Struggling with Statistics?

The statistics module is perhaps the most difficult one during the first and second years of the degree and is also perhaps one of the most important ones too as it plays a massive role in the analysis and write up of papers. Nevertheless, many students still find the module rather difficult and often get left behind during the first few classes. So what can you do to keep yourself up-date with the statistics lectures and make sure you know your stuff inside-out?

  1. Use available resources – depending on your lecturer, they may issue you some sort of homework or extra work to be done outside of the lecture. This is naturally to benefit you and allow you to grasp a better understanding of various aspects of statistics. Mathematics or calculation based work is best understood with working examples and actual practice questions. It probably isn’t too beneficial if you were to just read through how you would do certain calculations – you really need to do them over and over! Make use of the material given to you buy the lecturer!
  2. Visit seminars and extra classes – the classes held in addition to the lectures are designed to aid you with the bits and pieces some of you may find a little difficult. In such classes you are invited to ask questions and introduce problems to solve, as a class. One major advantage is that the classes are not always as occupied like the lectures, so they can be a tad more interactive. You can also expect the classes to pace themselves a lot slower than lecturers too, as the aim is to enhance understanding and not necessarily to speed through a syllabus.
  3. Use a text book you understand – if you have been looking around for books, you may notice there are many on statistics for psychology. However, it’s not advisable for you to just buy any one because you adore its cover. You really need to take a look inside and see whether it’s a book you understand, with examples you can trace through to the answer with ease. Make sure the text is written clearly with easy to understand English too. You don’t really need to keep to the book recommended by the lecturer, although it’s a good idea to take a copy out from the library and he/she will most likely reference to it.
  4. See your lecturer – this is perhaps not practiced by many students for some reason (perhaps the fear of speaking to your lecturer face-to-face!), however, it’s a very valuable resource and shouldn’t be wasted! The best way to use your lecturers’ time is to read around what you don’t understand and formulate a set of questions to ask him/her. You should also try some questions and see if you get stuck to take to your tutor for assistance.
  5. Talk with friends – probably something you’d try quite early on after attempting to consult a textbook, perhaps. Getting an explanation from your mate on how to calculate t-test is another way to tackle statistics. However, at the same time you need to make sure that what you are being told is correct, too! Study circles can also prove to be useful and you share knowledge and fill each other’s gaps in with statistical goodness.

There you are then, a couple of ways you can make sure you don’t fall too behind on your stats module. Exercise them all, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a decent examination grade at the end of the year!

Good Luck!

The Reality of Pre & Post Lecture Reading

I was always told at the beginning of the year by various members of staff that to get the most out of the course and the lectures, we as students should be reading a related chapter before the lecture and again after the lecture. By the sounds of it you may not think of it to be such a large task, or even one that would take up majority of your time. Though, it isn’t only until you consult a text book, find the right chapter, and then half an hour later discover where it ends is where you really questions the pre and post reading advice.

Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely see why lectures say this. In fact I’d probably take comfort in the fact when I can nod to the lecturer as he/she covers points that I went through the night before. I suppose it’s all down to what they mean by ‘reading’. Do they mean just skin through the 30 page chapter, or do they mean pull out your reading glasses, put the kettle on and whip out your note book kind of reading? And to be honest, I would suspect I am supposed to go with the latter.

So why is it so unrealistic?
Well, it’s most likely the fact that it would take a very, very long time. Though, the other half is also knowing you won’t complete it because you’ll lose concentration, get bored, start to skip pages and probably end up putting it off for another day. However, at least it’s good that we are being honest with ourselves. A lot of people who might have tried it probably would have experienced a similar sort of thing the second time round.

So, on top of all that, how do you intend on remembering it all too? Is it just a case of jotting down key points? Well, the other thing is that you’ll have to re-visit this every now and again. Of course, it’s not possible to remember the whole chapter, and you probably won’t have to, but to keep it fresh in your mind those key points you took down will definitely come in handy later.

Other points which contribute to the fact that it might be considered unrealistic is because depending on what year you are in at University, you will certainly have other areas of academic work to concern yourself with. You will be given coursework to complete from time to time, which you will usually spend, doing in the times you aren’t in lectures. So, again, that can throw you off your pre and post reading too.

