Land Economy

by Isabelle Rieder

Summarised below are my top tips for succeeding at the Land Economy Tripos. Of course, everyone has different learning techniques but these methods really helped me to balance achieving exam success with making the most of my time at Cambridge.

Lectures

  • Be organised: use a folder for each Paper, and order your lecture notes chronologically using dividers for different topics
  • Make sure your lecture notes are clear and coherent (even if this occasionally involves rewriting them after the lecture) so that when it comes to exam term you don’t need to waste time trying to make sense of them
  • Never miss a lecture, and if you have to, always catch up straight away using someone reliable who will let you copy their notes
  • Ask questions
  • Always jot down any questions you have during the lecture and ask afterwards or email the lecturer/ask your supervisor. This means that when exam term arrives you should hopefully understand most topics

Essays

  • Use your class notes to provide the basic foundations for an essay
  • Always use lots of references, but if you’re inundated with too many papers to read then look at the summaries (and sometimes conclusions) instead
  • If you find any summaries which are particularly relevant then read further
  • Extract a few key points from the papers you read which are either strong arguments or interesting facts/quotes to support your essay e.g. De Soto (1989) argues…
  • Put effort into backing your essays up with lots of good reference material, as this will save you time in exam term
  • Always clearly structure your essay to ensure it directly answers the question
  • Examiners tend to love introductions which state exactly how you’re going to answer the question, particularly as they usually have at most 10 minutes to read your whole exam paper
  • I hate the use of ‘I’ in an essay, so I prefer to say something like: ‘In order to evaluate the methods of climate change mitigation and adaptation, the distinction between the two concepts will first be drawn. Following this, examples will be provided for each concept and their effectiveness in tackling climate change. Finally, the importance of a comprehensive strategy integrating the two concepts will be discussed.’

Revision

  • It’s really important to get a revision plan in place, and I usually started hardcore revising at LATEST a month before exams
  • Aim for at least 8 hours of revision a day for the first two weeks of your ‘month’ of revision, increasing to 10 hours for the later weeks
  • But before this start date, it is important that you have any outstanding difficulties with certain topics sorted, and remember you will also be given lots of past papers and essays to do over the holidays which count as a type of revision
  • Decide how much time you need to allocate to each paper depending on the amount of content and level of difficulty
  • Don’t revise selectively, so that you have a greater choice of questions in the exam and sometimes there may be relatively easy questions on hard topics
  • Read through all your notes, skimming vague lectures to ensure you have a sound grasp of the concepts. Make key summary notes of important information you need to remember and good references mentioned in lectures
  • Also read through your essays and highlight the best references
  • Key facts/quotes/formulae should be put up on post its around your room at least two weeks before an exam to allow you time to memorise them
  • Spend the 2 days before each exam reading through your key summary notes trying to absorb as much as possible, and also further memorising your key facts
  • Whilst doing past paper questions may seem like a hassle, if asked by your supervisor DO THEM, and preferably timed, as you will get lots of useful comments and get more into exam mode
  • Some people write loads of past paper question essays, however, in my experience it is more useful to look at the past 3 years of past paper questions and briefly plan each one (whether in your head or on paper) to see if you could answer it
  • Then look at the examiners reports (although these vary GREATLY in quality between papers) to see the types of things they were looking for
  • If you’re unsure of how to answer any specific questions, then I would recommend attempting these to give to your supervisor (or do a plan) to see if you’re heading in the right direction and if they can offer any further insight
  • Attend all revision sessions offered by your lecturers/supervisors
  • Come prepared with a list of questions/ past paper questions you don’t understand so that you can make the most of these
  • Always make time for a daily ‘fun’ break alongside normal shorter breaks
  • This incentivises you to work harder the rest of the day and you will be more productive
  • e.g. seeing a friend to watch a film in the evening; going to the gym
  • Also take short breaks during the day (around 20 minutes for breakfast, lunch, tea and supper)
  • Sleep is important to keep up your immunity (also take vitamins as you don’t want to get ill for exams), and boost your productivity
  • Always do something relaxing before bed to ‘switch off’

Exams

  • Always wear a watch as timing is everything
  • Calculate before the exam how long you should spend on each question (allowing for planning and slightly longer on the first question as you get used to writing)
  • Write down the start time on the top of your exam paper and the times for when you should have finished each question by
  • For each question I like to spend around 10 minutes writing a detailed plan (stating any key quotes/facts I want to include)
  • Whilst this may seem long, I feel that it helps to give you a much more structured approach and also means that you can be much calmer writing your answer as you know what you’re putting in it