Getting ready for the exam season! Top tips from the Study Advice team.

Have you started thinking about exams yet? This year, some exams will continue with the take-home format, while, in some other cases, in-person exams may be returning! Whatever the case may be for your subject, getting organised early is key.

Study Advice is here to help! Check below our top 10 tips for exam success and info on all the additional resources and interactive support we offer:

 

For efficient revision…

 

  1. Make a plan! Check when your exams are scheduled and allow yourself plenty of time for revision in small doses.
  2. Note the format of your exams. Format may differ among different Schools and modules; make sure your information is correct and up to date, so you can prepare accordingly.
  3. Go beyond your lecture notes. You can’t revise everything in detail, so select fewer topics to focus on in more depth. Check your reading list for further reading; think how you’d use what you’ve read to answer a question. Use your module’s revision session to ask questions or clarifications of the module convenor.
  4. Past papers are your friends! Use them to work out how many topics to revise, to practise writing quick plans and timed answers, and to familiarise yourself with exam instructions. Past papers are available at the exams office archive.
  5. Take good care of yourself. Eat healthy meals, sleep properly, and give yourself time off – taking breaks will reinvigorate your brain and increase your efficiency in processing information.

 

On exam day…

 

  1. Read the questions carefully. Don’t just look for familiar key words; check again. You might find the topic you are well prepared for is worded differently.
  2. Use outlines before your start writing. Think about the key points in your answer and dedicate a paragraph to each one. To structure your paragraph, make your point early and clearly, then give your evidence and analysis to support it, and end with a concluding sentence to link the point back to the question.
  3. Work out your timings. Know when you need to move on to the next question. Spend longer on questions worth more marks and allow time for checking. If your exam is not timed, it is still advisable to stick to recommended timing and word count; this will help you understand the scope required to cover and avoid going off topic.
  4. Don’t panic! Under pressured conditions in invigilated, time-bound exams, you may initially feel you don’t know enough; go over the question again and put down in a list what you do know. If you go blank, take a few deep breaths and don’t push yourself to remember. Instead, move to a question you can answer and return afterwards. Chances are you will remember when your brain isn’t under pressure.

 

After the exam…

 

  1. Reflect on your experience. What strategies worked well? Use these in your preparation for the following exams.

 

For more tips on exams revision, how to approach different types of questions, exam room strategies, and more, check out our Study Advice exam prep resources.

We are also planning interactive sessions you can join to discuss your questions or practise in exam-room conditions. Book your place via our Webinars and Workshops page.

  • Wednesday 23 March, 2:00pm-3:00pm: Revising for university exams (online)
  • Wednesday 20 April, 1:00pm-2:00pm: Preparing for in-person exams (face to face)
  • Wednesday 20 April, 2:30-4:30pm: Practice exam workshop (face to face)

Best of luck to all!

 

Library website migration

The Library webpages have moved over to the University’s new content management system (CMS) – you may already be familiar with the new interface as many areas of the University website have already been migrated.

Partial image of the new Library website.

The migration means that the look and feel of our webpages have changed, but access to all our guidance, resources and other information should remain available. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, please email us at library@reading.ac.uk so that we can help you stay on track with all your information needs.

Your Library team

New Year: have a plan

File, calendar, notebook with pencil and laptop graphic

A term in, it’s time to reflect on what has worked and what new strategies we need to try to keep on top of our studies. Study Advice have some videos to help you, a new webinar series and some top tips to starting the New Year on the right track.

 