Perhaps another important area to touch upon is that fact that you won’t just be having one lecture a day, you might be faced with a busy day of 2 or 3 lectures, and the prospect of reading 20-30 pages for each can be impossible. Even just the thought of it is enough to put most students off.

Are there any alternatives?
Naturally, if you can’t seem to handle the reading suggested, there are other ways to get yourself indulged in the principles of psychology:

  1. Learn how to note take – pulling out the key points can be more efficient then reading books without making any written notes at all. It is usually the key ideas mentioned in lectures that you should be concentrating on, as well as other which might be linked to them. Create a habit of picking out the main points after each lecture on 2 or 3 A4 pages so you can look back at them when it comes round to revise for the exams
  2. Audio and podcasts – probably an avenue not explored by many students. But you’d be surprised of how much psychology related podcasts you can find in the iTunes store which are completely free. Majority of them are recorded in lectures which usually matches the syllabus in other institutions loosely. Definitely worth a listen whilst doing the laundry.
  3. Expand on lecture slides – although it’s advised to read more than what is put onto the lecture slides, if you’re strapped for time, you could look into the lecture slides and expand on them by reading into the book on those specific key areas, so you won’t be looking into anything that wasn’t said in the lecture. Nevertheless, those are the points you should be most comfortable with over any other additional principles.

Those are probably the few of the limited number of alternatives there are for reading. They could be as efficient as reading before and after the lecture, but perhaps it depends based on individual. However, they are certainly considered to shave off the time, so you can spend whatever you have left on finishing coursework and taking care of other aspects of your degree.

Recent psychology graduate? The next stage: looking for experience

These days everyone appears to have a degree from University, so you’ve already probably been told to make yourself stand-out from the crowd. Give your employer something to recruit you for. There are even professions out there that won’t touch you if you don’t have a period of work experience, a popular one being Clinical Psychology.

There are a number of ways to get yourself busy with related work. It’s always advisable to start this in your first year of university because that’s usually where the least pressure is throughout your degree. Though, the longer you do it, the better it would be, so it’s best to keep at it all the way through.

So what opportunities are there for you to get yourself going with the work experience?

  • University Night Line – this is a support network which most universities have in-house. It’s basically a hotline as well as a drop in centre to students in stress with various aspects of life. It’s a place where you can sit down and talk to trained students regarding any issues that are on your mind. They also usually offer condoms, a place to stay overnight etc. They aren’t open 24/7 just usually throughout the night.
  • Samaritans – a popular choice amongst many psychology students. They train possible volunteers throughout an 8 week course or so how to handle calls from many different types of people. Not only is this a great experience and an insight into the many different types of people out there, but also it offers and promotions excellent listening and communications skills. They train you with industry standards and is definitely valuable and many respects. Have a look at the Samaritans >

  • Mind – Mind is an organisation which has branches scattered through the UK. It’s primarily role is to promote mental well-being amongst other aims:

Mind helps people to take control over their mental health. We do this to make it possible for people who experience mental distress to live full lives, and play their full part in society. We provide information and advice, training programmes, Mind in your area, grants and more: how can we help you?

It’s an excellent placement and again, provides valuable skills required to communicate to individuals with ill-mental health. You can learn more about their mission statements and goals

  • Department Research Assistants – in your final year you will have to do a dissertation which will be a big deal and will give you hands on experience with your own experiment. To get a head start you can begin taking a few hours every week to work with a lecturer on research they are conducting. Though, it’s probably best to this a little later through the first year as you will need some more time to get to grips with the mechanics of experiments so you have a decent understanding of how they work and how they are approached. As you complete experimental write-ups you’ll gradually get the idea of how it’s all done.

    Such placements are excellent during the summer when many students go out looking for jobs, you can spend some time learning how experiments are planned, conducted, how results are analyzed for publishable papers.

Others exist, some of which are the same as approaching charitable organisations and becoming a volunteers, but remember your degree comes before work experience, it’s what employers look at first. So make sure you can handle the extra work before signing up, and if it becomes too tough, then put it on hold until you get your degree on track.

