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Study and your life

In order to do well at your studies you will need to develop effective skills and strategies while balancing your life outside university.

Whether you are juggling work, children or just your general day-to-day activities, the following information aims to identify, develop and enhance the study skills you need to succeed in your course.

These include managing your study time, taking notes, planning your assignments and revising for exams.

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Applying yourself to study

All the time management and organisation strategies in the world are of no use if you don't apply them. Put your plans into action and stick to them.

At the same time you should review your plans regularly so that you can make sure that they are helping you achieve your goals.

You will find it easier to stick to your timetable if you:

  • set yourself clear achievable goals
  • break a large task into smaller manageable tasks
  • stop when you plan to
  • have short regular breaks
  • use occasional rewards to help motivate you
  • review your progress regularly
  • adjust your plans as needed
Study attitudes and habits

An important element of developing your time management strategies is to consider your current attitudes to studying. This means spending some time examining:

  • your current attitude to studying
  • where you are studying
  • your approach to studying
  • things you would like to change about your current study habits
Where your time goes

Figuring out where your time goes is the beginning of learning how to manage your time.   One way of doing this is to make a log of the times that are fixed to specific activities (including lectures and tutorials). That is, write down all of your activities that you must do for every hour of the day for a week.   You now need to factor in the number of hours that you will need as subject support hours.   These are in addition to the formal contact hours (ie lectures and tutorials) that you have for each subject. In most university higher education subjects you will need to spend up to three hours per subject for every contact hour for that subject.   If your subject involves three contact hours then you will need to allow up to nine (9) hours study time to support it: if your subject involves four contact hours then you will need to allow up to twelve (12) hours study time to support it.   To work out the total number of study support hours per week, multiply the support hours per subject by the number of subjects that you are enrolled in. In this example assume that each subject requires three hours of contact time and therefore will require an additional nine (9) hours of support time.  Showing:

  • one Subject = 9 hours (i.e. 1 x 9)
  • two Subjects = 18 hours (i.e. 2 x 9)
  • three Subjects = 27 hours (i.e. 3 x 9)
  • four Subjects = 36 hours (i.e. 4 x 9)

To find out how many spare hours you will have in your week you need to:

  • add the Fixed Hours Total (n) to the Subject Study Support Hours Total (ss)
  • take this second total away from the number of hours in a week

This will show:

  • step 1: n + ss = Total 2
  • tep 2: Week's Hours (168) - Total 2 = Free Time
  • Try working out your own hours in the this timetable to work out where your time goes.

Once you have worked out where your time goes and how much free time you are likely to have, you can then look at how you might best use your time in terms of the following goals.


Your goals in life can be a significant factor influencing your prospects for success at university. This will also have an influence on what you choose to study at university. Your reasons for choosing a particular course will affect your:

  • level of interest in your studies
  • willingness to stick it out
  • commitment to your studies

Long-term study goals

Whether your goals are long or short term, it is important that you set yourself realistic goals:

  • be especially clear about what you can and can't do in the time available, whether it be a year, a semester, or a day
  • be realistic in estimating the time needed for each task 
  • be cautious, take the time that you think will be needed and then add half as much again
  • if you over-estimate you can always find something to do to fill in the unused time, but you cannot always find extra time if you under-estimate.

Most of your long-term study goals will centre on:

  • meeting assessment deadlines for written assignments
  • preparing for end of semester exams

Short-term goals

Managing your short-term goals means organising your activities to function as sequential steps on the way to meeting your long-term goals.

Two effective tools to help you do this are:

  • weekly planners
  • to do lists.
Exam anxiety

Overcoming exam anxiety involves more than just developing specific strategies to use during your exam, it also involves knowing what examiners expect. Just as important however, is an understanding of:

  • health issues
  • stress (making it work for you)
  • appropriate relaxation exercises

Health issues

Even more than other forms of assessment, the examination process has the potential to lead you to neglect your health. This is because of the misguided belief held by many students that in order to prepare adequately for an exam it is necessary to adjust their lifestyle in a negative fashion in order to 'cram' in as much information as possible.

This usually involves:

  • skipping meals (or not eating proper meals)
  • interrupting your normal exercise routine
  • altering your sleep patterns.