Rosh’s Study Tips

Sorting Yourself Out For Achieving Well This Semester
Plan, Plan, Plan - Set realistic priorities and stick to them
At the beginning of semester, or as soon as you get the chance (even if semester has started), write a table of what you will cover each week. Include in this table when each assessment item is and how much it is worth. It is important to have this clear in your mind, and it is important to do this before you start studying, rather than at the end of semester when you are preparing to study for exams. It gives you a context to fit each week’s worth of material into, so it is easier to understand how everything fits together. Make yourself some simple rules (don’t get too ambitious, and don’t have too many of them, otherwise you won’t follow through with any of them) at the beginning of semester about how you will approach your study. These should link in to your table of what and how you will cover your material each week. Examples:      I will make my study notes for each week on the day, or at the latest within the same week, as the lecture is, so I don’t fall behind. I will make a plan of how I will approach each assignment, and a skeleton plan of what it will include, on the day that I receive it, no excuses. I will not be a perfectionist about writing out my study notes perfectly and prettily, I will study from material which has all the information I need, so I will not procrastinate unnecessarily. I will try to attend all of my lectures. When feeling stressed with my studies I will manage this

Remember, your course outline is your BIBLE – it has everything you need to know about your assessment items, what they want you to learn in the course (i.e. what they will assess you on). Uni is not actually about learning what you want to learn, it is more about telling the teacher what they want to hear. What I mean by this is, the teacher is teaching you a small portion of the field, about which there is a whole lot more information out there. Your task, as a student, is not to learn everything else out there and impress them with this knowledge – rather, your task as a student is to learn what has been prescribed for you to learn. It took me a long time to get my head around this, as I wanted to impress the lecturers and be noticed as someone with brains (yes, the ego trip and all... ah, but you know me...). Anyway, when learning, look at what has been prescribed for each week, and

Lectures
To Attend or Not To Attend Even if you think you know the stuff that’s in a lecture, it can be more useful than you’d think to attend the lecture as subconsciously, you will learn this information in the context of the course, i.e. your brain will absorb the content of the lecture and place it in relation to the content you’ve learnt in past weeks, and will learn in subsequent weeks, so when it comes time to study for your exams or write an assignment, it will be fresh in your mind and linked in to the other concepts. This is particularly useful for the initial few weeks of

semester, which are usually refresher information that you may have covered in previous weeks, where it can be tempting to skip these lectures, however attending them as much as you think you know this stuff can often make understanding new concepts in subsequent weeks much easier. This said, University is all about prioritising, so if you need to get an assignment done and you don’t have the time to go to your lecture, then your assignment (which is work a percentage of your total assessment) might come first. Try and plan your time, however, to ensure you can attend your lectures if possible – it might sound strange, but it can make studying at the end of semester easier, from your subconscious mind’s perspective.

Taking notes By far one of the best ways to learn is by taking notes. If you can, before classes start in week 1, email the lecturer and ask them whether the lecture notes will be available each week for you to download. You can explain to them that you find it too rushed in class to take down what’s on the slide as well as make notes on what is being said, and request that they do put them up, if they say that they aren’t going to. Often lecturers don’t put up slides as it discourages students from attending class, but if you explain that you want to use the slides to learn more effectively, they often put them up. If the lecture notes are available for you to download, then when you’re in class (whether you print them out and bring them with you or not, it doesn’t really matter), do not copy what’s on the slide as a means of taking notes – this is useless, pretty much, as it is only repeating information. When taking notes, listen to what the lecturer says – they often will outright say that x or y will be in the exam, they’ll make hints about what is important and what isn’t, and if they talk about something in detail or for a long time, chances are it’s important. The notes you take in class don’t need to be the notes that you study from – you can make proper ‘study notes’ later, either during that week or later in semester, to study the final exam from. But the notes you make in class are made in class, based mostly on what is being said and discussed.

