Diary of a placement student

From university to the workplace: a different type of learning.

Computer, notepad and glass of waterWhen I applied for university, I was eager to find a course which offered a placement year. I knew how valuable a full year’s work experience in industry could be when I started to apply for graduate programmes after university.

I am on a course studying Accounting and Finance, so I took an unexpected direction when I applied to spend my placement year in the Research department at AQA. I didn’t know what to expect when I started my placement; research and statistics could have many angles. I still couldn’t give you a set list of my responsibilities; every day is different and something totally new could crop up and demand my attention at any time.

Some students dismiss the idea of doing a placement, presuming they will be given boring tasks like photocopying and making the tea. This has certainly not been my experience. There have been administrative duties along the way, as with any office job, but this has only been one aspect.

My main role is during the awarding periods, when I play a key part in checking the consistency of the documentation produced during the process of setting grade boundaries. As I started my placement a few weeks before the summer series, this was the first thing I learnt, and will be the main task that I will pass on to the next student when I train them.

The projects I have been involved in have included interpreting qualitative and quantitative data, writing papers, interviewing students for the Unlocking Potential Programme and collating statistics for annual reports. I have also worked closely with senior researchers conducting investigations into the assessment of GCSE English and GCSE Maths, for example.

As you can see, I have had the opportunity to work both independently and with researchers at various levels. The resulting work has gone to AQA’s internal Standards Unit and Research Committee and has also been used for wider, higher-profile purposes. I have recently been working with the Head of Research on a project to look at how the consistency of the grades students achieve in their A-levels depends on the combination of subjects they take.

As my placement was not related to my university course, I also joined the mentoring scheme, which paired me up with a colleague in the finance department. Monthly meetings with my mentor have enabled me to keep my finance knowledge fresh and see how it is applied in a real-life business.

It hasn’t all been non-stop work. The people I have met have made my placement enjoyable and given me an insight into their roles. Most of all, I now know what it is like to work full-time, and for me as a student this was the biggest culture shock of all. I have enjoyed every minute of it and would recommend a placement to any student.

Karen Faulkner

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