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Essay Study Skills

Study Skills

At university you are expected to learn independently; this means taking responsibility for your own study. Many of the academic skills you are expected to use whilst at university will be new to you. Some of the skills you will need to develop are:

  • Reading and Note-making
  • Research & Evaluation
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Writing Skills
  • Referencing
  • Groupwork & Presentations
  • Exams Skills

Your department may provide workshops covering many of these aspects of study during your first term. UCL Library Services run training sessions on research and referencing skills (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/training). There are also some useful resources below to help you master these academic skills.

Study Skills Resources

Please find links below to presentations and other useful resources to help you with the academic skills required at university such as essay writing, learning techniques, referencing, presentation skills and assessment methods at UCL.

Describe, analyse, evaluate...what's the difference? Find out what essay instruction terms are really asking you to do.

Powerpoint presentation by the UCL Outreach Team (Academic Skills)

Page last modified on 13 feb 17 13:51


Being a college student can be quite difficult. It involves many hours of studying, taking exams and writing papers. As a college student your daily schedule is likely to be tight, limiting the amount of study time available to you. The following nine tips will help you make the most out of your study time.

  • Make studying a regularly-scheduled part of every day.
  • Study difficult subjects and those you do not find very interesting first, when your energy level is higher.
  • Be aware of your best time of day when you are the most alert, and use this time for studying.
  • Use waiting time to accomplish small tasks.
  • Use a regular study area.
  • Study where you will be alert (not on your bed, for example, where you may be tempted to nap).
  • Agree with roommates about study time.
  • Avoid noise distractions.
  • For difficult courses, set up a study group with other students from your course. Working with others can be a great motivator.

Time Management

Most professors will expect you to spend approximately one to two hours studying for every hour that you are in their class. If you are taking a full course load, that adds up to more than a 40 hour week, the equivalent of a professional job. If you are putting in additional hours for a part-time job, you will need to manage your time very carefully to get everything done and keep your sanity. You may wish to utilize a WEEKLY SCHEDULE to develop your plan of action.

  • Schedule from fixed to flexible using a daily planner
  • Set realistic goals
  • Plan study time sensibly
  • Make the most of your busy schedule

Note Taking

One of the best sources for reviewing the material covered in class is your own notes. Therefore, they should be well-organized and contain as much information as possible. It is also important to review your notes on a regular basis, not just the night before quizzes and tests. This will help you learn the material more thoroughly, making reviewing for tests and quizzes ultimately much easier and more productive. You may want to review by going through your notes and highlighting important ideas, or you may want to review by putting important words, concepts, or theories from your notes on note cards and drilling yourself on them.  These tips will show you how to make your notes as effective as possible.

  • Listen and think before you write down any information. This will allow you to take notes in your own words, proving that you have understood the information. Don’t just copy what the instructor said and expect it to magically make sense later.
  • Write the topic and date on each page of your lecture notes, and organize these accordingly. This will help you keep track of your notes for each course, especially if you miss a day, and it will make reviewing easier. Keep all of your notes for each class together in a binder or folder that is clearly marked.
  • Save time by eliminating articles and using sentence fragments, abbreviations, symbols, and other shortcuts. Avoid word-for-word copying. This way you will be able to take notes faster, and they will be more concise.
  • Indent to show subtopics and details, and leave a space to indicate a change of topic. Also, provide some space to insert information later.
  • Leave blanks for words, phrases, or ideas you think you may have missed, and ask other students or your instructor after class about the missed information.
  • Leave a margin, and use it for key words and questions that will help you review later.

Reading Textbooks

Reading assignments at the college level often involve challenging material. There are, however, certain strategies that will make difficult and/or lengthy texts easier for you to read, thus allowing you to understand and better remember the information you are reading.

  • Do your reading assignments either before or afterthey are lectured on or discussed in class, but pick the method that works best for you. Reading your assignments before they are lectured on should help you understand the lecture better, and it will also make the lecture a way of reinforcing what you have already learned. However, some students like to listen to the lecture and then read the material when they are able to understand it better. Figure out which style of reading helps you understand the material the best.
  • Read actively, highlighting and underlining carefully to simplify later review for exams. Also, make notes or write questions in the margins as you go. In addition, it is helpful to take notes on a separate sheet of paper as you read. This will keep you involved in the reading and provide you with an additional resource for review. The biggest mistake students make when they read is to just open the book and start reading passively.Make yourself work as you read to ensure that you are understanding the material. Otherwise you are just going through the motions of reading without getting much out of it.
  • Read flexibly, adjusting your speed and intensity to the difficulty of the material and to your ability.
  • Read critically to identify authors’ biases and to distinguish facts from opinions; you don’t have to believe everything that you read.
  • Test your understanding of textbook material frequently. To do this, close your book after finishing a section and restate in your own words the general content of that section. If you have problems doing this, go back and reread the section until this is easy for you to do.
  • Study visual aids like pictures and charts along with the text to increase your understanding of the topics covered.
  • Talk to other students in your class about the reading to help reinforce what you understood from it. Talking about what you read is a great way to test for understanding and also a great way to review what you have learned.
  • Read with a dictionary on your desk or in your lap and look up words you don’t know. This will help you understand the reading more thoroughly, in addition to improving your vocabulary overall.

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