Juggling 5 Subjects At Once – Organisation, Prioritising and Time Management
It can be challenging to juggle assignments, weekly lectures, and other demands of one subject with the home life, work and social life that most uni students have, but how do you successfully balance this all with having five subjects, and not only surviving them but doing well in all of them? Two key things to keep in mind: 1. Be organised – set structured goals realistic priorities 2. Plan your time, then act on your plans These are the keys to doing well at uni.

Being Organised:
It is of vital importance to be organised – and in this, stop trying to do everything perfectly, because if you try to do it that way, you won’t get things done (again, from five years experience as a high achieving student, and from teaching classes). Being organised helps you to allocate appropriate time to each subject, and to make sure nothing creeps up on you at the last minute. It also allows you to be in control of your time and assignments, rather than they being in control of you. There are many different ways to get organised, and it is largely up to the individual to find what suits them through trial and error, but when you do find something that works, notice and stick to it. One of the most important aspects of being organised is to set goals (these you will get from your course outline and your teachers, you won’t have to work them out for yourself at undergraduate level, be thankful – postgrad is much harder!). Make sure you break these goals down into workable steps, so they don’t feel overwhelming, and even make notes on how you can achieve each of these steps so you feel more like they’re do-able.

Time management:
When managing your time at uni, it is important to set priorities – this is really important. When you have a whole bunch of things to get done, don’t freak out and allow yourself to become overwhelmed and wallow. Instead, stop, breathe and make a list of what you need to do by when, the steps involved in each thing, break it all down into bite sized pieces. Then, look at what’s most important to get done first, and organise your list this way, then sit down and do them. When planning your time, remember, it is not enough to just make the plans – remember to actually act on them, otherwise you’ll just end up stressed and anxious and depressed. When balancing your uni life with your home and personal life, it is also VITALLY important to prioritise. It’s really important to have balance between study, work and fun, but make sure you make informed choices, i.e. don’t work when you don’t need to but your boss wants you to, when you really need to get an assignment done, and of course the cliché, don’t go out with friends if you’ve got an assignment due in two days that you haven’t started. Think to yourself, to put things in perspective when making these choices, ‘in 5 years time, what will I value more?’

Take responsibility for your time, the things you need to get done, and get them done in a stress-minimised way before the time they are due. Remember – your teachers won’t accept excuses like ‘I didn’t have enough time’ or ‘I forgot about this assignment’, everyone in your class is in the same boat with the amount of time and the task needed to be done, so accept the privilege of going to university and do your work to a good standard and on time. This is what is expected of you.

Procrastination:
If you find that procrastination becomes a problem for you (and it is for every student I’ve ever known, self included), the first step I find is to be aware that you’re avoiding and procrastinating. Usually I’ve found that it’s because ‘it’s too hard’ and ‘I can’t do it’ and ‘I’m burnt out, I need a break so I can focus better’ keep running through my mind. In these cases, I find that the longer I procrastinate, the worse it gets. This is what I find works best for most people when in this situation: 1. Stop and take a deep breath and tell myself that it’s okay, I can do it 2. Make a plan - get the course outline or assignment question, and figure out what I’ve done and what I need to do, then make a list of steps to take to finish from where I’m at. Break down these steps into bit-sized pieces and baby steps to make it seem less anxiety-causing, and figure out how much time I’ll need for each step. 3. Work out which of these steps I can do today, and make a commitment to myself to do these, and not push myself to do more unless I feel I can, but make sure I do finish these 4. Take a break to help myself feel calmer, if I’m not pumped to get back into it by this stage. Good breaks for me are having a 20 minute nap (no longer, or I wake up tired and can’t do anything), go for a walk around the block (in the warmer months of course), take out an hour to do some art (works well when I’m really stressed, but I have to make sure to keep to the time limit), watch an episode of my favourite show (but make sure I stick to only one). I find that activities that involve movement/exercise are they best at really getting my head clearer, and those that are creative as well (even cooking a batch of muffins can be good too, but I need to keep in mind to be respectful and not leave a mess for other people in the house).

