5 Tips for Post-Graduate Application Personal Statements

Learn with Nafisa - Personal Statements for Postgraduate Study

A personal statement or a supporting statement is a piece of writing about you and your background submitted in application for a post-graduate degree. Its purpose serves as a chance for you to demonstrate why you are a suitable candidate for the degree programme you’re applying for and to set you apart from other applicants. It’s therefore essential that you get it right in order to showcase the best of your skills, abilities and other relevant information about yourself.

In my video here, I discuss and highlight the importance of making your statement specific rather than generic. A common mistake many applicants make is they treat it as a piece of writing which provides a summary of their skills and previous education and qualifications, however, this is not what the university admissions team want to see as there are already sections within your application which provide for these.

In order to avoid your statement being boring and generic, I have designed a personal statement planning sheet which breaks down the specific information and details you need to include to make your application worth reading and stand out from the rest of the other applications. This is particularly important if you are applying to Russell group universities in the UK or any other top institutions in English speaking countries. You can download this template for free here:

Nafisa London Academic Consulting

If you would like my professional guidance and support for writing your personal statement and/or any other aspect of making an application to a university in the UK, you can book a private online consultation with me here.

Reading a Journal Article

Reading scholarly articles from high quality academic journals is an essential academic skill to master in order to be able to gain deeper knowledge in our specialist fields, support our own arguments and further our own ideas and research.

Scholarly articles differ from general information on a topic found in books, magazines or websites because they are peer-reviewed, based on research and mostly up-to-date. Peer-reviewed articles guaranty quality because they undergo critique and analysis by other experts in the fields which often requires appropriate modifications to be made as a result. 

However, searching for scholarly articles and navigating through to make sense of them can initially seem quite an arduous task.

In this post, I’ll be sharing ten easy tips to help you get started and make sense of how to approach directly relevant articles to your own research topic or question(s).

#1 – Have a clear topic statement or question in mind before you begin reading.

What exactly are you trying to find out? What specific information are you looking for? Make a note of this where you can clearly see and refer to at the beginning and during your literature search.

#2 – Identify key words

Put these into the database/search fields.

#3 – Read the abstract

In order to decide whether an article is relevant to your topic/research, always read the abstract. An abstract is a great starting point not only because it gives you a brief overview of what the article covers but also because it includes the key terms found in the article, the purpose and methods of the research.

#4 – Start by reading the introduction

In addition to the overview provided in the abstract, an article’s introduction sets out the key ideas to be discussed and will allow you to skim for the key words and ideas that relate to your own research topic or question(s). Although it seems pretty obvious to start here, many students don’t and therefore miss the vital signposts contained within the article introduction.

#5 – Highlight these key ideas/points

In the introduction and further along in the article, highlight the key points and ideas so you are able to easily come back and find them should you need to paraphrase or use them as support and evidence for your own points.

#6 – Check the footnotes made by the article’s author

These usually provide a summary and context on the literature which has already been written about the subject. You can also highlight or bookmark these to look up further information if and when necessary. If an article has gone through peer review, you can be more confident of its findings.

#7 – Skip to the conclusion before you decide to read the full article for detail.

The conclusion section towards the end of the article may also be called a ‘discussion’ which basically tells us what the researcher discovered when doing the study. Looking at this section early on will help you decide whether the article is relevant to your own research earlier rather than later.

#8 – Highlight the findings in the discussion that seem interesting

This will help you tie it to your own research statement/question.

#9 – Go back to the results page in your initial search

Find out further information on the findings you found interesting in the discussion part of articles you’ve read. Take note that,

The method section tells you what kind of research the researcher did, i.e.: qualitative or quantitative.

The author also recommends some other research that their colleagues in the field are also doing or have already done.

#10 – Be sure to look at the reference section at the end

This list along with the accompanying footnotes allow you to read further on the topic and in more detail which is a very important part of any scholarly process.

I hope these 10 tips will help you have a more productive literature search while also making reading scholarly articles easier and more manageable. One of my current course convenors Dr. Jan McArthur from Lancaster University’s department of Education Research says research should be public and help others learn while advancing the level of knowledge in one’s field of study.

Happy article reading!


The Art of ‘Brain Dumping’ – a starting point for effective writing

‘Writer’s block is something that happens while you’re actually writing, right?’ Wrong!

We’ve all faced the challenge of getting stuck writing before we actually start writing! The actual task of focussing and deciding where to actually start is sometimes a challenge in itself. A simple solution to this is to perform what is known as a ‘brain dump’.

