Guidance Page

This page of guidance on studying, exams, etc. could be worth more CAS points to you as a student (CAS points are assessment grades at the University of Aberdeen) than any other page you're likely to access on the web. Bookmark it for future reference. It's been written for our physics students but applies pretty widely. Don't read all the sections at once, otherwise indigestion will result. Dip into it, as needed. Do read the relevant sections a couple of times each academic year to confirm that you're on-track with your habits. Start with the section on a guide to studying.

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There's an old adage that the most experienced people are those who have made the most mistakes. Maybe so, but the most experienced may not have got the degrees they should have done nor found the jobs they really wanted. This page is here so that you don't have to re-make mistakes that have cost some of your predecessors dearly.

General advice

The first piece of advice is that no advice works on every occasion. Interpret what we say here in the context of each particular piece of coursework. Do begin by reading our guide to studying.

Secondly, these pages are not a complete set of guidelines to guarantee you the best degree you can get, but merely some good advice. You will learn other do's and don'ts from your own experience and from instruction given out in various of our courses. We'll expand the content of these pages in response to request and useful input, but we don't want to swamp you. My disclaimer is that much of the guidance on these pages is based on personal experience and observation. It is not official Department of Physics policy. When you get advice delivered in particular courses about work for those courses, listen to that advice as a matter of priority.

Finally, here, for local students the University offers the help of the Student Learning Service, which provides "a route to successful study" including personal advice sessions, workshops and access to academic skills advisers.

Knowledge is experience

Knowledge isn’t a set of definitions, descriptions, arguments and explanations, theorems and proofs printed in textbooks or even found on the internet; it isn’t a set of instructions handed down in religious texts, though of course all these things may contribute.  The exam system tends to encourage the idea that being able to regurgitate the facts is what University is about.  It’s not.  A machine that regurgitated all the facts dished out in lectures wouldn’t really be worth a University degree and in fact wouldn’t really be very employable.  Knowledge is information gathered by human endeavour and processed by yourself.  Yes, when you leave university you’ll have a lot of facts at your fingertips but hopefully all our graduates will be experienced and skilful at thinking for themselves, be able to make informed judgments in complex circumstances, will know how to search for additional information and process that information validly and effectively when the search bears fruit.  Your degree should not be an extended lesson in how to repeat information that your predecessors have found out or simply been told themselves by their predecessors.  My point is just that during a degree course you are expected to engage your brain, think for yourself, judge what you are being told with the expanding set of tools and knowledge you’re acquiring.  A degree programme is an active endeavour.  It’s not a rote learning exercise.

Employability guidance

What would you like to do when you graduate? You should ask yourself this question well before the graduation ceremony! Employers like work-ready graduates. Being work-ready implies that you have a package of skills that will get you the kind of job you want. So what skills have you got? Almost certainly quite a lot but what evidence have you got in terms of experience inside your course and outside your course that you've developed these skills? Maybe you can see where this is going. Employers are more professional these days in assessing the capablities of job applicants and a big plank in their method is to ask for evidence. Whatever you might want to do, you need to think about it well before graduating and get yourself pointing in the right direction and making some useful progress. Remember that with an Hons Physics degree you should be aiming for the professional job market, not necessarily in Physics but certainly a market where there will be competition for good jobs. As you'll no doubt have seen, physics staff are very much aware of this, which is why we've put a lot of emphasis on transferrable skills in the whole physics programme.

TheHigher Education Academy have range of resources for students. Try putting the word 'physics' into their search box.

The Physicists' professional body, the IoP, have valuable web pages on career guidance that are well worth reading.