Here are some basic tips for making your study time as effective as possible.
As well as noting down the timetable for lectures and seminars in your diary, make sure you plan some study time into the week. This includes time for reading, making notes, planning and researching essay topics. Don't forget to plan some fun time to spend with friends and family. Noting down essential dates is VERY important. These include deadlines for essay submissions, exams and presentations, as well as any workshops you have booked on to or events being held.
Find a place to study
Creating a spcae at home, which is yours to study in can be difficult. If you only have the kitchen table, try and allocate it for study time when you need to. It might be that you find it easier to study at university, or college, in which case make sure you plan some time in these areas, away from distractions.
A filing system
Find a way to keep and file notes which makes sense to you. One good tip is to buy a folder with roughly the corresponding number of plastic sleeves to weeks of your module, be that 10 or 25. Place all the handouts and notes for one week into one sleeve. Alternatively have a large ringbinder, plastic sleeves (get good quality ones, the cheaper variety are very difficult to pull apart) and numbered dividers. A seperate binder for each module is a good idea as notes can easily become muddled.
Start with the key readings for the week then extend you reading of the topic area from references within the text or journal articles about the topic area. A quick glance at the abstract of a piece of research will indicate if it is worth further investigation. Make use of the librarians Chris Bradshaw firstname.lastname@example.org is happy to help and you can book a one to one library session with her, when she will show you how to find pertinant reading material. Learn ways of speed reading, which suit you. Advice is online http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/study/cll/currentstudents/courseresources/itt/resource_bank/studyskills/study/readingskills/efficientreading/skimreading
Try not to take too many notes in a lecture or seminar. Keep them to a minimum and then read through them as soon as possible afterwards and fill in any blanks, then they will still make sense when you need them for essay writing or revision. If there is a power point presentation you can print the slides off, three to a page, as this gives lines for note taking and you have the bonus of the slide being there as a memory prompt.
Plan your essays
Think about the question and make sure you have understood it correctly. Think about the key points that you want to make and the order in which they will appear in the essay. Research these variety of reading materials, i.e. books, journals and reputable websites. Write a draft of your essay and read it through, make ammendments and read through again. Repeat this until you are happy and then if a relative or friend is available, ask them to read to check for any mistakes you have missed. It sometimes helps to read it aloud as then you realise where a comma or full stop should be.
Saving your work
Save the work you do on the computer as you go. Then save it to a memory stick, then email it to yourself at each stage. When you are at University save it to the university 'H' drive. If you have access to other saving options, such as cloud, save to that too. Take a belt and braces approach to saving work as it is heartbreaking when you lose it. When you start a new document give it a title and save it. This way if the system goes down for any reason you will be able to find it again and will not have lost any of your work.
Make use of feedback
When you recieve an essay back from your tutor it will come with feedback. Feedback gives important guidlines as to how to improve your essay writing for the future. If there is something in the feedback which you want to discuss, or do not understand, you can make an appointment with your tutor to gain clarification.
Not always easy, especially when you get a mark for a piece of work that is disappointing. Remember everyone wants you to succeed and you can often learn more from the setbacks by keeping a positive and open mind. Remember why you are studying and if it helps, have a chat with your personal tutor to help get things back into perspective.
Everyone feels nervous at times, even if they do not appear to be. Once you gain in knowledge you will also gain in confidence. If at first, when speaking to a group, you have to pretend to be confident, that is fine. One day you will suddenly realise you are.
If there is a skills course you think would be useful for you to attend, book onto it and go. They are invaluable in what you can learn, both from the person delivering the course and the other students.