Tag Archives: listening

Lecture Tips for International Students

NotebooksThis month’s guest blogpost is provided by Daniel Sefton, a writer for The Student Housing Company:

The UK is home to outstanding academic institutions. As a result, students come from far and wide to get a taste of UK student life. There is a very particular culture around being a student in the UK, and for international students who are not used to the way that higher education works here, it can be a difficult task to settle into proper learning habits.

You might be a fluent English speaker or you might not be. Either way, lectures and seminars are fast-paced learning environments where you have to keep up with what the tutor is telling you, and you have to take your learning into your own hands.

Follow these tips to take control of your learning…

Ask Plenty of Questions

Your tutors are there to make sure that every student understands the concepts that they are learning about. Unless you are taking a specialist course, it is likely that the tutors will be teaching the content to many other students; because of this, the tutors will cover topics quickly and will expect you to absorb the information just as quickly.

Nonetheless, the tutors are still dedicated to helping you pass your degree, and are there to answer any questions you have. If there is something that you don’t understand, ask questions until you have a clear understanding of the topic. Tutors will often have set office hours where you can go and see them to discuss any issues or gaps in your knowledge – make use of this time.

Selecting a book from the Library

Read Ahead

Either before you start your course or on your first day, your tutors will give you a list of textbooks that you should go out and buy (and, of course, read). They recommend this reading because it will enrich your knowledge of the course content and it will help you gain a better understanding of the topics that you study. After your opening lectures, head to the library and borrow these textbooks, because they will become useful resources for you.

Reading the relevant sections ahead of lectures will give you an advanced understanding of the points being taught, and will therefore help you to follow what the tutor is saying more clearly than you would without prior knowledge.

Study Together

UK universities accept applications from thousands of international students each year, so when it comes to studying your course, you won’t be alone. There will be other students in the same situation as you, and you are in a great position to help each other out.

University libraries have group-study rooms that you can book at particular times of the day. If you and your friends allocate time once per week to get together and discuss the lectures from the week before, you will find that you can fill the gaps in each other’s knowledge.

Use Study Apps

Technology has changed the way that international students learn new information. Laptops and smartphones now have a lot of useful software and apps to help you understand what your lecturer is telling you. Here are our favourites:

  • Voice Notes: Sometimes lecturers can talk through topics quickly, making it a little bit difficult to keep up. Recording the lecture on your smartphone means that you can revisit the lecture at a later date and listen to it at your own pace. Available from Apple and Google Play.
  • Google Translate: If your lecturer uses a word that you don’t understand, you can write it (or speak it) into the Google Translate app and it will translate the word to a language that you understand. Available from Apple and Google Play.
  • Duolingo: When you’re tired of using Google Translate, you can use this app to teach yourself how to speak English as a second language. It breaks the language elements down into easy-to-follow steps so that it’s not too overwhelming. Available from the Duolingo website.

Enjoy!

During your time at university, you’ll be meeting new people, experiencing a new culture, and learning new things every day, so make sure that you take the time to appreciate it while it lasts. It’s hard work, but it will pay off in the end!

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 are Pre-sessional courses?

Pre-sessional PathwaysThis week’s guest blog post is by Linda Hurley, Assistant Director of Pre-sessional Programmes at the University of Southampton. In it, she addresses international students’ questions about university Pre-sessional courses:

Being an international student on a summer Pre-sessional course in EAP (English for Academic Purposes) is a positive introduction to the academic life and culture at a UK university, and many former Pre-sessional students say how valuable it has been when they move on to their future courses. Courses may vary in length – at the University of Southampton they range from 16 weeks to 6 weeks, depending on students’ entry point (usually reflected in their IELTS grade). There may even be a pre-arrival online component to a Pre-sessional course. Most of the students who participate in Pre-sessional courses are required to do so in order to improve their academic English skills; however, some participants, who have already met their university’s entrance requirements, may choose to do a Pre-sessional course to improve their readiness for their future studies. Each university will have a website outlining their Pre-sessional provision for their own international students.

