Study skills online

An electronic guide to some of the best ways to study

Getting the help you need to succeed is a sign of strength, not weakness.

    1. 10.1Work, particularly manual work, de-stresses most people; studying means continual exposure to new ideas, deadlines and financial pressures and these can increase your stress levels. Many students cope well, but all will get fed up at some stage during their studies. The key to maintaining your momentum is to balance studies with other activities, such as:
      • sport; this has obvious health benefits but can also bring a sense of achievement, and team sports mean you'll meet lots of students from other departments,
      • doing some paid work; this is good so long as it fits around your studies (not the other way round!),
      • doing something 'cultural'; this is a great way of trying something entirely new, so check out the Arts Centre
      • getting off campus or away from home; this puts things in perspective - so go somewhere new from time to time,
      • and finally do something for someone else. Visit Brunel Volunteers and make a difference. You'll feel great about yourself if you do ... so do it!

        However, if you think you are beyond a 'normal range' and especially if you cannot attribute causes to your feelings, then please get some help. Start with your personal tutor or admin staff who will be able to direct you to professional help - and provide a listening ear anyway. Remember, everyone has worth so consider your merits and don't compare with (your perception of) others around you. Your feelings will certainly change over time, especially with help, so you do have things to look forward to within and beyond university life. Work through your issues with those that can help (counsellors at your university and/or the Samaritans , or religious leaders, and not just family or academic staff). Interacting with others can give shape and meaning to your life ... and one day you can 'repay' by helping others or simply being there for them.

    2. 10.2Yourself. Get organised and tackle any lifestyle or study related problems early. Write them down to get them in perspective, in order and under your control. Share your concerns with friends and your tutor. Again, don't internalise your problems - this will make them worse.

      In my study skills module, I asked the students to do a SWOT analysis at the end of their first term at university. This proved useful to everyone (see the "How I teach ..." link in the menu bar for the assignment). I also learned a lot and here is my general feedback on the (SMART) goals they set themselves. I do not know if the last two points apply to my students, and I am not trying to tell you how to live your lives ... but I am telling you how not to!

      • When I was a student I had far fewer distractions, but you are continually bombarded by them in the form of your phones, Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Play Stations, video games and TV. How do you cope with this? I am really not sure I could, but it’s clear that the majority of you waste far too much time on these unhealthy and anti-social activities. Put away these devices and interact with real people and do real things instead! This looks like an addiction for a small minority which will need addressing, possibly with professional help.
      • Some of you have yet to create a social life at Brunel University and need to do so to avoid loneliness, get more out of the university experience and have more fun. Going home all the time will not resolve loneliness and home sickness.
      • Some of you have family responsibilities that seem unfair e.g. collecting siblings from school every day. You need to make clear to your family that you are not ‘just a student’ and therefore can be called on for such duties willy-nilly. Parents are responsible for their children – nobody else.
      • In your SMARTs quite a few of you have put 'lose weight' even to the extent of setting target weights to be achieved. Of course it's not good to be fat and this can lead to health problems, but it seems to me that some of you are having your 'self perception' dictated by what fashion and advertising people say. It's not good to be skinny either. Just be sensible and be happy in yourselves and the body you have! If you are not, get some help from a counsellor. This can be serious if not tackled. What’s more, very few employers (beyond professions like football or artists’ life models!) will use your BMI index or percentage body fat as a selection criteria!
      • If you really want something real to worry about, think about your smoking if you do it. Very few students have set giving up smoking as a goal, but cigarettes stand a very good chance of killing you, and in a very unpleasant and painful way too. Half of British adults of your age who smoke will die of smoking-related diseases. Don't fool yourself - you are not invincible. It's also bloody expensive and makes you smell too. So set this as a SMART if you want to be smart.
      • Hard on the heels of this danger is alcohol; binge drinking is extremely dangerous and costs the NHS £3bn a year. It can lead to a police record (with employment consequences), can wreck your health and often breaks up relationships. I am serious ... watch your alcohol consumption carefully; if you drink most days you are already an alcoholic, so seek help. Another SMART.
      • As for other drugs or substance abuse ... don't do this at all.
      • Gambling wrecks relationships and lives. Just don't get involved. Unfortunately betting shops and online betting sites have normalised this activity somewhat. Remember, people who promote these activities are NOT your friends so don't be taken in by their slogans about 'gambling responsibly'. And 'no' you cannot beat the system with some optimal gambling strategy ... all that will do is enable you to lose your money slower!
    3. 10.3Your Director of Undergraduate Studies will guide you in your choice of subjects (if any) and can advise you on general matters such as degree and examination regulations. Make sure you provide required information promptly e.g. change of address, completed module option forms, etc. so that accurate records can be kept.
    4. 10.4Your Lecturers will be pleased to help you with specific problems related to the modules they teach. Such problems should be raised at seminars, or exceptionally, by appointment. Don't expect a drop-in service or them to be on-call 24 hours a day!
    5. 10.5Your Tutor will help you with any outstanding problems (academic or personal) and you should make contact every 2-3 weeks during term time (or immediately for urgent issues). Your tutor must be informed of any extenuating circumstances affecting your studies or exams, which should normally be backed-up by documentation. It is your responsibility to provide this written documentation. Failure to do so will mean that the Progression Board may be unable to take it into account. You cannot submit extenuating circumstances retrospectively i.e. after the Progression Board. Your tutor, or your Course Director, should also be told of any permanent, protracted or recurrent problems (e.g. illness, dyslexia, disability or injury) so that we can form an accurate picture of your academic abilities. This information will be treated with discretion.

