Tag Archives: exams

Study Tips for International Students

Revising and studyingThis month’s guest blogpost is provided by Daniel Sefton, a writer for Dwell Student Living:

When you choose to make the UK your home throughout your studies, you are stepping into a new culture, you are trying out a new language, and you might even be experiencing new teaching styles. Studying in the UK can be a challenge if you are not used to the way universities and colleges are structured, but there are a few things that you can do to make your studies a bit easier:

Ask Questions

Make sure you ask plenty of questions when you’re in class, especially if English is not your first language. It’s important that you take in the right information, and if you need your tutors to clarify any concepts for you, don’t hesitate to ask. Even if you think that the question might be worth asking, you should still get your tutor to explain it to you in terms that make sense to you.

Asking the right questions will help you to understand topics when you to come to study for your exams. If you don’t understand a topic and don’t ask, you may find that you have to teach yourself the concepts, which may then have an impact on how you manage your revision time.

Study with Friends

Sometimes it is better to study alone, because you can put real thought into the work that you are doing. One negative to working on your own is that when you encounter a difficult concept which you struggle to understand, you have nobody to ask for help. A solution to this problem is to study with friends.

If you revise with other people, they will be able to help you fill any gaps in your knowledge, while you will help them by explaining any concepts that you already understand. Working collaboratively with other people is a great way to quickly develop your understanding of a topic, so it is worth booking out a private study-space in your university or college library and getting together for a study session.


Practice makes perfect, so once you feel like you fully understand a topic, it will be time to put your knowledge to the test. Make use of the resources that your university or college has on offer, especially past exam papers and example answers from previous assignments. Find out from your tutor how long your examinations will last for, and recreate exam conditions when you test yourself.

Working in this way will get you used to the atmosphere of the exam hall, which means that when the actual test comes around, you will be able to perform to the best of your ability. Once you have tested yourself, take the time to mark your own work, and use this to find any gaps in your knowledge which you can then work on before your actual exam.

Plan Ahead

When you have settled into your course and have a good understanding of the syllabus (the topics you will be learning), start planning how you are going to study throughout the year. Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to absorb all of the information that you are being taught. The best way to retain new information is to dedicate an hour or so each evening to revising what you have learnt throughout the day. When you do this, you should put it into your own words, because this will help to improve your understanding of any confusing concepts. This will be crucial closer to exam season, because you will not be attempting to learn new things – it will just be a case of refreshing your memory.

Use Study Apps

If you need extra help with your studies, you can make use of some of the amazing smartphone apps that are available. There is genuinely an app for everything, so if you can pinpoint what it is that you struggle with, you will be able to find an app to help you.

If you have difficulty with taking in information, you can use apps like Soundnote to record your lectures, which will help you with your revision, because you can play the lecture back at a slower pace. You should check with your lecturer first to make sure they are happy to be recorded in this way. If you struggle planning your time, you can use apps like Class Timetable to plan your time effectively. It’s just a case of finding the right app for you.

Hard Work Pays Off

It can be a challenge trying to learn in a new environment, but with careful planning and hard work, you can be capable of exam success in no time!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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Getting Ready for Results Day

A student studyingThis month’s guest blogpost is provided by Amy Hirst, a writer for The Student Housing Company:

So you’ve sent off your UCAS application to study in the UK and now you’re waiting on your exam results! With over 400,000 students starting their new lives as undergraduates in Britain every year, there’s never been a more exciting time to apply.

But what about when it comes to results day? How do you keep track of your application and make sure you’ve got the grades you need to start your chosen course? Read our article to find out and to help you get ready for the big day!

Results Day

You can log into UCAS Track to see if you’ve got onto your chosen course. If you’ve achieved the grades you need, your ‘conditional’ offers will show up as ‘unconditional’ and you can celebrate! At this point, your first-choice university will get in touch to let you know what you should do next.

But remember that your exact marks won’t show up on Track. You will need to visit your school to see how you performed in each exam.

If you don’t get the results you want, try not to worry. When you’re just a few marks shy of getting into your chosen university, you can always call them up to see if they will nonetheless accept you.


If you don’t get the grades you need, you can still go through Clearing. This is a service that allows you to choose a different course and it’s completely free for international students. Just book a consultation (you can do this via Skype), and your consultant will contact other universities on your behalf.