Assignments – How To Do Well & NOT to Leave Them Till The Last Minute
Assignments, aside from exams, are the bulk of your total grade. So, getting them done well is a priority if you want to achieve good grades. It can be befuddling to think, how will I approach this assignment, how will I do well in it and not just get it done, and how will I manage different pressures from different subjects and all of their assignments??

Approaching assignments:
In terms of approaching an assignment, the most important thing in not getting overwhelmed by it (and they build up, not only in each a subject but across subjects), so BEING STRUCTURED is vital. The best piece of advice that I can give to you is, make yourself a rule that on the day that you get an assignment, even if you think you don’t know the first thing about the topic the assignment is on, and especially if it’s due in a number of weeks time – MAKE A SKELETON PLAN of how you would write the assignment. A skeleton plan is a basic brainstorm, a list of bullet points and headings basically. It should include two main things:  The way you will structure the assignment: Write down what you think your argument will be, if it’s an essay especially, and make a list of the key ideas you want to turn into paragraphs, one per paragraph sort of thing, and what order the points will be in. For each ‘paragraph focus point’ as I like to call them, you can even write bullet pointed notes on what further details you’ll want to include in there. This way of approaching the structure makes it really easy to write your essay or assignment – just expand on your bullet points, add references, and you’ll be done in no time! The way you will go about finding what you need to do the assignment well (i.e. answer the questions asked of you): Make a list of the resources you think you will need (what sorts of books on what subject, what sorts of journal articles, if there are any resources that you already have (e.g. readings the teacher has given you in class, etc) that will be useful, etc. A timeline: It’s no use just putting these things together and letting them sit there until the night before the assignment is due. Use these two things to make a plan of attack – if you need to order books from the library, make a time and put it into your diary for when you’ll go and get those books, and give yourself enough time so you can get it done realistically (say, give yourself an hour to make sure you can go through the books and ensure they’ll be useful, not just get them because the title and contents pages look like they’ll be good). If you need to get journal articles, set yourself a good 2-3 hours and allocate yourself a time when you can go in to the library and do this. It’s better to allocate yourself more time than less, makes it less stressful. Also allocate yourself a time of maybe 2-4 hours where you can go through your resources and your skeleton plan and then actually write up your assignment.

It’s important to not just plan these things, but to actually do them as well, otherwise all the planning in the world will get you nowhere. An important thing to remember, which took me almost two years to really get the hang of, is that you don’t need to do everything perfectly or in one go – you just need to make a start, because not making a start is what makes you feel anxious and stressed. Once you make a start, the tasks that seemed huge and overbearing actually do feel smaller and more manageable. Procrastinating, making excuses about wanting to do it perfectly, is all well and good, but in the end the only thing it really does is makes you more stressed and you don’t end up achieving much. If you start to feel stressed, tell yourself

kindly, its okay, and do what you can to stop making excuses and just do it. Feel the fear and do it anyway – it’s pretty much the best way.

