How to be efficient and successful in your studies
We all come to university to do well in our studies and get good grades – at least that is what we tell ourselves. Although much of it comes down to hard work and simply putting the hours in, it is important that all of us from time to time review the way we study to see if there are any improvements we can make. As a PPE student, I will be writing this from my experience of my degree and although much of the advice I give can be transferred to other courses, some of it may not be applicable to every degree.
Whether to attend a lecture or not is a big dilemma for us students and far too often, we tend to opt not to go. Lecture capture does have an important role to play and can be good for lectures which are quite complicated and where you need to frequently pause the audio to make notes or think about what has just been said. However, there is a danger that not going to a couple of lectures a week may turn into deciding not to attend the vast majority of them. Even though lecture capture is available, that still requires you to actually take the time to watch the lecture. It is very easy to forget about lectures you’ve missed and to not catch up on them with lecture capture. And the more lectures which are missed, the more difficult it is to contribute in seminars, understand future lectures and do independent study in your own time. So yes, although missing a couple of lectures here and there is probably not going to matter that much, it’s probably not a good idea to make it a regular occurrence.
With a PPE degree and with many other degrees too, success in your modules relies upon you doing the required reading in your own time and making the appropriate notes. Since a lot of the required readings tend to be available online for free, there is not really much of an excuse for not doing them. Having said that, not doing the readings or starting them but not finishing them is an easy thing to get used to. As long as you set a certain amount of time for independent reading or study each day, the required readings will not be an issue. They only become an issue when they’re left to the last minute or they are not attempted at all. Nobody expects you to read absolutely everything on a topic including the further readings. Further readings are only really necessary if you are planning on writing an essay or doing an exam question on that topic. Otherwise, the required readings should be sufficient. Even the required readings for each module can be lengthy and so in order to maintain efficiency, read the introduction and conclusion as well as any other important parts in depth and then skim-read the rest.
With regards to note-taking, balance is absolutely crucial. Extensive notes, by which I mean practically re-writing the textbook, is a poor use of time. Not only does this take forever and prevent you from actually absorbing yourself within a reading but it is also not that helpful with regards to revision. You are much better off reading the reading, or a certain part of it, thinking about how to summarise it and then writing this summary in note-form. This way, you are thinking about the reading more rather than just copying it down and having more concise notes will make it easier to revise from them for your exams. So taking notes is a good idea to ensure what you are reading is actually going in but keeping them concise forces you to understand the reading much better.
One final point relates to seminars. Seminars are a great opportunity to develop your understanding of a particularly topic or to get your head around something which confused you in the lecture the previous week. However, seminars don’t tend to be that useful if you haven’t read the required readings beforehand and if you don’t contribute. Being able to talk comfortably on a particular topic in front of other people is one of the best ways to confirm that you do actually understand the content. Not only that but talking in seminars will prepare you much better for things unrelated to your degree, for example when you go to assessment centres when applying for internships.
Attend lectures, contribute in seminars, always do the required readings, take relatively concise notes and you will be fine! All it comes down to really most of the time is hard-work and effort. If you have the determination to succeed in your studies, then the chances are you will.