Students, Studying

How I studied during my last degree

(okay so this is how I studied some of the time, but how wish I studied all of the time)

One of the hardest parts of adapting to university life is adapting to the new style of teaching and moving to a more independent style of learning. During GCSEs and A-levels, you could pretty much just get away with memorising a text book and learning key words from mark schemes which would always get you the marks. But university isn’t like that, and more importantly, life isn’t like that. Whilst you still get learning objectives, you’re encouraged to read around your subjects and bring in more information from other textbooks, and from journals.

What they don’t tell you about in high school, is that by the time your textbook is printed, it is already out of date. This is more true for science subjects, as we are constantly discovering new concepts, but probably less so for other subjects. Therefore, as a university student, its really important to not focus on textbook learning. Use your lectures as a base, because they’re taught by academics in that particular field, they’re likely to be up to date with recently developments. Then from your learning objectives and lectures, explore different subjects to cement your understanding of core principles.

Before the lecture

  • Download the PowerPoint or PDF of the lecture if its available and read through it
  • Highlight anything that looks particularly complex that you will need to pay special attention to

During the lecture

  • Have the PowerPoint open during the lecture and type useful things the lecturer said in the notes section of the PowerPoint
  • Try to stay focused and not let your mind wander. Don’t touch your phone!!!! Use an app like Forest to prevent going on your phone, sometimes if you miss five minutes, the rest of the lecture won’t make sense, and you’ll need to re watch the lecture (if your university even has lecture capture). TRUST ME, it’s not worth it

After the lecture

  • I made a master document of all my notes for each module, so after the lecture I would take everything from the lecture slides, and the notes I had added, and put them into this master document. You don’t really need to do this as when you revise you can just use the PowerPoints, but personally I just liked having everything in one place
  • After the lecture, (I never really did this straight after the lecture, it would always be a couple of weeks until I actually got round to doing this, but I wish that I’d have done this straight after the lecture) make flashcards, with a question on one side and the answer on the other
  • THE BEST WAY to study is using active recall, not just writing out your notes again and again and highlighting key words unfortunately. The best way to do this is to make questions from your notes and repeatedly ask yourself them until you know the answer. Little and often is the key
  • Here’s an example of a question and answer flashcard I would make:
photograph of two flashcards, with a question on one side and an answer on the other side
  • Maybe wait for a few lectures before you start making flashcards in order to gauge what depth you need to go into with your questions. If you start making 30 flashcards per lecture and you have 25 lectures in a module, you’ll end up with 750 flashcards for just one module, which is kind of ridiculous (for me it would be anyway)
  • You also don’t have to make physical paper flashcards, if you like to save paper there are lots of great apps to make digital flashcards instead. I think I’ll move to using digital flashcards for my next degree

Update! – I now use Goodnotes to make my flashcards – find out more about using notetaking apps in this post!

Revision

  • Revision should now be a little easier, as instead of spending lots of time making revision materials, you should already have them
  • For revision, go through the flash cards, testing yourself and gradually removing the ones you keep getting right. This will just leave the ones that you struggle with the most, allowing you to focus on them more
  • The more you go through your flashcards the more easily you’ll remember the answers

To find out how I use Notion to organise my revision and lecture content – read this post!

Other tips

  • Don’t be afraid to ask classmates or email lecturers if you have questions, lecturers are paid to teach you, so use them!
  • Most importantly – turn up to your teaching. By not turning up you are already putting yourself behinds. You will almost never regret going to a lecture, but you will always regret NOT going
  • If you start to get behind, don’t panic!! There is time to make it up, but don’t leave it until the last minute
  • If you are ever struggling, don’t keep it to yourself, contact your supervisor, friends, family, student services, there are lots of support systems available to you

Want a way to track your studying? You NEED this template!

Picture of a template for a module tracker, with arrows demonstrating how to fill it in

This Module Tracker is available as part of all our study packs, check them out here!


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