By Ajfar Choudhry, Philosophy BA student
I was one of those students who hadn’t studied philosophy at all prior to coming to King’s. In fact, I was doing a degree in Economics before I switched courses. My first year was important for laying the foundations, given that I had no academic background or knowledge on how to write a philosophy essay or analyse philosophical texts. Here’s some things to consider when choosing your first year modules:
Figure out what assessment style suits you best…
Modules are assessed either by exams or summative essays. You will take 8 modules in the first year and will come across both types of assessments. It’s a good idea to figure out which style you prefer and play to your strengths. If you are better at one type of assessment, this can help inform which modules you choose to take.
Personally, I prefer summative essays which are usually 2,000-3,000 words long – essay titles are normally released halfway through the module. So, once you see the titles you can begin to plan or read ahead for whatever you would like to focus on. You have more time to prepare, and generally, the essay titles will not require knowledge from all 10 weeks of content in the module, they are split up in a way that each essay title will cover different weeks. Meaning, if you did not like the latter part of the course but you did like the first few weeks, you can simply just answer a question on the part of the course you like.
Exams are similar in the sense that the questions will cover a few weeks, not the entire course, and the essays are typically shorter. But you have no idea what the question would be, so you must be more prepared in the moment for what could come up. Either way, whatever your preference, it would be best to figure this out in the first year.
Figure out what type of philosophy you enjoy, but balance it with what you are good at…
This seems obvious, but with the amount of choice in second and third year, it’s quite important to figure out what you enjoy and also what you are good at. For example, in the first year I really enjoyed metaphysics and, honestly, wasn’t a fan of logic. But I got a much higher mark in logic than I did in metaphysics. So, in second year I picked a logic module over a metaphysics one to ensure I had a good balance between working towards a good grade but also enjoying what I’m studying.
Naturally, if you enjoy something you are more likely to do the work. But some modules you may find easier to score higher in than others for any number of reasons. In my opinion, it is better to, for example, take 6 modules you enjoy, and 2 you are good at, than to take 8 modules you enjoy at the risk of not performing as well overall.
Take advantage of the support available…
The staff in the Philosophy Department are there to support you if you need help preparing for your assessments. They have weekly office hours where you may go and chat to them about anything from a concept you are struggling to grasp, or how to approach an essay. Philosophy is all about developing different perspectives, and talking this through with your lecturers, or event classmates, may help you to develop a more clear point of view.
At King’s, all students are allocated a personal tutor who will play a key role in helping you to get the most out of your studies – even if you just need a bit of encouragement! So be sure to take advantage of this as soon as you arrive and during your first year.