1. Plan, Plan, Plan.
All students want to do the best they possibly can, which is why you’re here reading this! If you want to do well then there are no two ways about it, planning is an essential part of studying. I’m sure we all know the temptation of starting something new and wanting to dive in headfirst. However, sometimes this just isn’t the best approach. It can seem tedious to begin with, but remember that time spent properly planning will easily save you twice the time later on.
When you start the course, you should start your planning before you so much as open your textbook. A BTEC HND course, with its 16 essay marked units, is a serious commitment and you should spend some time developing your Masterplan to tackle it. When you develop your plan, take the following into consideration:
Setting a realistic study timetable – don’t make the mistake of overestimating the time you have to study, as this will come back to haunt you later on. Setting a realistic timetable means you’ll be more flexible and adaptable as the course progresses.
Setting realistic goals and targets – Because you don’t have assignment hand in dates, it’s easy to put off that essay till tomorrow…. or the weekend…. Or maybe next week….. Setting yourself a date to complete the essay can help focus your work and stop you from procrastinating.
Don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way of hitting one target, but make sure that you don’t abandon them either.
Knowing what is expected of you – Make sure you’re fully aware of all of the work that you’re expected to complete and your obligations as a student before you begin. Contact student services if you are unclear on anything.
2. Make the most of your materials and be prepared to read around
When you enrol, you’ll have full access to all of the core course materials and spending the time to learn the key concepts of your course is utterly essential. Make sure that you establish a dialogue with your tutor at this time, as they’ll be in place to assist you as your course continues.
Establish a regular, efficient study routine that allows you to absorb the course content. Many students find it really helpful to find a quiet, calm area dedicated to their study. Obviously this isn’t always possible, but you may find that there are alternatives such as your local library, where you can find a private quiet place.
While the course materials will give you the essential information, to get a good grade for your assessments you will need to read around other information sources. Part of the BTEC HND marking criteria requires you to demonstrate your research and analysis skills. One of the ways in which these skills are assessed is seeing how well you are able to filter out valid, relevant information and whether or not you can demonstrate why you have identified this information as relevant.
You can use a wide range of information sources, from textbooks to websites. A good starting point is our previous blog post and the student forum, where information can be shared between students.If you use a site or book when writing your essay, you’ll need to reference it, so make sure you keep track of all of the page numbers, website URL’s and authors!
3. Writing the best essay possible
We've covered this before, but a good essay is vital in BTEC courses. As the course is assessed solely by essays, you will need to develop your essay technique to ensure that you communicate your knowledge over to your assessor. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you should write as much as you possibly can on a given topic, as there are 3 very good reasons for not doing so. Firstly, each assignment has a strict word limit and you will be penalised for going over this limit. Secondly, you need to demonstrate that you can sift out the most valuable and relevant information and discuss it in a succinct manner to get the best possible grades. Finally, assessments are based around the learning outcome marking system.
This system means that you need to demonstrate to your examiner that you have achieved specific course aims. That means that you won’t benefit from including irrelevant content, as you won’t get additional marks.
All students have 2 submissions for each assignment, so there is a chance to develop your essay by incorporating your assessor’s feedback. Before you hand it in, there are a number of things you can do to improve your essay. One of the best things a student can do is to put the essay away, which allows it to be reviewed with a fresh and critical eye. By giving yourself a break from the essay, you can allow yourself to be more impartial, so you can more readily identify mistakes and identify areas to improve. It can really help to have a copy of the learning outcomes for the essay, so you can read through the essay and check that you have met them. If possible, get someone else to read through it for you and critically evaluate it for you.
Don’t skip on the polish! While we’d always advise you to focus on substance over style, you can benefit from making sure that the essay is thoroughly spellchecked and proofread prior to submission. Making sure that formatting is correct and the essay is easy to read makes your assessor’s job easier and means that they can more easily access the content of your essay. Finally, don’t forget to make sure all of your references are in order as this is an easy way to lose marks.
4. Learn from your feedback
It’s easy to get disheartened if your assessment, which you’ve worked so hard on, doesn’t achieve the grade that you feel it merited. Likewise it’s not easy to read comments telling you that you’ve made a mistake or missed key points. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to it, as contains the information you need to improve your grade.
Remember that your work is marked by your tutor and verified by a separate verifier before being released back to you. This means that your marks have been double checked and your assessor’s comments have been reviewed for fairness and to ensure they contain constructive criticism.
If your work has passed, then it’s still a really good idea to go through the feedback and review your assessor’s comments. This will allow you to identify any weaker areas, which gives you the tools to ensure that these weaknesses don’t hold you back in the future. You also have the option to resubmit work if you want to try to achieve a higher grade.
You can use your feedback as the basis of a discussion with your tutor, who will be happy to assist you by expanding on the feedback or explaining anything that you didn’t understand.We hope that these tips will help you complete your BTEC HND course and we’d love to hear your own top tips – please leave a comment below. Image modified from - Where I Teach