Tip #1: Reflect on the last term
Regular reflective practice is an important part of doing well at university. It involves looking back on a recent period of study, evaluating your approaches, and setting yourself targets for further development. Before you start planning for the coming term, think back on how the term just gone went:
• What did you enjoy the most? Can you think of why you enjoyed it so much? Equally, what did you enjoy the least, and why?
• Was there anything you did particularly well at? What did you do that worked so well?
• Was there anything you could have done better? If you had to do something similar this term, how might you approach it differently?
• Did you get the support you needed last term? If not, do you know where to find it?
Tip #2: Make a plan
If you don’t have a study timetable, now’s the time to make one. Follow these 5 steps to make a workable weekly plan and ensure you keep on top of your studies this term:
1. Note down everything you need to complete each week. For instance: watching videos, attending seminars, working on assignments, and reading around your subject.
2. Allocate time. Work out how much time you have for each task each week. You should see studying as a full-time job, so aim to allocate 35-40 hours a week to studying.
3. Schedule in time. Using a weekly planner, add in your fixed appointments, then begin slotting in your other study activities. Use the times that you are motivated for study and mix up reading, writing, and listening tasks within a day.
4. Making it easy to stick to. Try to have a set routine, starting study at the same time each day, plan in regular breaks and move things around if your plan is not working for you.
5. Plan backwards from assignments. Give yourself weekly targets to work towards. Try using a termly planner and put it up near to where you study.
Tip #3: Read actively
It’s called ‘reading for a degree’ for a reason: no doubt you’ll be asked to read lots of articles, book chapters and other material to support your learning. But if you find that you read without knowing why you’re reading, you don’t think about what you’re reading or you fail to make connections along the way, then you’ve fallen into the trap of passive reading. Instead, consider why you’re reading, what question might it answer? And consider if you agree with what’s been said. How does it fit in with your course material and other ideas you have come across? In short: think more and read less.
Tip #4: Be more proactive
• Start working on your assignments sooner, even if it’s just setting up a way of organising your lecture notes according to which assignment they’ll be useful for.
• Make sure you’ve done enough preparation before going to your lectures. Give yourself enough time to engage with the required reading, screencasts, or other materials. Take active notes where you are not just summarising the content, but also processing your own thoughts, identifying key terms you don’t understand, and noting down your questions. Using your notes this way will help you participate in class more actively!
• Look for support sooner: don’t ever think you will be penalised or judged for needing support. Students succeed because they use the support available to them, not because they are ‘naturally’ good students.
For more
Watch our new short videos on Organising your studies and Reading academic texts; and see our Time Management Guide
Visit our Study Advice website for more resources, to book a 1-2-1 or attend a webinar this spring term. Our webinar on the 12th January is: ‘work smarter not harder’ and is essential if you want to use your study time more effectively.

Study Advice

Autumn term – time to continue your studies

avenue of trees in Autumn

So, the summer holidays are almost over, and thoughts are starting to turn to coming back to uni. Where do you start and how do you make sure you’re ready for the challenges ahead? Follow our Study Advice tips below to ensure you’re ‘study ready’ for the autumn term.

Tip #1: Sort out the stationery

Start with preparing yourself mentally by ensuring you have all the equipment that you need. You’re likely to be attending seminars on campus as well as engaging in online content, so you’ll need to decide if you’re going to stick to pen and paper, make notes digitally or have a combination of both. You may need pens, paper, files and dividers, or ensure you have the digital versions ready; so, set up your online folders for each module.

Tip #2: Check out Blackboard

If you have access to your Blackboard account, check out the information that’s available for each module. Download and save any key documents where you can easily access them. Make a note of the assignment details and deadlines and familiarise yourself with the structure of each module.

Tip #3: Access your reading list

Once you have access to your reading list through Blackboard, you can start by making a note of your essential readings. You might want to purchase some of the books, or check out their availability in the Library.  Your online reading list will show you where to find books on the Library shelves, or how to access online versions available through the Library. You can plan your reading in advance, and you may be able to access and read online versions before you start.

Tip #4: Make a study plan

Once you have access to your own timetable, you can create your own weekly and termly study plans. Check out our videos on managing your time which offer some tips to get you started. Our video on organising yourself offers some advice on managing your studies in a blended learning environment.

Tip #5: Brush up on those academic skills

You might feel that some of your study skills have become rusty over the summer. So, if you want to refresh your skills on writing essays, referencing and organising your study time, check out our Study Advice videos. We also run Weekly webinars to support you to develop your academic skills. Book your space on these today and get yourself study ready!

And if you’re a first-year student, make sure you join 1000s of your fellow students on our Study Smart course. This has been designed by us specifically to help prepare you for studying at university. You’ll find loads of resources to help you and some of our current students are online to answer any of your study questions.

Study Advice 

Get set for dissertations with live and video training!