Achieving well in assignments:
Contrary to most students’ perception, doing an assignment isn’t just writing up enough words to answer the question. There are a number of key things that you need to do to achieve well for an assignment: 1. Actually answer the question – it’s very easy to write enough words to meet the word count requirements, but to gain marks, you need to write the right words. When writing your response to the question, keep in mind what the question is actually asking, not what you’d like it to be asking, if that makes sense. When beginning to write an assignment, underline the key words, and if necessary, write out some brief definitions of these on a separate piece of paper. Keep referring to the question throughout the process of writing your assignment, and at the end, even if you’re sick and tired of doing the assignment, make a point to read over the assignment as though you were marking it, and check to see if you’ve actually answered the question. This is important – from five years experience as a student, as well as experience teaching a course at uni and marking students’ assignments, I’ve found that the majority of students tend to write great essays, but not actually answering the question that was asked of them, and so they don’t get the marks they could have gotten, simple as that. 2. Spell it out – most of the time, when students write assignments, they may have the right information and references to answer the question, their paragraphs may be well structured, clearly and concisely written, their spelling and grammar good, etc. But, they don’t actually spell out their argument in plain and simple words; they imply it by having all the right stuff there. This may be great to get them a credit or maybe a distinction, but to get a high distinction grade; you have to actually state how your argument answers the question. It’s not enough just to have an argument that answers the question, you have to explain how it answers the question, if that makes sense. Spell it out, go the extra mile – it’ll fill up your word count with quality words, and you’ll achieve better. Simple, clear, concise and comprehensive is the aim. 3. Edit!!! – Writing an assignment isn’t just about getting enough words to meet the word count, or even answering the question properly. Here is a checklist to look over when you’ve written your first or second draft of your essay to make sure you complete the assignment well: a. Presentation: check that font size and type are the same throughout, that headings, subheadings etc are of the same size and format (underline, bold, whatever you’ve chosen) throughout. Also check that if you have graphs, tables and images, that these are all clearly labelled with a numbered caption. Ensure you have put your student number, name, class and assignment title somewhere on the assignment (generally in the header), and if the assignment requires a title, that you have put a title at the beginning. And REMEBER – it is not about making your assignment look pretty or unique, the marker won’t really care about these things; it is about making sure you have quality content, because this is what will get you marks and get you noticed. b. Spelling and grammar: check that your spelling and grammar are correct. Spellcheck is a good start, but it’s not always enough. A good idea is to read your assignment out loud to yourself, so you can hear mistakes (much easier this way, when you read it silently to yourself your brain often skips over mistakes because it’s all familiar), or if you can, get someone else to read over it, because others can pick up things we might not because they haven’t written it. If you’re getting someone else to edit your work, make sure you trust

them to give you honest, clear and objective feedback, asking someone in the same class as you isn’t a good idea usually. c. Essay structure: Ensure that your essay is set out well – i.e., that it has an introduction, a body and a conclusion. In different subjects these sections each have different requirements, but for a general guide to how to write each of these well, see accompanying document ‘How To Write The Most Incredible Essays’. d. Paragraph structure: Ensure that your paragraphs are well structured, and that each paragraph focuses in on only one key point, so as to be clear and easy to read. Your paragraphs should have an introductory sentence (that introduces the argument ), a body section of a few sentences (that contains the detail of your argument for that particular point) and a concluding sentence (that brings it back to the main point as indicated in the introductory sentence, and also leads on to the next paragraph’s topic, thereby linking the paragraphs and creating flow in your essay or assignment). Paragraphs should flow well from one to the next, and each paragraph should have only one key focus. e. Sentence structure: your sentences should flow well and make sense. Check to see that each sentence is complete on its own, and that each sentence flows properly from the one before it, and flows onto the one after it, in terms of content. A good way to check to see if your sentences are clear is to a) check that each sentence has only one or two key ideas, and b) to read your assignment or essay out loud to yourself, because when you read it out loud you can hear errors and things to fix up much more easily and quickly. f. Referencing: Ensure you have correct in-text referencing, in whatever method the teacher has recommended, and that you have a proper reference list at the end. Check your reference list to make sure that you have done all your references properly, as this is often easy marks that students forget about. Remember, you aren’t writing the assignment for you, you are writing it for your marker – try to put yourself in their shoes and see your essay from this perspective. When most markers are marking assignments, they give your assignment only a few minutes – enough to read it over once, and gauge your level of understanding and comprehension of the topic, the level of writing (total structure, paragraph and sentence structure, spelling and grammar), your references and the quality of your argument and its relevance to the question. They don’t spend time reading it over a few times in detail, as they have tens of essays to mark, and they have a limited amount of time. It is important to be as polished as you can with your assignment, and as clear and concise as you can be – if it saves them time, they’ll appreciate it.

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