Pre-sessional courses provide an opportunity for students to work intensively on all their linguistic skills within an academic framework and their university environment. While IELTS is generally the recognised exam taken by most students when applying for entrance to their chosen subject area, it does not prepare students for the demands of academic study. On a Pre-sessional course, students will practise researching, preparing and writing long essays, and using academic sources to support their arguments. They may be required to practise giving presentations based on aspects of their research too. Reading journal articles, attending lectures and participating in seminar discussions are also key components of most university courses so a Pre-sessional course is a very useful ‘dry run’ for the real thing! Students’ progress and achievements are made clear both during and at the end of a Pre-sessional course, and tutors will always want to ensure that students are moving on to their future courses with the skills they need to do well. This means that ‘yes, the learning curve is steep’ and a significant amount of student work is produced during the course, but by the end, students will feel that the rewards and sense of achievement are definitely worth it.

Pre-sessional courses are also a great way to meet and make new friends and are, hopefully, a time to experience some of the best British summer weather! It’s a busy time and an opportunity to really focus on getting ready for your future studies.

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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EAP online materials for independent learning

Pay, Access and LearnThis week’s blogpost is in reply to a student who has asked where to find online materials in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for self-study.

Some useful EAP learning materials that are available for learners to use independently have been mentioned in previous blogposts. Many of these are free. See:
Managing the reading on your course
Where can I find more activities to practise academic writing?
How to improve my vocabulary?

A new online resource that has recently become available for students is the PAL (Pay, Access and Learn) portal. This site allows individual learners to choose and then license sets of interactive online learning resources at low cost and for periods of either one month or three months. Each set of ten learning resources on a related topic provides at least six hours of activity-based online learning. Currently sets available include basic and more advanced skills in academic writing and vocabulary for study purposes. The website provides a complete list of available sets. Online renewal or licence extension is easy and can be done at any time from anywhere.

These will be of interest to learners already studying EAP (English for Academic Purposes) or preparing to apply for university courses 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.

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Getting the most out of lectures

Students in a lectureThis week’s blogpost is in answer to a student who is finding lectures on their course hard to understand.

Listening to and understanding an academic lecture in a second language can be challenging. Making notes on the lecture topic at the same time can make it doubly difficult. If you are a new international student still struggling to get the most out of the lectures on your course, here are some tips which may help you.

If the lecturer uses Powerpoint slides or other visual aids while giving their lecture see if these are available before or after the lecture on a website or course VLE. They will provide a structure for what he or she talks about and can help with your understanding during the lecture or afterwards when you are trying to build up the notes you have made.

If you are worried about your understanding of the main points in the lecture, can’t catch everything the speaker says or wish you could listen to it again, ask the lecturer beforehand if they would mind if you recorded them. Many lecturers will be happy to let you use a small recording device provided that you ask permission beforehand and that it is only for your own private use.

If you found a lecture challenging to understand, afterwards get together with another student who attended the lecture and compare your understanding and any notes you have made. In this way you can each help each other to understand more.

If you feel you need help with listening to lectures, use the Prepare for Success learning resource ‘Listening to lectures‘.

You may find this section of Andy Gillet’s website useful: Listening comprehension and note-taking.

And don’t worry, listening is one of the skills that improves fastest for international students after arriving 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.

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I heard there are many accents in UK. How will I understand different English speakers?

Today’s blog post is in reply to a question from a student on the Question Wall:
“I heard there are many accents in UK. How will I understand different English speakers?”

This student is right in that it is normal to hear a range of accents on campus at your college or university as well as in everyday life when you come to study in the UK. On campus, in addition to different varieties of British English, you can expect to hear varieties of English from around the world spoken by international students and staff. Your ears will soon get used to this variety and you can expect your listening skills to be one of the first to improve as you learn to communicate with people from lots of different places!

For ‘a tour of the British Isles in accents’, listen to this short recording of a small number of them, made by dialect coach, Andrew Jack, on the BBC website: A tour of the British Isles in accents. Can you hear the differences as he changes accent?

To listen to more accents from around the UK, visit the BBC Voices website where you can click on a map and listen to some extended speech recorded from a speaker originating from that part of the country: BBC Voices. These voices show a range of accents, as well as a range of examples of formal to extremely informal styles of speaking.

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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