Young asian girls crouch at running race start lineSet to start your dissertation this summer? No? Get on track by joining this week’s live webinars introducing reference management tools EndNote and Mendeley, or catch up with our new videos summarising topics discussed at last week’s Master’s Dissertation Fayre!

Join reference management workshops

Book through the Actions tab on RISIS to join Extra EndNote and Mendeley reference management workshops:

  • EndNote Online – Tue 15 June 11am
  • Desktop EndNote – Wed 16 June 11am
  • Mendeley – Thu 17 June 11am

View Master’s Dissertation Fayre videos

Showdy figures study in purle background of caption "Masters Dissertation Fayre 2021 Monday 7th to Firday 11th June.Last week all students attending live webinars and giving feedback said they would recommend the sessions to others. One said, “Everything has been helpful; despite writing two dissertations I have not had sessions like these before. Learning to focus my research (‘systematic searching’ and ‘finalising research questions’ were great) and [learning to] plan my study more carefully are the sorts of things I’ve been needing to improve.”

So help yourself to these newly recorded video versions provided by the Library’s Liaison and Study Advice Teams. Aspects covered include:

Ready? Get set. Go!

Rachel Redrup, Academic Liaison Librarian

 

Book your Master’s dissertation webinars this week!

Put your studies on track for success with a series of webinars for Master’s students working on their dissertations! The Master’s Dissertation Fayre, run by the Library’s Study Advice and Liaison teams, is back after the success of last year.  Students loved our range of topics covering all elements of dissertation planning and writing, from choosing a research methodology to writing your literature review.  This year, we’re offering all that and more!

Webinars are running online at 11am and 2pm each day from Monday 7 – Friday 11 June. These friendly and helpful sessions are open to all Master’s students, and you can book a place online.

Topics include:

  • Critical writing
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Systematic literature searching
  • Finalising your research question
  • Using company information databases
  • Writing your literature review
  • Literature searching tips
  • Reference management tools comparison – Endnote vs Mendeley
  • Writing your discussion
  • Using primary sources/archives online
  • Finding statistical sources

We’re looking forward to seeing you virtually, and hearing your feedback.

Academic Liaison Librarians and Study Advisors

5 tips for starting your Master’s dissertation

So, you may have just finished your exams but now you have to turn your attention to your dissertation. Where do you begin and how can you ensure you stay on track? Below are our Study Advice and Library tips to help you get started and stay focused.

Student studying in the Library

Tip #1: Have a plan

Having a plan not only helps you to stay on track but weekly goals keep you motivated. Work backwards from your hand in date and remember to build in extra time for proofreading and final touches. Our videos on managing your time offer some tips to get you started.

Tip #2: Start with something small

To help you get going, start with a task that you can get done easily. This might be something simple, like setting up a word template or printing off a couple of key articles. Being able to complete one task can give you a sense of achievement and motivate you to tackle more challenging ones.

Tip #3: Think about the information that you need…

…and how to access it! If you are carrying out a literature review, or analysing documents or literature, make sure that you are familiar with the key online resources in your subject area. You can find out more about what’s available to you, as well as contact details for your Academic Liaison Librarian, on your Library subject guide. Look at the COVID-19 page in the guide for top tips on how to access resources when off-campus.

Tip #4: Think more, read less

It’s important that you think critically about what you’re reading. This requires you to see the links between various theories and consider what they mean for your research question. So, when taking notes remember to not only record a summary of your reading but more importantly note what you think about what you have read. This will help you when you come to write up. Our video on critical note-taking offers some advice on this.

Tip #5: Attend a webinar

The Library and Study Advice teams are running a series of webinars for Masters students working on their dissertations. The Masters Dissertation Fayre is back for a second year, covering a range of topics from selecting a reference management tool, to structuring your literature review.

Webinars will run online at 11am and 2pm each day from Monday 7th – Friday 11th June. These friendly and helpful sessions are open to all Masters students, and you can book a place online.

Thanks for reading,

The Study Advice Team

How to avoid screen fatigue

Girl with head in hands looking at laptop screenIf you find that your eyes feel tired, you feel headachy, struggle to concentrate or have neck and back pain, one possible explanation could be screen fatigue, say our Study Advisers.