Once they’ve found a few courses that are suitable for you, just pick the one you like the most and add it as your ‘clearing choice’ on your UCAS account. If you want to find out some extra info about Clearing, read The Student Housing Company’s Uni Application Checklist and you’ll stay one step ahead.

Studying in the UK

As excited as you may be, travelling to Britain can seem daunting. The culture in the UK will probably be different from your own, and if you’re leaving home for the first time, being in a new country might feel scary.

But don’t worry, help is at hand. Most universities have student-support officers available to assist you. There are also plenty of social groups you can join. Whatever you enjoy doing in your spare time, there will be a university society dedicated to it. There are loads of clubs set up just for international undergraduates too, so you can make lots of friends!

Finally, if you’re feeling homesick or overwhelmed by being in a different place, mental health support staff are usually available to talk you through your problems. Make use of them so that you can enjoy your time in Britain!

Whatever you study in the UK, make sure you have fun. Remember that you will be working hard, but you will also develop as an individual. So put yourself out there, make new friends, and enjoy your time as a student.

Get Your Accommodation Sorted

Finding sound accommodation is just as important as getting onto the right course. You need to live in a relaxed and comfortable environment where you can make friends. Find out more about the Student Housing Company’s student accommodation options so you can quickly settle into your new life.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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7 Alternative Study Break Activities for Students

A teapot and teacupsOur latest guest blog post describes seven alternative study break activities for students, and is provided by Jessica Wagstaff from outdoor extreme-weather clothing and equipment specialist DLX:

You’re coming to the end of the semester, your coursework is all submitted and now you’ve got exams to pass – it’s study time. Whether reading up from home or at the library, studying can be intense; there’s a lot of information to learn and you don’t want to skip what could potentially be in your exam. It can be a stressful period, therefore having a break from studying can be just as important as the studying itself. Whilst an energy drink or an extra-large dose of coffee might seem like a fast and easy way to rebuild your energy, these methods can often leave you feeling burnt out. So why not try one of the activities listed to focus your mind.

Cup of Tea

A “cuppa” (cup of tea) is a well-known cure for all woes and ills in the UK – this includes helping you to de-stress from studying. If the classic milk and two sugars tea combination feels a bit strange then you could opt for a green, fruit or herbal tea which will still have a similar soothing effect. Make sure you take the time to completely break away from your work though and enjoy the hot beverage, don’t rush back into working; you could even pop your tea in a flask and go out for a walk.

Colouring books

One of the keys to a proper study break is to switch off from what you’ve been reading to give your mind a rest. Being creative is a great way to do this, but being creative can feel stressful for people who like to have structure. Hence the rise in popularity of colouring books for adults, where you’re given a task to do. These enable you to really put your studying to the back of your mind for a while.

Listen to a podcast

Listening to music is a method of stress release for a lot of people, but Podcasts are a different way to chill out with a number of options available. You can have a book read to you and get lost in a story for a while, or maybe listen to a comedy show and laugh out loud (maybe at home rather than at the library…) You could even listen to something subject related to your studies to step back from your reading for a while and gain a fresh perspective.

Quiet time/meditate

Meditation has been scientifically proven to help people de-stress and is a great study-break choice. It may feel like a chore or even silly at first, but once you allow yourself to be completely transported away by it you’ll soon see the positive effects meditation can have. Focusing on your breathing and the present moment is called mindfulness. It is a process that you can adopt when going back to studying as it helps stop distractions and means you have better quality study periods. Meditation allows you to take your mind off studying so that when you go back to studying your brain is refreshed and ready for the task at hand.


It is well known that Exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel happy, and therefore can be a fantastic study break activity. If you’re at home you could do yoga or go out for a short run. At the library, then getting outside for a 20-30 minute walk is a good choice and you could explore a part of the city you’ve not been to before. Swimming is also great for switching off for a bit as well as a great all over body exercise, see if your local campus has one.

Crafts – knit, make jewellery, cross-stitch

A great way to relax yet be productive at the same time is to pick up a crafty talent. Making jewellery, knitting, or cross-stitching all create lovely little pieces of craftwork that you can use in the future. All the while enabling you to concentrate on something completely different for a while. Just don’t get carried away making the entirety of your extended family a new jumper…

Have a bath

Don’t take your phone, tablet or any other electronic device with you, just sink into the bubbles and relax in a nice hot bath. Our bodies release endorphins as our temperature rises and toxins are released through sweat. Afterwards your muscles will be relaxed and you’ll feel clean and fresh – ready for the next round of studying.

