How to adjust to the new style of studying at university
Teachers always talk to you about the jump from GCSE to A Level, but what they don’t tell you is that the jump from A Level or your secondary-school equivalent to the university style of studying is one of the biggest leaps you’ll ever make.
When I joined Reading as a first year to study English Language and Linguistics, I struggled with getting to grips with what my course actually wanted from me. The workload overwhelmed me even when there was actually far less to be done than what I’d been used to during my A Levels, and I thought the only way to do well was to burn myself out in the library, working all night until I’d completed all my tasks. I soon realised this was not the case and discovered ways to get good grades without making myself ill in the process. I have compiled my top three tips below.
Buy all the stationery!
For some, stationery is simply a flashy way to spend money while looking studious, but without it, I certainly wouldn’t have received the grades I did. Let me explain: to-do list notepads, diaries and academic planners enable you to bring structure back to your life after Freshers’. For multiple choice tests or other knowledge-based exams, flashcards (I recommend the jumbo-sized 8×5-inch ones from Amazon) are a sure-fire memorisation tool and help you actually get that all-important exam info ingrained in your brain. Even highlighters cannot be overestimated, as they make your notes look beautiful and this can motivate you to continue engaging with the content.
Don’t do all the reading they tell you to.
Take this advice with a pinch of salt: of course, it is often wise to have extra readings under your belt for essay-based exams. Don’t forget that some find reading to be an effective way to consolidate the key knowledge they already have, too. However, when preparing for essay-assessed modules, whilst ensuring you read plenty will enhance your grades by a mile, this will only be the case if you do your own, super-focused research and choose texts that you can show are particularly relevant to your essay question. Not all the books on your lecturer’s reading list will necessarily be like this!
Give referencing the time it deserves.
Whilst this can be a frustrating activity for many, and for most of us university is the first time we come across this practise, referencing is something that should not be taken lightly when you get to the end of your essays. Spend as much time as you need to ensure you have copied the guidelines for your department’s chosen referencing convention 100% correctly. Check, and double check. Further to that, try to do this in the morning or at a time when you are least tired. Trust me: I’ve done referencing at 5:00 a.m. after a sleepless night writing, and it did not go well!
These are just some of the tactics which have helped me get to grips with the style of work expected from you at university. The bottom line is: work smart, not hard. Pinpoint what methods work best for you in different situations, and stick to them. Never feel as though you need to sacrifice other aspects of your life or pull all-nighters in the library just to get good grades – because as long as you’re working effectively in the right ways, you don’t have to.
Written by Sabita Burke