In my end is my beginning
A final reflexive analysis ;) on DD307 and the exam I took 5 months ago! Overall I got a Pass 2 made up of 65% (Pass 3) OES and 85% (Pass 1) OCAS. I think that was about fair, although I thought I was worth a Pass 2 on the exam. If I could give my previous self one piece of advice based on DD307 it would be spread your effort evenly throughout the module. I can trace most of my problems back not following that high level strategy on DD307. This is more easily said than done and I now see my exam result as the final domino in an effect caused by not heeding this advice. For example, I was mindful of the diminishing returns of polishing some exam answers at the expense of attempting all the questions. However, despite being pretty confident and comfortable with the questions I chose, I still ran out of time on the final question and ended up having to write in note form. I guess this didn’t work for the examiner as my best two answers were Pass 2 and my third a fail. I’m certain that I knew about as much for each answer and that it was the timing that let me down. With a little more exam technique practice I don’t think I would have made this mistake.
The main imbalance in my resource allocation was a failure to create good revision notes during the module. This was the factor that didn’t allow me to devote most revision time to answering exam questions. Part of the problem was that it was simply too large a task that close to the exam. Also, I think you need to spread this task out so you have done enough processing on each topic for the connections between them to emerge as you go. My reason for not having produced good notes was that right up to the revision period I hadn’t concluded what ‘good’ meant for me. Working this out involved much trial and error that I should have made early in the module (or at level 2 if I’m honest). What ended up working for me was a sketchnote summary of the extensive, elaborate processing I’d put into revising each topic. The big problem was it took about 80% of my revision to finalise my approach which ended about a week before the exam. Still, it might pay back on DD303!
Here are some (edited) notes I made about a week before the exam. On reading them back they clearly reflect many of the points made above. Mostly for my benefit but may be of limited use if you’re doing DD307 revision.
Throughout my revision I’ve been reminded that everything takes longer than I estimate and I have to adjust my plan accordingly. The final phase is proving to be no exception. I’m recalling how before recent exams I invariably think, “If I had one more week I’d be ready.” I don’t, so I’m now getting into the guerilla tactics.
Start early to come up with personal abbreviation style, note style etc. (e.g. know how to make effective use of bullets, tables etc. in your word processor). These will pay back over and over as you will reuse them on each module.
Final topic notes
On day one my plan was to spend a couple of hours condensing my revision notes for ‘attitudes’ into a format that I could use to do 3 or 4 essay plans for exam questions and practice writing one full answer from a plan. After 5 hours I had turned my notes from 2 weeks ago into 4 pages of concise points! This was the very first topic I studied and my notes were a bit messy but it was still way too long if I’m going to cover all my revision topics. Positives were that I saw how I could pull some points into a customised version of Table 3.1 (from Book 1) which was useful for all answers.
Notes for “Group Processes + Crowds” took 5 hrs and it took me 2 more versions before I had a working set of notes! The first of these used full sentences (labour intensive), the second was summarised at a more useful level (based on feedback from my tutor and her tutorial notes). I was very short of time at that stage but my notes were gaining an air of quality. When they’re ‘right’ they’re like a page of primes ready to trigger recall of the details from your thinking! Again, moving content around (e.g. to put criticism inline with research and refer back to question) helped with this (and triggered further thoughts and ideas).
My first recall test consisted of looking over these notes a few times and seeing what I could recall in 45 minutes. With the apprehension of finding out what I really knew I sat for (literally) half an hour of looking at a blank page before I could put my notes aside and start writing! It was a mildly unpleasant experience probably because it was starting to simulate exam conditions. It was also a very good use of time.
Recall is active learning! I recalled all of my main points and more than I thought but the processes was far too slow (I only have 10 minutes, not 45 to do this). I need better notes for quicker recall for time limited plans. Second time (‘group processes’)
- It was hard work. I remember it feeling like that from the last exam I did.
- When writing essay plans I just put ? where I couldn’t quite remember something. When reviewing my recall I added the bits I’d missed or on which I was unclear in a different colour so I could check my notes on them.
- I spontaneously did lots of abbreviating which made me realise it’s worth planning some of these in advance. e.g. B. = Behaviour.
- Finalise a layout that will make formulating an argument easiest. Layout took 2 sides of A4 which I’ll allow for in answer books. This became clear as I was writing. I naturally did 2 columns for perspectives which was different to the way my notes were laid out. I thought about this more at the end and it gave me an idea for reorganising my notes. I think this will condense them further (possibly onto 1 A4 if I shrink the text) and should help with format for final notes on other topics.
- Studies: Cue to fill out WWWMFI
- Remember number of key terms and try recall them all. Underlined them using the same colour as my revision notes.
- Random integrative tasks. Re-reading about power relations then going for a 15 minute walk led to a very different kind of integrative thinking. For example, how to organise themes within content.
- There was value in writing out the interrogative themes in my own words (hard work 1 hour) then confirming and double checking re-watching the video (more relaxing 20 mins). I did this before final essay plan notes but should have done it 9 months ago!
- Tasks give you a focus (effective use of time e.g. turning table into final exam notes) can be assigned and ordered! Like (duh) answering exam questions.
- Converting notes to a format suitable for an essay plan gives you a target.
- Turning a table into real sentences is active, it checks for lack of understanding in your notes and it also checks the right level of detail by ensuring your final page is within what you can write in 40 minutes or so.
- There’s a flavour (and an anti-flavour) to active tasks that you can use to detect good study. It hurts a bit!
- Last minute essay plans had a similar ‘focussed’ feeling that I had when I had to do TMA-in-a-day. A frame of mind where I could quickly and ruthlessly hack out the ideas/words I was attached to!
- 2 days before the exam (i.e. too late) I found myself able to pull points (and sentences) from different topics to make arguments.