What is the workload like? Advice from our Undergrad, PGT and a PGR contributors!

4 December 2019

In this article, 3 UCL students that have been in your situation are here to give you an idea of what the workload is like and advice on how to handle it!


Coming to University for the first time

Although no two degrees are structured the same in terms of homework and exams, they likely all share in common that the workload never gets easier after year one. In the specific case of our BSc Economics, knowing that no piece of coursework through year one counted towards our final grade surely emboldened some of us to think we would be just fine by concentrating the work around the exam period - big mistake.

In hindsight, my core advice to anyone starting at UCL is to stay on top of every class. By letting the work pile up, the material only becomes tougher, so you’re not only jeopardizing your chances by attempting to cover a year’s worth of content the month before exams (a month is actually scarily short to fully prepare for four credits). You’ll also be quite literally wasting your time at every class you turn up to, sitting there helpless and unable to ask questions.

Make sure you’re in the habit of turning up to tutorials too. They’re your only sure chance to have questions answered, especially those of a practical type that are often overlooked in lectures. Drop by your tutor’s office hours to follow up if the demonstration was too quick.

That being said, the smart advice is to not overestimate the workload either. If you go steady, you will likely never need to sacrifice extra-curriculars or socials to stay in doing coursework. Best of luck! 

Jorge Gonzalez-Garcia, Economics student

Starting your masters at UCL

The shift from an undergraduate to a postgrad taught course may seem very subtle at first - you attend lectures and consolidate your knowledge at home or in the library. However the lectures will be more frequent - 2-5 hours a day! This inevitably means you'll be constantly busy, trying to juggle your personal and social life with your university workload.

Therefore, it's important to be organised, using your time wisely and ensuring that you're taking the right steps to maximise your potential. I found that drawing up a schedule for myself really helped me to stay focused - preventing a pile up of work just before exams.

You are also expected to be more independent in terms of extra reading to refine your understanding of topics; and so one of my main tips would be to actively seek out any help you may need. Whether that be contacting lecturers to consolidate knowledge or reaching out to your personal tutor for some guidance - never be afraid to ask!

My final tip would be to enjoy your time at university - both your research/reading, as well as those coffee catch-ups with your friends!

Ayesha Khan, UCL alumna and Cancer Msc Student 

Making the jump to a PhD

One main difference between your PhD workload and your workload as an undergrad or PGT student is just how much the amount of work you need to do depends…on you. (And, admittedly, your supervisor!) A lot of it comes down to the goals you set yourself, and what you want to achieve by when. So, if you decide you want to do a lot of conference presentations, that’s going to up your workload quite a bit; similarly, you have a lot of control over how much you choose to read, how much you want to write in the early stages, etc. This can be quite scary – how do you know if you’re doing enough?

My main tip here is to check in with your supervisor regularly, especially early on – they can help reassure you that you’re on track, or give you that nudge you might need to get going a bit.

The second key thing is to be very clear about your own personal goals, and then adopt a workload that’ll allow you to achieve them. That means not taking on more than you can chew: be kind to yourself! This might take some balancing, and you probably won’t get it right at once – but that’s fine. After all, you’ve got three or four years ahead of you!

Simon Webb, 2nd year PhD student in Gender Studies 

Edited by Adam Vidler, UCL Student Support & Wellbeing Adviser and Countdown to UCL Editor