In this post we’ll briefly take about what it is, how to do it and how exactly it can help you with starting writing whether it’s an essay, proposal or dissertation you need to get started on.

What is it?

A ‘brain dump’ or ‘brain dumping’ is the simple method of clearing out the clutter in your mind by writing out all your thoughts onto paper. One reason why it’s very hard to start writing is we don’t have a clear idea of what to or how to do it because of the overload of thoughts that clutter our minds.

A ‘brain dump’ will allow you to empty out these spiralling thoughts in order to organise them logically and pick a starting point for the task you have at hand. Think of it as simply pouring out your mind onto a plain sheet of paper so you can see your thoughts one by one.

How do you do it?

There is no magic trick to this. You simply get a plain piece of paper – preferably A4 size, and write the topic of focus. This could be the title of your essay or the task you’re going to do, i.e: my proposal, my dissertation, my thesis.

Once you’ve written the topic of focus, begin to freely write all the connected thoughts that rush to your mind. The key here is to allow the ideas to flow, uninterrupted. You should write down everything connected to the topic that comes to your mind.


There are several ways to write out your thoughts. You can simply:

  • list them: one after the other, thought after thought;
  • create thought bubbles: each thought contained in its own capsule;
  • make a spider diagram: write the topic at the centre of the page and work your way from the centre outwards by writing thoughts connected to the topic;
  • make a mind map: start from the topic and list your thoughts as they branch out, taking each thought in a separate direction so you have branches of similar, connected thoughts
  • create a flow chart: start with the topic at the stop of the page followed by your thoughts in the order they appear, use arrows to connect the order

What are the benefits?

Besides the obvious benefit of helping you avoid serious procrastination by getting started on writing, a brain dump will help you:

  • clear you mind of clutter and focus on the task at hand;
  • visualise your ideas in order to help you organise them;
  • prepare a plan for the writing task at hand;
  • create a timetable or make a realistic to-do list;
  • work out what resources you need i.e.: books, articles, journals, websites or equipment such as stationery supplies

I hope you’ve found this post helpful in getting started on writing by planning and organising your thoughts. I will be posting new content on effective writing strategies, so make sure you sign up to my mailing list for instant notification on more study and academic writing tips.

Happy brain dumping!


An-Easy-Guide-To-Writing-Essays by Nafisa Ahmedi
Buy now – ‘An Easy Guide To Writing Essays’ by Nafisa Ahmedi available on Amazon.com

5 Quick Mindfulness Activities to Help You Focus


There are times when we all struggle to focus on tasks ahead of us. If we do not know how to manage this, we often end up procrastinating or abandoning the task altogether. We can however, practise some mindfulness activities that can help improve our overall focus for better well-being and productivity. Here are some quick mindfulness activities you can practise at home, school or work:

#1 – Breathing focus

When you first wake up in the morning, stay in bed for an extra 2 minutes and focus only on your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly, paying careful attention to your breathing. Allow the thoughts of the days to come and go while you focus entirely on your breathing. If your mind wanders, bring it back by focussing entirely on your breathing.

#2 – Mindfulness relaxation

This activity can be done pretty much anywhere. The ideal way to do this is before you start any task so you can boost your concentration levels. For example, before you start reading, take 10 minutes to close your eyes, sit up straight and relax. Again, focus entirely on your breathing, paying close attention to the sensation of inhaling and exhaling deeply but gently. To help your mind focus on your breathing, silently count each exhalation.

#3 – Apply focus and awareness to everything your do

The objective of mindfulness is to unclutter your mind by keeping it sharp and clear. Instead of trying to multi-task, you choose to focus on the single task you are doing. Be aware of internal and external distractions as they creep in by being focussed and aware of the single task you are doing. This is the opposite of multi-tasking. Your productivity increases and mistakes decrease when you concentrate only on the present moment and task at hand.

#4 – 60 seconds mindfulness performance breaks

Try to regularly stop what you’re doing during the day and focus on your breathing only. This will help clear your mind and stay alert especially in moments where you feel flustered and confused. Whenever you find a minute to spare, these small bursts of 60 seconds mindfulness performance breaks can refresh your concentration levels and help your stay alert throughout the day.

