How to Get a First Class Postgraduate Degree


A first class postgraduate degree is every student's dream.

If you're hoping for a magic formula or step-by-step guide to achieving a first class postgraduate degree then we're sorry to disappoint!

What we can offer you though, is some useful, actionable advice and guidance that will certainly help you along the path.

Work, Work, Work Postgraduate degrees are intense. You may think you are well prepared after your undergraduate study, but in reality postgraduate study is a whole different ball game. Your workload will build up very quickly, and there is nothing worse than running out of time to complete a task that you know you would have otherwise aced. Be prepared to work long and work hard. Start early, finish late and don't ever hand anything in that you feel is substandard.

Study Smart Not Hard Blindly plodding on through lectures, readings, past exam papers and exercise questions will not guarantee you a first class postgraduate degree. All that stuff, whilst good, cannot be substituted for  understanding,  digesting and developing feeling and intuition with the material. You won't learn anything by osmosis. As noble as it may be to stay locked to the library  every day  until closing time, you need to ensure you are making the most effective use of your time.

Know What Is Being Asked Of You Determining what is really being asked of you is essential. It's so easy to jump in head first and focus on the completion of the task rather than the process. This is a mistake. You need to demonstrate that you understand the course content, can expand upon your existing knowledge and go above and beyond the expected standard. Master this and you're work will always be high quality, relevant and most of all worthy of a first class postgraduate degree.

Make Time To Relax Earlier we talked about the importance of working hard, but it is equally as important not to go overboard and become obsessive. Stress is a real concentration killer, which is why you need to make time to relax and wind down every now and then. By no means are we encouraging you to get out there and party more, but we are recommended that you re-energise to stay at the top of your game.

Eliminating unwanted stress from your life will help to keep you motivated, enthusiastic and focused.

Always Give 100% Treat every assignment as though it is the only one you will ever get graded on. By putting 100% into everything you do you will develop key habits that will aid you well after you've hung up your gown and cap. Do whatever it takes to overcome the challenges that your postgraduate degree throws at you. Embrace the difficulty and counter it with hard work - that's the key to success.

Have you got any advice on how to get a first class postgraduate degree for future students?  We'd love to hear from you.


OLIVER OGUTU Nov. 24, 2016, 10:49 a.m.

I loved this and commit to adhere to the guidelines to the letter. Thanks

Charlotte King Nov. 28, 2016, 11:43 a.m.

That's great - good luck!

parimala hansoge Feb. 27, 2017, 10:56 a.m.

I loved your advice..will work smart for my next module. thanks.

Beth Thomas May 2, 2017, 11:35 a.m.

This is good advice. I would also add that if you're doing an MRes, it's good to note down your assessment deadlines and plan your empirical work around them. I was too keen and ploughed straight in to my case studies without thinking about how that would affect my ability to meet all my deadlines and give the essays the attention they needed. I've learnt my lesson now though, with substandard grades despite 100% effort, just because I'm stretching myself too thinly during this assessment period.

Boubai joseph jackson May 11, 2017, 9:31 a.m.

This is great! I am extremely motivated to be at the top. Thanks

Charlotte King May 14, 2017, 4:19 p.m.

Hi Beth - that's really good advice to make a note of your assessment deadlines - and advice that has obviously come from experience. Thanks for sharing it - and good luck with your MRes.
Kind Regards - Charlotte

Charlotte King May 14, 2017, 4:20 p.m.

Hi Boubai - It's great to hear that you're feeling motivated. Hope you get the results that you deserve and stay at the top. Kind Regards, Charlotte

Busayo Ajayi June 6, 2017, 10:21 a.m.

Thanks for this great piece. I'm starting my masters degree in September. I'm planning on giving this one year my all, praying and hoping for the best.

Charlotte King June 14, 2017, 9:37 a.m.

Busayo - we have some great advice here on how to succeed as a postgraduate student which you may find helpful:
Good luck with your studies!

Ada Aug. 14, 2017, 12:17 p.m.


I'm a mature student and I just got back my postgraduate LLM module results.

I'm gutted I made only 2 distinction grades at 70 and 74%, and 67 an 64%. But I have a gut feeling that the awarded mark of 67% was actually a distinction grade - core module. The 70% grade also is surprising as I achieved 67% in one component out of the 3 components and high merits in the other 2 - core. Does it matter that I achieved low grades in my core modules? - 70% and 64%?! Sorry I know some students may think I'm bonkers for thinking this, but I started on this degree aiming for a distinction, so in my books I didn't quite achieve what I wanted.

Firstly, can I request for an administrative check of this grade? I can't be bothered to check the 64% grade, as I was hoping I would obtain an average of 70+ in the 3 modules. I did a sum of the average, and have 68.75% on the modules, minus the dissertation which is due in September.

Finally, is it possible to boost the overall grade to a distinction with a very high grade in the dissertation which is the crux of the Master's qualification?

I am now writing my final dissertation and hope that I can achieve a very high grade, 80% may be a bit too ambitious! But I need this for a PhD scholarship.
Please advise.


Charlotte King Aug. 30, 2017, 1:08 p.m.

Hi Ada,

I think the best thing is for you to do is to contact your university tutor's directly and ask them where you can go from here. They will know whether you can request an administrative check and also how well you need to perform in your dissertation.

Good luck.


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