Our devices help us to study and stay connected to each other but, unfortunately, they can also tire us out and limit our productivity. Screen fatigue can be avoided by putting some simple strategies in place, read on to find out more!

Tip #1: Take breaks

As with any kind of study, it is important to take regular breaks. To avoid screen fatigue, making clever use of your breaks can help. For example:

  • If you take a ten-minute study break from writing up an essay on your laptop, try to take that break away from screens. Avoid the temptation to look at your phone in your break and instead try to do something physical, even if it’s just emptying the dishwasher or making a cup of tea.
  • If you have time for longer breaks, try taking a walk or going for a run. This will give your brain and eyes a rest from the screen but can also relieve aches and pains from poor posture adopted while working on a screen.

Tip #2: Plan screen and non-screen time into your studying

Planning your studying with a timetable, to-do lists or planners is a useful practice and might be something you are already doing (see our advice on Organising your studies). However, have you considered planning your study with regards to screen time? For example, you could:

  • Mix and match your studying activities for the day to include some screen and some non-screen activities. For example, you could spend an hour searching for journal articles for an essay, take a break and then spend another half an hour sketching out an essay plan on a piece of paper.
  • Think about activities that you could switch from online to offline. Could you print out a paper to read instead of reading it from the screen? Could you make that meeting a telephone call instead of a video call?

Tip #3: Watch out for triggers

You will, of course, need screens every day to study and stay connected, but look out for situations where you end up online unnecessarily:

  • Turn off notifications. Do notifications on your email or phone pull you back to screen? Could you turn some of them off? Even just turning off notifications temporarily while you are working, off-screen can help.
  • Buy an alarm clock. If you use your phone as an alarm in the morning, it can be very easy to drift onto the internet after turning it off. Buy a simple alarm clock instead and remove the temptation.
  • Seek offline distractions. If boredom finds you picking up your phone or opening an internet browser, watch out for this, and try to replace these activities with something else – listening to the radio, calling a friend or even doing some colouring in a book will give you a break from the screen.

For more

Watch the Study Advisers’ new short videos on Organising your studies and Taking notes from videos and see our Covid-19 Guide.

Visit our Study Advice website for more resources, to book a 1-2-1 or attend a webinar this spring term.

Study Advisers

This article is also available on the Student Services News Blog as How to avoid screen fatigue.

New Year Study Advice: have a plan

Computer-generated laptop,, file, calendar, diary imagesCovid-19 has brought with it new ways of working and learning for all of us. A term in, it’s time to reflect on what has worked and what new strategies we need to try to keep on top of our studies. Our Study Advisers have some new videos to help you and some top tips to starting the New Year on the right track.

Tip #1: Make a plan

If you don’t have a study timetable, now’s the time to make one. Follow these 5 steps to make a workable weekly plan and ensure you keep on top of your studies this term:

  1. Make a note of everything you need to complete each week. For instance: watching videos, attending seminars, working on assignments, and reading around your subject.
  2. Allocate time. Work out how much time you have for each task each week. You should see studying as a full-time job, so aim to allocate 35-40 hours a week to studying.
  3. Schedule in time. Using a weekly planner, add in your fixed appointments, then begin slotting in your other study activities. Use the times that you are motivated for study and mix up reading, writing, and listening task within a day.
  4. Making it easy to stick to. Try to have a set routine, starting study at the same time each day, plan in regular breaks and move things around if your plan is not working for you.
  5. Plan backwards from assignments. Give yourself weekly targets to work towards. Try using a termly planner and put it up near to where you study.

Tip #2: Take more effective notes

With lecture content now likely to be recorded, you need to develop different note taking skills to what you might be used to. If you’re finding that watching this content is taking longer than you hoped it would, try these things before, during and after watching:

  • Before: Access the slides and familiarise yourself with the content. Decide if you will write on the slides or pre-format a document with some headings on.
  • During: Decide whether you will hand write notes or create them online (perhaps using OneNote). Watch the video without pausing, if you miss something critical just jot down the time and re-watch that bit. Your notes must have a meaning to you, so just note down anything that springs to mind when your lecturer is talking.
  • After: Spend a few moments summarising what you have just learned. Consider how it fits in with what you already know and other areas within the module. Pattern notes or a mind maps work well for this. Remember to file your notes away in an organised way,

For more

Watch our new short videos on Organising your studies  and Taking notes from videos and see our Covid-19 Guide

Visit our Study Advice website for more resources, to book a 1-2-1 or attend a webinar this spring term.

