6 February 2024
Written by Bronwyn Cramer, PGDA Alumna
My tips for success in PGDA with Milpark (I was on the full workload, working full-time, having completed bridging over a year).
Stay on the train
Keep up to date with the work as it is released each week. If you have less time during a certain week, make a call as to what CORE areas you want to cover and choose the practice questions that you have time for wisely. Reaching out to lecturers for guidance on this is helpful. If you fall behind, it will be difficult to catch up.
Understanding core principles
This is critical; having a deep understanding is so important. The lesson activities really helped with this (especially for TAX and FREP). Understand a principle so well that you are able to explain it to someone else. If a question is asked in a different way, you will be able to handle it. This really helps when you are under time pressure in tests/exams and when surprises are thrown at you.
The weeks never looked the same for me in terms of what modules I would study on each day. I had to adapt according to the material released for the week (on a Friday) and plan accordingly. What did stay consistent was the hours I put in each week. I did what worked for me and what suited my productivity levels. I had to play around with this until I found a good routine. I cannot wake up earlier than 5 am; if I do, then I am exhausted throughout the day – this was one of the things I factored in. I found that breaking up my day also helped. I put in an hour in the mornings, an hour at lunch during my lunch break, and then 3-4 hours in the evenings. Saturdays and Sundays were full days of studying. I would often watch the lessons on a higher speed to save time, as well as watching the recordings of live sessions on a higher speed. However you decide to structure yourselves, remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint; it needs to be sustainable. There are no shortcuts; the hard work has to be done, and I was consistently putting in 40 hours a week.
Having a growth mindset is so important. The year is going to be filled with constant challenges and failures (practice questions). Staying positive and being willing to learn from mistakes will set you up for success. Google Carol Dweck Growth Mindset. Trusting the process – listen to what the lecturers say, stay engaged (I think this was one of the key contributors to my success). Focus on competence and not perfection; no one is perfect, and trying to be perfect is just going to cause unnecessary stress.
Even exercising 10 minutes each day makes a huge difference to energy levels, as well as eating healthily. Being tired during this year is normal, but focusing on what we can control can reduce the extent of the fatigue. Practicing mindfulness also helped me; think breathing exercises and yoga. Take your study breaks; you need them to recharge. Sometimes taking an evening off also makes a huge difference.
Practice questions under exam conditions and mark yourself. Reflect on where you went wrong and if you need to go back to the material or not. Sometimes it may just be a case of poor exam technique. Start embracing discussion questions from the start; they are not going away. Practice how to structure your answer and answer what is required, not what you want to answer. Remember that exams are an opportunity to score the most amount of marks in a limited space of time – this takes time. Embrace being uncomfortable; it’s all part of the process.
I cannot emphasize this enough; tests are learning opportunities to improve from where you went wrong. Take the time to reconcile your mark plan/script to the solutions and to understand where you went wrong and not make the same mistake again. Remaining calm in an assessment will also be a superpower, and the only way to master that skill is to practice under questions under exam conditions. It was recommended that we taper for final exams by easing off from studying; well, I actually listened, and it was the best thing I could have ever done. I stopped doing past papers the week before, and I only did gentle revision. I walked into the final exams feeling refreshed and ready to tackle anything thrown at me. Always remember that there are enough easy marks to pass a question; first go for the low-hanging fruit – trust me; it was always there. Stick to your time allocation for each question; I used a countdown timer for this. Be disciplined enough to move on when your time is up.
There are so many different methods of support. If there was ANYTHING I didn’t understand, I would reach out via email/Yammer with my question and I would keep asking it until I understood. While doing practice questions, I would also consider other ways in which the question was asked and include this in my question too. Drop-in sessions with Terri-Leigh were so motivating and inspiring. I did not have time to struggle with complex concepts, so I would book consultations with anything I was stuck with.
I wish whoever is reading this the very best for the year. Remember the sacrifices are only for 9 months of the year. Try and enjoy the journey, and focus on all the knowledge you are acquiring and enjoy the views as you climb the mountain. You will be a different person to the one that started the journey at the end of it. You are stronger than you know and capable of so much. I promise, you are in the best hands with Milpark.
All the best!