Tag Archives: reading

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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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

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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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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Managing the reading on your course

A student readingThis week’s blogpost concerns the reading part of your course. A challenge for many international students is managing the amount of reading that is required, particularly on postgraduate courses. Reading lists given to you by the lecturers on your course may include many different kinds of literature in your subject area. As well as books and journal articles (often available to borrow or read through your university or college library), the list may include online journal articles and source material. You may also sometimes still be required to buy one or two texts for your course. The amount of reading on a list may seem daunting but, in most cases, you will not be expected to read everything on the reading list, but to choose selectively according to your interests and course tasks and assignments. To guide you further in selecting what to read, your lecturers may divide reading lists into key (or essential) reading and further (or additional) reading.

Once you have selected what you need to read, it’s a good idea to set aside regular time each week to do the reading, making clear notes that include the source details as you do so. These will be invaluable later when you come to revise for exams or write your course assignments. There are different ways to read according to your purpose. These are sometimes referred to as skimming (to get the main ideas in a text); scanning (for specific information); close reading (of complex ideas and content requiring a thorough understanding). Reading at speed is also a useful reading skill to practise. This skill involves keeping a good level of comprehension at the same time.

For practice activities that will help you learn how to manage the reading on your course, you may find this resource helpful: Reading for your course

To practise two useful reading skills for postgraduate study, look at these resources:
Skim reading for gist
Scanning for specific information

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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How can I access my university or college library and course reading online?

This week’s blog post is in reply to a question from a student comment on the post about digital literacy skills: “Could I use any E-book reader, like Kindle reader, to download the tutorial references or academic books? By this way, would it be cheaper and more convenient than buy real book or borrow from the library?”

Lecturers’ recommended course reading material that is in a digital format, such as e-books, scanned chapters or articles in online journals, to which your institution subscribes, will usually have to be accessed through your university library’s online catalogue. To download it, especially if you are off-campus, there will be a secure login procedure (e.g. VPN). Regarding the use of a Kindle reader, most of the large e-book collections (Ebrary, MyLibrary, EBSCO) allow e-books to be downloaded onto such devices, but not all. The best way to find out whether a particular e-book reader is compatible or not is to look at the ‘help’ pages online that can usually be linked to from each e-book.

Your course reading lists are likely to contain many items – not all of them available as e-books or in another digitised format – so you may wish to select essential books to buy, and borrow (or access) others through your library. Important books are often in a reserve section of the library so that as many students as possible can read them.

Check out your university or college library website to find out more about the range of resources they hold in your subject area and how you can access them.

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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