Buying textbooks before university

There are usually a lot of questions circulating the Internet before University is supposed to start as to whether one should go ahead and buy the recommended books for their course.

One thing you’ll soon come to realise when purchasing books is that they are very expensive. They’re not the same price range as the traditional academic books you might have bought in the past. They are usually in the region of £20+ often averaging about £30-£40 easily. So immediately, if you were to purchase a book on each module you’ll be hovering over the £100 mark instantly. But the question is, do you really need to buy them? Let’s take a closer look.

Why you might want to buy your own books:

  • You don’t have to worry about meeting library deadlines
  • You can write and make notes in the book (but you might be hesitant to do this if you were to sell them on after you’re done with them)
  • You might be able to sell them and get a fraction of your money back
  • You can get the latest editions whilst your library might still be stocking the previous one
  • Additional CD’s and online material can be beneficial and is usually not available with library loans

What you’ll face without your own books:

  • Meeting the deadlines of libraries: making sure to renew them/take them back
  • No note taking on the books
  • You’ll have to spend in excess of £100+ to satisfy all your modules
  • You are unlikely to be able to benefit from online materials bundled with the books
  • You’ll have to just use what the library has to offer – no latest titles or editions.

Why you might want to prefer to use the library books:

  • A larger range of books per topic
  • No costs associated with reading
  • Most books are renewable and can be kept at longer periods of time
  • Save yourself a lot of money

So there you have it. Those are the possible points you might have been thinking about whilst considering whether or not to buy books. After all, it’s all down to you, but majority of student don’t plunge into the books in their first year because they are hardly used in their second year (depending on which books you buy, obviously). This is because your first year psychology books are just likely to be very general, so they may not accommodate your course requirements much further than the first year.

However, if you do feel a purchase will be necessary for what ever reason, I advise you sit your first few classes first, and then have a think about it. Better that, than buying it a month before hand and wanting to return it knowing it wasn’t as useful as you thought it might have been.

What to do after graduation?

I’ve never found careers advice at university very useful, in fact I don’t remember paying them a visit at all during my undergraduate degree. I didn’t feel that I should’ve taken any guidance by someone else on what direction to take after graduating.

Unfortunately, many young students often find themselves confused as to what to pursue next once completing their undergraduate studies. This often perplexes me. When a student chooses a course to study for another 3 or more years of their life, and pay through the nose for it, there must be some inclination that they may enjoy the subject and perhaps want to pursue it further. The impression that I get most days when speaking to young people still at university is that miraculously over the course of the 3 years whilst study, they all of a sudden don’t feel that the course they went for is going to give them the job they’re after (assuming they know what job that is). This isn’t always a bad thing, but I’ve found it’s quite rife.

Personally, I knew I wanted to continue to add more qualifications under my belt. Everyone has a university degree these days, and of course when applying for professional posts, you need to stand out.

I pursued a Masters a degree, like most people do. Some people are crazy enough to go for a PhD. Pursuing a Masters isn’t for everyone though, and not everyone wants to do it straight after their undergraduate course. There aren’t any loans for it, and often young people want to work first, gather some money and if they’re still interested, go and enrol onto a suitable programme.

Once the students go through the a year-long graduate course they’re often a bit more clued up (sometimes) of where to go next. This is usually because they’ve pursued further learning into something they’re genuinely interested in and they’ve felt the pinch of paying for it too (or not). Students are also better equipped to present themselves at interviews now that they have a qualification that might give them the edge.

Aside from graduate degrees and further learning, its essential for students to take the initiative and get some work experience under the belt before heading out into the work place to look for paid work. It’s very competitive. This might be working on a voluntary basis for a lab in research, for example. It looks good on the CV and shows an eager student willing to learn and move forward.

It’s my opinion that when students are in university they often lose sight of the fact that one day they’re going to graduate and they will have to decide on the route they’re going to take. By preparing early for the end of the course and heading out into the work place you’re being clever about your future and taking proper responsibility – this is what employers want to see.