It’s worth mentioning that these breaks work well if you’ve planned your studying in advance and aren’t cramming it in at the last minute – that is a sure way to become stressed! So don’t get bogged down by over-studying this exam period, make sure you reward yourself with proactive study breaks to look after your mental health and increase productivity.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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What is studying in the UK like for Chinese students? (part 2)

StudyingXiangping Du, Academic Skills Tutor at the University of Hertfordshire, writes her second guest blog post for Prepare for Success and shares more of her experiences of dealing with the challenges faced as a Chinese student in the UK:

I also had to learn to write in different formats for essays and reports. I can still recall the first piece of work I completed, which was an essay. I thought it was good as I used headings, subheadings, and bullet points as clear signposts. However, I was shocked to only get a mere pass of 40%. I realised I had used the wrong format, and referring to the mark, I was shocked because in China, 60% is a pass, and students would normally achieve 80% or 90%. However, it appears that achieving 80% or 90% is quite rare in English universities, and getting 60% or 70% is regarded as a high mark.

Critical evaluation was another key new concept I had to learn in the UK. In China, we used to believe in whatever was published and regarded it as the authority. However, after coming to study in the UK, I learnt to think and write critically, where I had to look into different facets of an issue and ask questions like a detective. I had to synthesis various views from different scholars, analyse and critically evaluate them before presenting my own ‘informed’ opinion. This method of critical evaluation is not easy for an international student because It not only requires critical thinking, but also extensive reading from academic, reliable and credible sources, as well as writing skills such as paraphrasing and synthesising.

In addition, I learnt to manage my time and to study independently which are vital skills because students do not necessarily have classes every day. It’s all too easy to waste time by watching movies, social networking or playing computer games! This was particularly important when I was doing my PhD research as, apart from only a few one-to-one supervisions with my supervisor, there was not any compulsory class to attend.

A lot of assessments in the UK also involve group-work and managing teams can be challenging. I found working with others from different cultures could be challenging, but gradually I learnt that this experience was very valuable for my professional life, and my English language development.

In all, my own experience shows that academic expectations in the Chinese education system are very different from those in the UK. It is very important for Chinese international students to know what to expect beforehand so that they can fully prepare themselves for their study in the UK. This is why I co-authored our book Study Skills for Chinese Students because I know that such a book would really have helped me so much when I first came to study in the UK. I want to make sure that all Chinese students in the UK have this essential information now, about the differences and challenges of UK study, and the academic skills and techniques expected in the UK.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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Assignments and grades

Writing an assignmentThis week’s blogpost is about academic assignments and the grades you may receive.

A part of their course that many international students worry about is the course assignments and the grades received for them. This is understandable as passing or failing a course usually depends on how well you have performed on assignments and/or in exams. Assignments on courses in the UK can take different forms. As well as common kinds of written assignment such as an essay or report, in many subject areas you may be required to give an oral presentation as part of your course assessment. This might be done on your own or in a team. Depending on the specific subject area, there are also other kinds of assignment tasks for which you can be awarded a grade.

Whatever kind of assignment you are asked to do, the criteria on which your work will be judged should be available from your tutor or departmental office. These written criteria will help you become aware of what your tutor will be looking out for as they mark your work.

An important point to note for international students is that typical grades awarded in their own country may be very different from typical grades awarded in the UK. Don’t be too shocked if you don’t receive a grade over 80% for an assignment. As a general rule, at postgraduate level, a ‘Distinction’ will be a grade over 70%, with only very exceptional work getting a grade over 80%. Most grades will fall into 50-59 (Pass) and 60-69 (Merit). Below 50 is usually considered to be a Fail.

Lastly, don’t just focus on the grade you receive. You will do many assignments during your course so there is a lot of opportunity to improve your grades as you get more practice at doing assignments! Tutor feedback on your assignments will help with this. Take time to read the comments and remarks your tutor has written when you get your assignment back. If you cannot read or understand a comment, ask for clarification. Slowly but surely your assignments and grades should improve!

For more information in this area, see ‘How will my assignments be graded’ under ‘Assignments’ on the FAQs page of Prepare for Success. See also the learning resource Preparing for course work and exams.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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