PDN is a good course, with lots of really interesting material. However it requires a lot of independent work (it often seemed like more than people taking other part II options were doing) and I found it quite hard to keep up with the lectures.

One piece of advice I have for future years is not to get too carried away with reading for single topics. Given the amount of literature available and the fact that most topics have lots of different angles to them an exam question could potentially focus on, I often found it hard to judge when to stop reading around a topic and move onto the next. I therefore ran out of time to do the reading properly for all the topics; for around 20% of the topics I only had time to learn the lecture notes plus a few extra facts. This caused problems in the exams because I had to write a couple of essays on bits I didn’t have much extra reading for. Several of my favourite topics never came up at all and when writing essays I had properly researched I sometimes found I knew more than could be fitted into an essay in the time available. So I think it would have been better to spread myself more evenly across more lecture courses. Perhaps stick to reading one or two reviews and looking at a couple of original papers only per topic, and then only doing more in depth reading if there’s time. This would also help you feel on top of the material, which I think is important. Also don’t keep reading too close to the exams – I underestimated how long it would take me to properly memorise the details of the revision notes I had already made.

Get more supervisions! Although it’s sometimes hard to persuade people to do supervisions, getting essays marked is really important, especially as lecturers seem to have differing opinions about how essays should be written. For example Stewart Sage made it clear he thinks a first class essay would have to have lots of references so I made an especially large effort to learn lots for his course, other people had very strong feelings about the use of subheadings.

One of the hard things about the exams is that you have to go from knowing everything from Michaelmas term to knowing everything from Lent term overnight. My worst exam was the third one (the first one after the switch) – I know several other people for whom this was also the case. So I think it could help to make sure you put a lot of effort into revising Lent material as well as Michaelmas material in the days immediately before the exams start.