#5 – Do absolutely nothing when commuting

Whilst commuting, do not reach for your phone, iPad or any other distraction device. Turn everything off and focus on the present moment. Allow the thoughts of the day to pass while you focus on your breathing. The essence again is to let go of doing anything and simply be. This will help you let go of all the stresses of the day and the commute so you can return home feeling calm and fully present.

I hope these activities inspire you to focus, be calm and stay present. Remember, it takes practise and it’s absolutely OK if you don’t manage at first. The trick is to focus on breathing and allow wandering thoughts to pass through your mind without engaging in any of them.

~ Nafisa

*Source: Improving Teacher Hapiness & Well-being: A collection of expert resources (Iris Connect)

10 Well-being Tips for Study Success

Well-being for Study Success

How do you manage your study and work schedule with the added challenge of workload and stress? Here are my 10 tips for well-being and study success:

Tip #1 – Always identify deadlines

Ask for extensions if necessary.

Set times for doing and finishing things and stick to it. Write deadlines in places where you can easily see and remember which tasks are priority and when they are due.

Tip #2 – Ask questions

What, why, when, how?

These are all simple but important questions we need to ask about things that we are supposed to do. Time is precious so it’s important you ask questions about the benefit and impact of tasks you’ve been set. Ask questions especially for clarification.

There is a proverb in Hausa, ‘The questioner is never lost‘.

Tip #3 – Learn from feedback

Mistakes are both unavoidable and necessary for us to learn. We learn from both what we did and what we didn’t do well.

As a teacher, I spend time giving feedback to help learners develop and learn from what they did or didn’t do and how they can do better. So whenever you receive feedback on your work, make sure you understand that teachers only give you feedback to support your progress not to criticise your efforts.

Tip #4 – Know when to stop

Say no to yourself and/or others when you can’t or simply don’t want to do something.

As hard as it may be, it will benefit you in the long run if you are honest about what you are able to do realistically from the onset.

Nobody is a superhuman and you are no exception. Sometimes things are simply not possible to do and that is absolutely OK.

Tip #5 – Take regular breaks

Rebooting is necessary.

You have the power to set the reset button anytime you like. Your mind and body are not machines, so it’s important to give yourself time and space to detach from your workload regularly.

Try to incorporate regular breaks for water, fresh air, body stretches (especially if you spend a lot of time at a desk) and food or snacks into your work schedule.

Tips #6 – Keep a happy workspace

Your mind needs inspiration to work effectively.

Find a space that makes you feel happy or decorate your workspace with things that make you smile like photos of your favourite places or quotes from inspirational people.

If you have awards or certificates from previous achievements, why not display these too? This will encourage you especially when you’re not feeling your best by reminding you of how your previous hard work has paid off.

Tip #7 – Talk about it

What are you up to? What’s bothering you?

Whatever it is don’t keep it in. Share ideas with your peers and other people to collaborate on managing time, study skills, productivity or anything else that interests you.

You should also be able to talk to your tutors, lecturers or student well-being officers. If you have some really important things that are bothering you, you should seek professional help.

Tip #8 – Go outside

Fresh air can do you wonders.

Leave your desk and step outside, even if it’s for a five minute mindfulness walk around the block.

It’s not only good to give your eyes a screen break but also a gentle stretch of your limbs to get your circulation flowing and fresh blood back to your brain!

Tip #9 – Enjoy the process

Studying is fun, if approached with the correct mindset.

Think positively about the tasks ahead and you are far more likely to enjoy doing them. If you enjoy what you are doing, it will be a lot easier. So focus on the process and you will see positive outcomes.

Tip #10 -Relax

If you’ve done your best, you’ve done pretty much everything.

Now relax and let it come together. Detach yourself from your work now and watch it all fall into place.

I hopethese 10 tips help you improve your well-being for study success. For daily inspiration and tips on study skills follow me on Instagram

12 Keys To Success
‘12 Keys To Success’ eBook is available for instant digital download from my online store; Nafisa London & Co.

You can also get you copy of my eBook: ‘12 Keys To Success’  –  a strategically designed, straightforward and reader-centred guide on achieving your visions and dreams and written with 12 useful tips based on my first hand experience and strategies I’ve used to turn my education, business and career goals into tangible results. It is designed with hands-on practical advice to engage active rather than passive reading. This eBook is available for instant digital download from my online store; Nafisa London & Co.Enjoy,


New Mid-Year Monthly Planner – (free template)

Happy 1st of June! What beautiful weather we have been enjoying over the past month here in London, England! And now June is here, we can officially call it summer. What better way to celebrate here on this blog than with a freebie?