      You are recommended to submit ALL extenuating circumstances, whether or not you think you will pass; it is your right to do so. You should bear in mind, however, that although you will be treated individually and fairly by the Progression Board, our decisions are normally based overwhelmingly on the evidence of your marks; extenuating circumstances will normally only make a difference in borderline cases. It is also worth bearing in mind that the Progression Board has a responsibility to you to ensure that you are prepared academically for the next level of study; extenuating circumstances cannot make good any deficit here.

      Discuss your exam results and choice of optional modules with your tutor. Discuss your hobbies and interests too, if only so that your tutor can write an informed reference for you. Your tutor will help you prepare a perfect C.V. and advise on other aspects of job hunting - keep him/her fully informed. If you do not get on with your tutor, you have the right to change tutor; to do so, see the Senior Tutor. But remember in real life, you will have to work with people who may not be 'on your wavelength' so establishing a polite and professional interaction with all your staff will prepare you for coping later on.

    6. 10.6The Class Representative is an elected student member of the class who can approach the department on your behalf if you have any problems.
    7. 10.7Your Classmates can also be a great help in your studies. Discussing work with them fills in blanks and gives fresh insights.
    8. 10.8Remember

      See also the International Students www page on http://www.brunel.ac.uk/international/ which has a lot of advice on living in the UK and being a student at Brunel.

    9. 10.9The Language Centre currently run the following courses (1 hour per week) which you should consider attending to improve your English, even if it's your first language:
      • English language problems for speakers of English as a first language
      • English language, literature & culture for overseas students
      • English as a foreign language
      • writing skills for overseas students
      • surgeries for individual student language problems (native and overseas) by arrangement
      See their web site: http://www.brunel.ac.uk/international/iplc/english-language-courses
    10. 10.10The Professional Development Centre will provide advice on all aspects of job hunting and information on companies you are interested in. They have a selection of sample videos and C.V.'s. Make an appointment to see them and visit their www page at: http://www.brunel.ac.uk/pdc/

      You should also look at Kompass (which routes through to Key British Enterprises KBE) for company information on the CD-Rom Dataset Software Group on the Brunel Windows Network. For undergraduate and postgraduate taught course information see Ecctis (also in this group) which links to www pages of each university for more up-to-date information.

    11. 10.11 Information Services. The Library will help you find what you need or order it for you. Most course books are available here. Ask at the Issue Desk about the Library Tour (both physical and online). See also http://www.brunel.ac.uk/life/study/library

      User Support will help you with any software (and sometimes hardware) problems and advice, and they can usually retrieve deleted files from backups in an emergency. There is a lot of information on computing at: http://www.brunel.ac.uk/life/study/computer-centre/support
      If you suspect your files are being tampered with, see User Support IMMEDIATELY.

      On the web, a really great web site is Mathcentre at Loughborough University. This will allow you to download leaflets on a wide range of maths topics in pdf format.

    12. 10.12Learning Difficulties.

      Some of you will come to university with no idea that you suffer from a learning difficulty until you start your course. DO NOT PANIC. Whilst this happens to some students, it could be that you are not, for example, dyslexic and are just finding the work harder than you anticipated. If you think it is more that that then you should discuss your case with one of the disability officers, see http://www.brunel.ac.uk/life/supporting-you/disability-and-dyslexia who can, if needbe, arrange for an assessment.

      Learning Difficulties encompasses a wide area of learning impairment such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dysgrahia, Dysnumeria, Dyscalculia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. You may already know that you suffer from some form of learning difficulty and your last school or college may have already taken measures with assisted learning to remedy that fact. You might also have seen an Educational Psychologist. The psychologist may have made recommendations to assist you in your academic life such as:

      • extra time in coursework and exams (usually 25% extra in exams)
      • computer usage during exams
      • a reader
      • a writer
      • exams to be printed on different colour paper or in a larger font.
      You should show these recommendations to your tutor and undergraduate course director who may be able to act upon them.

      Footnote from one of the students who helped write this web document.

      "I have found that in order to survive University, you have to do a few things, much of which has already been stated in the past pages of this guide.

      • Approach everything with a positive attitude
      • Plan (it may be boring but it will pay off)
      • Do not be afraid of spending more time on work than your friends
      • Speak out; do not be afraid of asking for help!"

      You might find the Dyscalculia and Dyslexia Interest Group's web site interesting and useful although this is targetted more at (maths) teachers than students. If you see something there that might help you, ask your teacher/lecturer to implement it in your classes/exams.

      Finally http://www.dyslexic.com/ is a commercial company selling specialist software for disabled students.