A head start for aspiring psychology undergraduates

How to Make the Most of your Psychology Degree: Study Skills, Employability and Professional Development by Rachael Leggett, Daniel Waldeck & Amy Burrell (McGraw-Hill Education (Open University Press), reviewed by Sarah-Jayne Collett.

This aide breaks down the key aspects of studying Psychology at degree level and the skills required beyond this stage. Critical thinking, research methods and even how to write an appropriate email are covered. The book branches into less well-known aspects of a Psychology degree, such as the specialist statistical software SPSS and Boolean search terms – both of which are essential to Psychology research, and neither of which I knew existed before starting my degree. There are activities and reflection points throughout, which encourage readers to deeply assess their own skills and aspirations. It also guides efficient reflections using Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, in which each step needs to be completed before moving onto the next (with six in total), ending with an action plan to be better equipped for the future.

Psychology myths are debunked early on, such as ‘those who study Psychology can read minds’. I would hope that anyone who is seriously considering a Psychology degree would already know this to be false… however, this isn’t always the case! Before starting my degree, I believed the myth that Psychologists and Psychiatrists were interchangeable, and I didn’t know that Counsellors would need to register with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) instead of the BPS. These misconceptions are broken down with an easy-to-understand myth-buster.

There is a particular focus on developing critical thinking, which can be key for getting better grades. This skill can be applied to different types of assessment, especially dissertation writing. You can use this skill by asking yourself hypothetical questions regarding your research idea, such as: What will this research idea achieve? Is it necessary? If so, how do I go about investigating it whilst considering strengths and weaknesses of research methods? This is something that I’ll focus on during my dissertation process. 

The book is tailored slightly more to brick than online university students. Advice like attending lectures on time and talking to seminar tutors about other topics, for example, doesn’t apply to online students like me who study when they have time, and don’t really have opportunities for informal talks with tutors. Nonetheless, the skills outlined are relevant regardless of how and when we study. 

The friendly, reassuring tone of the book was like an engaging personal tutor talking about relatable personal experiences. The humour every now and then put a smile on my face. 

This book would have benefitted me from the earliest stages of my journey into the Psychology realm. For those considering Psychology as a career pathway or just starting their degree, this book is a head start to understanding the foundations, giving a ‘heads up’ for the more in-depth requirements of studying Psychology.

- Reviewed by Sarah-Jayne Collett, 3rd year Psychology student, the Open University

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