Study Advice

COVID-19 update: Your Library this summer

Refurbished Library building with extensive glass front and silvered cladding, behind young, llight green trees

You can borrow print items from the Library building with our ‘Click & Collect’ service.

Library services online

All of our existing support and electronic resources will continue to be available and delivered to you online over the summer. This means that you can still:

Loans and returns

Return loans in the Book Drop flap to the right of the Library front doors

We will renew all books for the entire summer vacation so do not worry as you will not have anything overdue or running up fines! All items will be due on 30 September 2020. If you have already returned items via our Book Drop (right of Library entrance) be assured they will be removed from your Library account as soon as we are able to get back in the building to process them.

We are investigating whether we can accept postal returns of books over the summer and will provide more information if we are able to do so.

Click & Collect service for print items. For those of you writing dissertations, we understand accessing materials is very important. We are providing a service for you to request items (from 13 July 2020). You can still ask your Academic Liaison Librarians whether they can source an alternative option for you.

Further information

Any updates on access to the books or changes to any services will be publicised on our website and Library blog so keep an eye out for news.

Stuart Hunt, Director

5 tips for starting your dissertation

So, you may have just finished your exams but now you have to turn your attention to your dissertation. Where do you begin and how can you ensure you stay on track? Below are our Study Advice and Library tips to help you get started and stay focused.

Tip #1: Have a plan

Having a plan not only helps you to stay on track but weekly goals keep you motivated. Work backwards from your hand-in date and remember to build in extra time for proof reading and final touches. Our videos on managing your time offer some tips to get you started.

Tip #2: Start with something small

To help you get going, start with a task that you can get done easily. This might be something simple, like setting up a Word template or printing off a couple of key articles. Being able to complete one task can give you a sense of achievement and motivate you to tackle more challenging ones.

Tip #3: Think about the information that you need…

….and how to access it! If you are carrying out a literature review, or analysing documents or literature, make sure that you are familiar with the key online resources in your subject area. You can find out more about what’s available to you, as well as contact details for your Academic Liaison Librarian, on your Library subject guide. Look at the COVID-19 page in the guide for top tips on how to access resources when off-campus.

Tip #4: Think more, read less

It’s important that you think critically about you’re reading. This requires you to see the links between various theories and consider what they mean for your research question. So, when taking notes remember to not only record a summary of your reading but more importantly note what you think about what you have read. This will help you when you come to write up. Our video on critical note taking offers some advice on this.

Tip #5: Attend our webinars

In Week 7, the Study Advice and Library teams are offering a series of webinars just for Master’s students. These will help you to get to grips with:

  • developing your research question,
  • planning your literature review,
  • finding information, and
  • managing your references.

Our short webinars run at 11:00 and 14:00 each day, Monday 1 June – Friday 5 June. To find out more and join the webinar check out our Master’s Dissertation Fair guide.

Study Advice and Academic Liaison Teams

Online Master’s Dissertation Fair: 1-5 June

Web page screen shotWondering how to start researching and writing your dissertation? Why not drop into the Master’s Dissertation Fair, run online by the Academic Liaison and Study Advice Teams!

Choose from a selection of different webinars at 11:00 and 14:00, Monday 1 to Friday 5 June offering advice on all elements of your dissertation planning, searching for literature, and writing. From choosing a research methodology to using reference management tools, these friendly webinars provide tips from the experts to put your dissertation on track for success.

​No need to book, just follow the links in the Master’s Dissertation Fair guide. Please connect 5-10 minutes prior to the session to ensure your access is working correctly.

More help available

Alternatively, you can also book a 1-2-1 session with a Study Adviser or Academic Liaison Librarian.

If you prefer self-paced online resources from Study Advice, try their suite of guides and video tutorials on literature searching, dissertations and major projects,

Discover key resources in your subject area in the liaison team’s guides: note the new COVID-19 tab showing additional relevant resources made available online during the lockdown period.

Study Advice and Academic Liaison Teams