So here is a my newly designed mid-year monthly planner which you can download instantly here

It’s never to late to start or refine your schedule and I hope this template will help you organise your upcoming month so you have a productive and stress-free June.


~ Nafisa

Learn with Nafisa blog mid year monthly planner

Academic Reading Template (free download)

Reading Notes Template by Nafisa Ahmedi
Reading Notes Template by Nafisa Ahmedi | Learn with Nafisa

Improve your academic reading skills with this great template – I’ve designed it to help you organise information you read into relevant sections that make it easier to comprehend. You can download it here.

Reading Template Learn with Nafisa

This double-sided template is laid out with clear sections to give you guidance on what you’re reading, why you’re reading it and how the information will be useful in application to your studies.

💡Tip: read the information under each heading and complete each section carefully.   

This is a very useful tool to also help you with revision.

Have fun!


Lecture Notes Template (free download)

Lecture Notes Template by Nafisa Ahmedi

Here is a newly designed study skills aid for note-taking in lectures. From my experience teaching academic reading and writing, note-taking is something students often struggle with.

Note-taking is a technique that you need to develop in order to organise and understand the information you hear. You can download this free template to help you organise lecture information into clear and easy to understand chunks which will make it easier for you to process lecture content.

Lecture Notes Template by Nafisa AhmediRemember to:

  • Use the objectives section to set out what you what to achieve by the end of the lecture. Think about why the lecture is important – by the end of the lecture, what do you want to understand?
  • Make a list of the key points. What are the most important points you need to remember?
  • Use the information, detail & further examples section to expand on the key points, include anything important the lecturer says here.
  • Include a short summary at the end of your lecture. It’s best to do this after the lecture when you review the notes you made during the lecture. Cover these and try to write a short summary of what you can remember without looking at the details. Keep this summary short, within the small space provided.
  • Make an action plan of what self study to do next. What further questions do you have? What do you need to re-read? What don’t you understand and need further clarification on? What further reading do you plan? Remember the key to good grades is reading around your subject. It is simply not enough to rely solely on information from your lectures which is why this self-study and further reading section is important.

You can download your free copy here

Have fun!


Free Ramadan Guide & Planner 2018

Assalamu alaikum,

Welcome to my very first post of 2018. I’m very excited to share this project I’ve been working on for the past month, my Ramadan Guide & Planner 2018.

I am really excited to share this Ramadan Guide & Planner 2018 along with a full 30 day Ramadan Calendar for 2018 and a Ramadan Daily Planning Sheet because I believe planning and preparation are the keys for success in all walks of life and religious and spiritual aspects of our lives require the same if not more attention and a meticulous approach in order to ensure we get the best out of the Holy & Blessed month of Ramadan.

This 40-page, full colour Ramadan Guide & Planner 2018 is filled with practical tips and advice for both spiritual, mental and strategic preparation to ensure you achieve a very balanced and fruitful month of fasting. I hope you find this Guide both beneficial and inspiring and may Allah accept all our efforts of worship and make this forthcoming blessed month both easy and successful, Ameen.

I wish you all a blessed month 💕

Ramadan Kareem,


*All books and planners are FREE to download.

PLEASE NOTE: if downloading the free version from my online store: shop.missphdiva.co.uk – please remember to use the code: RAMADAN2018 at checkout to ensure you can download it free of charge.

Please download all 3 files:

🗒 Ramadan Guide & Planner 2018 by Nafisa Ahmedi

📆 Ramadan 30 Day Calendar by Nafisa Ahmedi

📝 Ramadan Daily Planning Sheet by Nafisa Ahmedi

Blog Collaboration: My Interview by Barakah’s Thoughts

Last month I had the pleasure of collaborating with fellow blogger Barakah’s Thoughts. Barakah interviewed me and asked questions on my blog, brand and business, career and interests which were a lot of fun to answer. 

Barakah is currently a medical student, writer and girl child education advocate. We both share very similar passions and interests but one thing about Barakah’s blog and interview that impressed and inspired me was her devotion to female and girl child empowerment. I have never been a feminist or women/girls’ rights activist however the collaboration with Barakah’s has inspired me to look closer at female empowerment and girl child education and empowerment issues both nationally and globally.

Thank-you Barakah for the opportunity! If you’d like to read my interview head over to her blog: Barakah’s Thoughts

Have a wonderful July,

~ Nafisa