Starting your studies (Part Two): lectures, seminars and self-study

Lectures, seminars and self-study are what university is made up of! They can seem daunting at first, but here are our top tips for making the most of them.  

 1. Lectures 

Lectures will probably make up a large proportion of your learning and you will be one amongst tens or hundreds of fellow students attending any given lecture. The combination of a warm lecture theatre and a monotonous speaker can lead to sleepiness. While concentrating for a whole hour or two might be hard at first, you will get used to it. 

The way you take notes in lectures is up to you. Some people record the entire lecture and make notes later. Others scribble down brief notes as the lecture goes along. You will soon learn which method works best for you. Whichever technique you decide on, it is always helpful to try to write up notes as soon as possible after the lecture. A beautifully written page of apparently coherent notes can quickly turn into an indecipherable mess. 

It is important to try and actually go to your lectures. it is easy to let one or two missed lectures turn into ten or eleven and before you know it you are falling behind very quickly! 

Although the number of lectures you have depends on the course you are studying, remember that the work required is not directly proportional to the number of lectures you should be attending. Monstrous reading lists ensure that even the emptiest timetable can be filled up with reading, taking notes and searching the library. 

 2. Seminars 

Seminars tend to involve much smaller groups of people, so the environment is much more interactive than in lectures. On the whole, you will be expected to prepare for these classes by reading set texts, doing some research or completing exercises which will then be discussed in the group. Sometimes you will be asked to prepare presentations for the rest of the class. Although speaking in public can be daunting, seminars and tutorials represent an excellent opportunity to increase your confidence in front of a relatively small audience.  

Seminars are also a good time to ask your tutors any questions you have about material covered in lectures and other parts of the course. 

 3. Practical classes 

 Some university courses require practical classes. For example, language courses will have practical classes in conversation and applied grammar and science based courses such as chemistry will include lots of time in the lab.  These classes are an excellent opportunity for you to try out your skills in practice under the supervision of an experienced teacher. You should prepare for the class by completing the required homework. Make sure to use this opportunity to ask as many questions you have! 

4. Self-study 

 It’s likely that only a fraction of your time at university will be in a formal classroom setting. On average, you can expect between 12 and 15 hours of contact time per week. Although this varies between different courses. In reality, you will be expected to complete between 200 and 400 hours of learning and teaching activities. As a result, you will be expected to spend time outside of formal teaching studying independently.  This time will be spent preparing for lectures and seminars, revising for exams and producing essays. Make sure you listen to any feedback you are given on work conducted outside the classroom as it will help to guide your independent study.  

Your university will allow you access to a lot of fantastic research resources, so make the most of them.  

 

 If you’d like more advice on starting your university studies, check out part one of our ‘starting your studies’ blog for advice on how to get started with studying.

 

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