writing – it’s the only ‘job’ I’ve ever wanted  and of course there are occasional moments of sublime bliss when the words just seem to fall out of you. But I like having written. It’s as if you’ve been carving a block of marble and finally you see the shape you used only to have in your mind. It’s not finished, but at least you have something that looks a bit like a person, or a horse, or a hedgehog. It’s where the real fun starts, I think. 

8. Tell us something your students might be surprised to learn about you (e.g. a fun/unusual fact if you have one 🙂 ) 

It might not be a big surprise, as it’s part of my full RLF bio, but I have a black belt in kickboxing. I’ve been attending classes twice a week for over a decade. Outside of the ring, and possibly even in it, I’m about as threatening as a rice pudding, but I like messing around with the archetype of the middle-aged glasses-wearing nerd who hates sport! Also, you meet a bunch of fascinating people who generally don’t waste time worrying about split infinitives and possessive apostrophes… 

Help the university make real change

Flo Ingram, chair of the Education Network, writes about the importance of using your student voice.

What works and what doesn’t?

Making degrees better would be far more difficult without feedback from other students. Without feedback, there is little way to inform the staff who build your programmes, individual units and assessments what works well and what just doesn’t. This is why the National Student Survey (NSS) is so important.

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Reflections as a black medical student

by Adewale Kukoyi

Reflections

During lockdown, I’ve had ample time to reflect.

To reflect on my first year at University, all the positives and negatives, the pedantic learning techniques I used and my overall perspective on Medicine. However, more profoundly, I’ve reflected on my own position, and the value I can potentially share with others from my community or background who may believe where I am is unachievable for them.

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Find your Support

Hi everyone! Khadija here, chair of the BME network, elected by BME students to represent BME students at a university and SU level.

Many students struggle with finding support, and in my role, I particularly find this as an issue for BME students, who often find it difficult to see how to access the university’s services. As such, I’ve become familiar with what is available, and have had some great discussions with the staff behind them already to incorporate the needs of all students, including those from racial and ethnic minorities! How to Find your Support:

1. Student Wellbeing Service

This is your first port of call if you’re struggling, and includes a range of services, from:

Student Wellbeing Advisors, who can help direct you to where you need to go.

TalkCampus app, giving you online peer-support any time of day and night.

– Self-help resources, including the FIKA Covid-19 support app, which is designed to help you learn practical mental and emotional fitness approaches which you can apply to your everyday life.

The Student Counselling Service, including a specific BAME Counselling service run by NILAARI, which the BME Network supported being expanded into the university last year.

– The uni are working with Bristol Drugs Project too and ‘The Drop’ harm reduction service. If you’re thinking about trying drugs or if drug use has become a problem, reach out via email thedrop@bdp.org.uk find them on Instagram above or call 0117 987 6000.

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Digital learning resources available for you!

Although this is a difficult time for everyone, we are here to ease the transition to online learning and provide you with all the technical support and advice you need.   

There are plenty of useful online resources available to you.  

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Lydia’s MSc shaped her career path

‘I initially chose the MSc at Bristol as I wanted practical training in wildlife health and this course stood out to me. During my Masters however, I discovered that I really enjoyed the research side. I want to be part of the answer and provide useful research to inform wildlife conservation management on a larger scale.

I’ve just started a PhD at the University of Southampton where I’m researching hunting patterns in Belize. I managed to publish my thesis, supported by my excellent supervisor, which has really helped me to stand out from the crowd and secure this next opportunity.

My MSc has shaped my career path and I’m proud that my research will make a difference on an international scale.’

Lydia Katsis, MSc Global Wildlife Health and Conservation

Read about Lydia’s research in Kenya and how this is informing conservation strategy.