In January of this year, the second semester of my first year studying Mathematics at UEA began. This semester brought all new content and was definitely a lot harder in some instances, but a bit easier in others, than first semester. I guess it’s a personal thing. This post follows on from The First Semester, so make sure you’ve read that first!
In mid-January, I returned back to my accommodation in UEA’s Colman House. With all the hype surrounding freshers and everything being new dissipated, I’d found myself retreating a bit into my own private bubble, distancing from the people I lived with a little. Not because I didn’t get along with them, I loved them, I just felt a little anxious and that’s just how I dealt with that. I did get to feeling quite lonely and sad often which was not great at all, but I was more than able to deal with it with the company of my friends every day, and the help of my amazing girlfriend who I was lucky enough to be able to see every weekend and sometimes during the week too. This really helped.
Regarding academia, the content of the course definitely became more advanced. With the introduction of things like multivariable calculus, things began to become a lot more challenging, but also more enjoyable and interesting. Much of the content in first semester was just A Level content with a bit more depth added to it or taken a step further than we’d previously known, but this semester’s content was all brand new, so required a lot harder work.
The months actually flew by with fewer coursework deadlines than before, and soon enough it came to Easter. At this stage, it was a matter of weeks before exams began, which meant it was time to start revising.
If you know me, you probably know that revision is just not something I’m good at. With both GCSEs and A Levels, last minute revision and putting myself under A LOT of pressure was a running theme. This year, I didn’t want that to happen again, so I set a plan for revision. Of course, I didn’t stick to it and I had a lovely, relaxed Easter break.
On the approach to exams actually starting though, I did get serious about revision and managed to find my way of revising well: typing notes in a concise form based on the typed lecture notes, and repeatedly answering past papers. The exams don’t vary much from year to year on my course, so once you’ve done a few question 1’s, you can do any question 1 (and so on for all 6 questions), so the past paper method of revising really is useful.
I did struggle with revision for the calculus module in particular as it was a huge module, with double the weighting of the others, so it had twice the content. Not only this, but it was the module I found hardest and much of the second semester content I never fully understood, so I made the decision to cut out a lot of second semester stuff from my revision to focus on the first semester stuff which I actually understood. While this definitely isn’t the best way to go about it, it worked as a last resort revision method and I actually felt a lot of benefit from this.
During my three-week exam period, I mainly only revised for the next-up exam after completion of each as I work a lot better with only one focus at a time, and this worked great. As per usual, I did stress myself out and I did commit myself to revising at every spare moment, but it worked, and I felt confident going into and coming out of every exam.
At the beginning of the year, I made a spreadsheet to calculate provisional marks and my prediction of grades based on my coursework marks and how I thought I’d done in exams. That’s a slight lie actually. I created the spreadsheet to calculate what I’d need to get in the exams to pass the year, because I was bricking it about exams. Coursework was hard at the time and I worried that exams would be that hard too, so the spreadsheet was to calculate the bare minimum I could get in the exams to pass. Let me tell you, knowing you could pass the year by not even answering 97% of a paper is a real confidence boost (probably not the right motivation albeit).
Based on estimations of how I thought I’d done in the exams, I thought I’d be in for a high 2:1 (around 67%) which I felt over the moon with, especially since on the run up to exam season I’d been counting on a best case scenario of a 2:2 due to lack of motivation to revise, etc. A few weeks later though, results came in and took me by surprise. I’d done it. I’d achieved a first in my first year. Through all the struggle, worry and anxiety, I’d done it. I felt so proud of myself and I still am proud of that achievement.
At times in my first year, although I didn’t speak about it much, I felt low and I sometimes doubted the possibility that I’d even pass the year. To come out of it with a first, averaging 75.69% across all coursework and exams, I felt over the moon, and it told me that no matter how I feel or how much I can doubt myself, I can do it. I did do it.
I’m now a few weeks into second year, where I’m a Course Rep on the Student-Staff-Liaison-Committee, the publicity officer for UEA MathSoc and I’ve also just transferred onto the four-year integrated masters course, adding an extra year onto my studies! I’m living at home this year, commuting in every day, and I’d like to talk about this in a future post, so look out for that!