3 Tips for Uni Readings

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Thanks to this blog for this quote!

Readings can be boring, confusing, and/or intimidating. Getting through them is a challenge for some, and just getting started is a burden for others. No matter how motivated you are, you’re probably asking yourself how you can do your readings more efficiently. Here are some techniques I’ve picked up over the years. Tell me what you think (and your own tips) in the comments below!

1. Read and absorb the conclusion (and subheadings)

The conclusion of a reading is all the important stuff, in short form. Before you read anything, read the conclusion to get a sense of what points the author is building up to. Another tip: also read subheadings! They’ll help you understand the main point behind every chunk of text.

2. Set a time limit

If you’re like me, it seems like your readings take an eternity to finish. Often I even zone out and stop absorbing what I’m reading altogether. You can help yourself stay motivated & on-task by setting a timer. For example, if you have 40 pages of readings, decide you will read as much as you can in 2 hours, and then move on to other things.

3. Look for concepts you’ll actually need

Course readings contain so much information, more than a final exam could ever test you on. Smart students don’t try to absorb everything, but instead they look for the info that matters. As you read, keep this question in mind: “what concepts will be important for an upcoming essay/exam?” Take it one step further by highlighting key terms (instead of whole paragraphs) for easier studying.

One last piece of advice: Patience

Reading quickly and efficiently takes practice, so here’s one last piece of advice: be patient with yourself. If you’re having a hard time at the outset, it probably means you’re doing it right.

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Satisfaction: exam-related thoughts

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Actually Mick, I can get some satisfaction.

This morning I wrote a mid-term for one of my favourite courses this semester, Prof. Tom Wilson’s Structure of English (GL/EN 2608). I did well and I felt so satisfied after handing it in.

This made me realize that there is no better feeling than learning in a class, and then getting rewarded for it with grades. After all, if you’re not learning anything at all, an A feels like a pointless and meaningless label. On the other hand, when you’re really working hard and getting Cs, it’s just discouraging!

Beautifully though, I have been learning…

… about grammar, (I finally know the difference between a preposition, conjunction, determiner, and the different English tenses. No more pretending!)

… about language, (According to Tom Wilson, lots of rules we grow up with are really just highfalutin/pompous/unfounded. The result for me: liberation from being a member of the grammar police.)

about life. Here are some Tom-quotes (paraphrased) that I’ve scrawled down during lecture:

“If you don’t allow yourself to be wrong, you’re committing yourself to never being right.”

“It’s pointless to work hard if we’re not working well. [Not procrastinating] isn’t moralistic, it’s just pragmatic.”

“Dare to be awful, because you actually learn something by failing.”

Brilliant. Preach it, Tom!

With that, it’s time for me to start the 2 papers and assignments waiting for me in my binder.

Have you written exams lately? How did you feel about them?

P.S. Thanks to Michael McGrath for the great blog post idea. You da bomb!

3 essential study habits for university

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eAmbassador Francette getting some readings done!

The transition from high school to university is a baby step for a few, a jump for some, but a leap for most. How ready are you? Find out by asking yourself if you have these essential study techniques.

1. Scanning

A big part of university learning is doing readings. For many courses, you will be assigned 20 pages or more to read every week (that is, per course!).

If you want to keep up, you have to learn how to scan some of your readings. That means knowing what parts to skip and where to slow down, how to identify big ideas in a text , and when it’s okay to not do a reading altogether (which rarely happens, fyi!).

2. Asking

At the university level, course instructors and their assistants do not baby you, but that does not mean that they’re not willing to help. Here’s the catch: you have to ask.

Every professor has office hours during which you can go and see them and most  respond to emails fairly quickly.

Smart students know the shortest path to success is the one with the least guesswork required. Figure out what a professor wants for an assignment or test before you put in the work!

3. Prioritizing

The work load in university is usually heavier than in high school. There are more things to read, more assignments, and the added pressure of part-time jobs and a social life.

You have to figure out what your priorities are and allot your time accordingly. Put first things first and you will not get overwhelmed.

Most students are not able to do everything they’d like to, so the ability to choose what’s a priority and what is not a priority is a vital skill.

The essential quality…

What this all comes down to is efficiency.

Studying is not always about how much effort you put in, but where you’re putting it in.

If you feel like you need to grow in these skills, that’s a good sign. No one is born with these habits, so they have to be learned.

If you’re in high school, what intimidates you most about university learning? If you’re already in university, what study habit do you think is absolutely essential?