A reflection on the result of a research skills test
After reflecting on the process of my learning and skills development across the Sector Studies module, and especially looking at the feedback I have received from the exam, I am overall very happy with what I have achieved and feel confident that I have a good and strong understanding of the topics that have been covered.
In the research skills test, I achieved a mark of 78%, which was an improvement from the mock exam we did in class in which I achieved 70%. Upon looking at this score and even at the slight improvement across the small period between the mock and the real exam, I can confidently say that my knowledge on research methods, mathematical and statistical skills, as well as my ability to use a scientific calculator, have all hugely developed and are at the required level that they should be in order to be a successful bioveterinary scientist.
Going into the exam, although I had achieved a first class mark in my mock, I lacked confidence as I know from previous exams in other modules, and from sitting GCSE and A-level exams, that when under pressure and trying to work to a time limit, I often make silly mistakes, particularly when it comes to mathematical calculations. I also know that regardless of how many times I double check answers, I usually fail to identify anything that I have done wrong, and therefore when I go over them, I tend to make the same mistakes each time – this was one of the main problems that I faced in my statistics module of A-level mathematics. Making silly mistakes under pressure and not being able to identify and rectify them is common for anyone, and it is difficult to be able to prevent it (Eisold, 2011). However, feedback from the sector studies exam showed that I hardly lost any marks on the mathematics questions at all. On reflection, mathematics has been a consistently strong area of mine throughout this first year of my degree, as I also achieved well in the maths areas of both our Fundamentals in Bioveterinary Science module and in Essential Laboratory Techniques.
One of the other factors that unnerved me about the exam was the possibility of a Chi-squared test question featuring in the paper, as this was one of my weaknesses at A-Level biology. Having said this, in both the lecture covering this material and the exam question, I was comfortable with it and knew how to do it with no problem. Despite my doubts, my ability to complete this question correctly could have been from my prior knowledge on the topic, whether I had been successful with it at A-Level or not. Studies have proved that students tend to achieve higher marks in areas which they already have prior-knowledge in (Cogliano et al, 2019). All I needed was a re-cap on the subject to enhance my understanding of it. My prior knowledge from A-Level biology and chemistry has also been a great help for me over the last year, particularly in the fundamentals, molecular biology and biochemistry modules. Due to knowing the basics of these I have been able to build on that knowledge and expand and develop it into much deeper and wider details, which has helped me to improve quickly over this last year and will be very beneficial for the duration of this course, as well as any further degrees or jobs that I may have in the animal health industry in the future.
Furthermore, a method of teaching that helped me a lot with the sector studies exam were the starter activities given in each lecture. These were really useful, as the constant repetition of practicing the basic calculator questions made me able to answer them increasingly quickly and with ease. The method of repetition was clearly of a huge benefit to my learning, and this can be explained by the fact that repetition induces neural enhancement (Hashimoto et al, 2011). As well as this, although we were given a step by step calculator sheet explaining how to perform each of these calculations, the constant repetition of doing this in the starter activities meant that it came very naturally and I had no need to use the sheet at all. This was beneficial because it saved me a lot of time in the exam.
My main downfall in the exam was the general research practice questions. These included questions on journals and databases, along with limitations to research. I think my main reason for losing marks in this area was because the rest of my co-hort and I joined in on the sector studies classes slightly later than the animal science students, and as a result we missed any content identifying that journals and databases were topics we needed to know for the exam. When I saw these questions in the exam, I completely panicked and I left most of them blank. However, on reflection, I should have stayed calm and tried to recall any journals and databases that I have used for previous assignments across other modules covered this year and written those down as examples.
Overall, I am extremely happy with how Sector Studies has helped me to develop my statistical skills and improve my knowledge on research methods. I am confident when I say that this, along with my progress in all other modules across this year, has prepared me well for future tasks requiring these skills both on this degree, and in the animal health industry when working as a professional bioveterinary scientist.
Cogliano, M., Kardash, C.M. and Bernacki, M.L. (2019) The effects of retrieval practice and prior topic knowledge on test performance and confidence judgements. Contemporary Educational Psychology. Vol. 56. Pp. 117-129.
Eisold, K. (2011) Making stupid Mistakes. Psychology Today.
Hashimoto, T., Usui, N., Taira, M. and Kojima, S. (2011) Neural enhancement and attenuation induced by repetitive recall. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. 96(2). Pp. 143-149.