How to get a first-class degree? Five top tips

In a competitive job market leaving University with a first-class degree will immediately put you ahead of the competition, but it’s not easy.

Only around 10-20% of those in any course will earn top marks, and for tougher degrees that percentage gets even lower.

If you want a first you’ll have to work extra hard from the word go, but still make sure you have enough time to enjoy University life.

Here’s our top five tips to getting a first…

Start with the right degree

It sounds silly but just making sure you’re doing the right degree is the first step to ensuring you’re on your way to a first. It will be hard, if not impossible, to get motivated and interested enough in a subject you care little about.

Choosing the right degree can be difficult, especially with so many choices on offer at so many universities nowadays. Take your time when applying, making sure to read up and research into exactly what degree you want to take on.

Even degrees that have the same name can be quite different, and perhaps more confusingly degrees with different names can contain the exact same content.

Question institutions and make the best use of Open Days and UCAS visit days when deciding which course to take.


Get social

Getting social is one of the best parts about university life, but it needn’t start and end in the bars, clubs and societies.

Make friends with others on your course and start a revision group, or grab some study buddies for the latest bit of coursework.

Working together benefits everyone, not only can you help each other out but revising is a lot more fun with others.

Don’t stop when you get home

Getting a first in most courses requires more than just the core knowledge from your professors. At university, you are said to be reading a subject and that’s exactly what you should be doing.

Classes don’t end when a lecture finishes, continue your study in your own time by reading deeper into the subjects or topics discussed by your professors.

Most universities suggest at least one hour should be spent for self-study for every hour of lectures, while others suggest up to 2 hours for those really wanting to get top marks


Attend the lectures!

It can be tempting to skip lessons or lectures and catch up later, but not if you want a first.

While lecture notes may well be up online for most institutions nowadays, sometimes even before the class starts, lectures provide far more information than any slides or notes alone.

A lot of professors will reveal more about their topics as they speak during lectures, something which you won’t be able to pick up from your slides.

Lectures also provides a place to easily ask questions and allow you to understand more complex topics that notes or slides may struggle to explain in enough depth to get a first.

Do more

Getting a first always requires doing more than you’re asked. Even if you respond to your coursework question perfectly, you will find it hard to break into the 70% mark barrier without going deeper into a topic.

Look to extend your projects beyond what is asked of you. For example, if you’re in a computer class and asked to make a program which does a completes function, can you extend your program to implement additional relevant functions?

When it comes to essays and reports, be critical in your analysis and even offer up your own opinion on the topic, although make sure it’s something excepted in your degree.