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Successful habits

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Yes, you CAN be organised!

In the second part of the semester life gets pretty hectic and if you’re not careful it can all start to feel out of control. As you juggle those last assignments and start revision it helps to have a solid plan. This means being organised so you can make the most of your time. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t stress! It’s never too late to develop new strategies to help you take control and in no time at all you won’t even think about it.

Check out these study habits to help you through those final assessments:

Be clear about your goals

It’s easy to feel overwhlemed when we have a lot of different things to do but setting goals can help prioritise our time. Your goals can be long or short-term but it’s important to make them attainable. Start with your plan for the week then break it down further to each unit. Apps like ToDoist can really help to keep you on track. Don’t be unrealistic and overload yourself with too much at once as you’ll either give up or burn out. Use your goals to track achievements and then take a moment to celebrate them. Once you’ve submitted an assignment do something nice for yourself!

Managing time

Time management is a big part of achieving your goals but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. It helps to divide your days into areas like study | work | social | exercise | relaxation etc so that you can clearly see what you’ve got going on. Use a planner, study timetable, or calendar to block out the time you need for study which includes all your mini-goals for revision, reading and assignments etc. At different times you might need to change your priorities to focus on different aspects of your life so it’s important to remain flexible. Check out our Exam Plan & Prep Guide (PDF).

Say goodbye to clutter

Did you know too much clutter can actually disrupt your brain’s ability to process information? Yes, it’s a real thing. Most of us feel better when things are tidy or orderly because it gives us a sense of control and calm. Make your study space productive by removing rubbish and piles of papers etc. If you’re at home then make sure you have a dedicated space with everything you need in a drawer or cupboard that’s easy to access. You can use magazine holders or desk trays to organise material for different units. Surround yourself with a few things that make you feel happy but don’t overdo it. If you’re going to study in the library then make sure you make a list of what to take and only have what you need on the desk.

Connectionis key

Being a student can be lonely. Hours at your desk or hidden away in the library. It’s important to stay connected to your friends, family and the uni community. Make sure you are communicating with the people around you; let them know your study schedule, ask for time off work; create a study group and make time to meet at uni or online. If you feel overwhelmed with your studies or have some personal issues this will impact your ability to study so it’s important to reach out. Tell your tutor or unit coordinator early on rather than just avoiding something. Contact Student Counselling to make a confediential appointmet. The QUT Wellbeing app is also worth a try as it has a collection of activities that provide tools and ideas to enhance your overall wellbeing.

Bring organised doesn’t come naturally to most of us – it’s is a skill that takes practice and finding what works best for you! But being organised and having strategies to deal with your study will help you manage your study load and ace those assessments.

Top 10 tips for being an active learner

Would you describe yourself as an active learner?
Active learning means participating in ways that actively engage your brain. Activities that require you to discuss, practise, and review new information are more effective than relying on passive strategies. This means you’re more likely to understand and remember what you do. You probably do this already in many ways but there’s always room for improvement. Check out these strategies for study success:

    1. Start by making a semester planner with due dates. Break this down further by creating a weekly timetable for your study.
    2. Create your own study guide for each subject using notes from lectures, textbooks, journals, and your reading. Regularly review your notes and organise them by theme or topic.
    3. Set aside time to review your notes every week. This will help you identify any weaknesses in your understanding and areas you need to focus more time on.
    4. Plan your study time as 30-60 minute blocks with a 5 to 10-minute break between each one.
    5. Design a mind map or knowledge tree for each subject with key topics or issues. Put it on a wall so you see it every day and add to it as your knowledge grows.
    6. Keep a copy of all the questions or scenarios from lectures, textbooks, and tutorials. Use these questions as exam revision.
    7. Try different approaches to study. Record a summary on your phone, explain a theory to someone, do a practice exam, try problem-solving, rewrite your notes, draw diagrams, use mnemonics and rhymes.
    8. Make or join a study group for your unit. Even studying with students from other courses will help keep you motivated and engaged.
    9. Review the feedback on your assessment tasks and try to understand why you received the grade you did.
    10. Take advantage of all the resources and support available to you at uni. Check out the Academic Help and Workshops avaialble for the semester and access the self-study resources.

How to study effectively during lockdown

While we’re all used to studying online it’s not the same as studying through lockdowns. Working from home full time and being unable to attend campus can take a lot of adjustment both practically and psychologically. It helps to have a few strategies in place to help you through these challenging periods.

Make a study timetable

Possibly one of the hardest things about studying and working from home is sticking to a schedule. It’s so easy to blur the boundaries between daily activities and study. One minute you’re doing your weekly reading and the next you’re catching up on laundry. Or in the other extreme you spend the whole day in front of a computer on just one unit. To create balance and prioritise tasks it helps to have a daily timetable that divides the day into chunks of study. Start by listing the things you want to achieve and then work out the best order to do them. Don’t panic if you don’t get through everything – just carry the unfinished tasks to the next day. Make sure you include regular breaks and leave time for some exercise. Learn more about managing your time.

Organise your study space

Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated space to study but it’s important to try and find an area that you can use. Keeping your study space neat and tidy helps you feel organised and in control. Make sure you have everything you need so you don’t distract yourself by wandering through the house looking for things. If you share a space with others let them know you’re working so they can keep disturbances to a minimum. Sometimes it helps to change your environment so take some reading outside or do some writing at the kitchen table to change it up a bit.

Minimise distractions

We’re all prone to procrastination and it’s even more of a problem when studying at at home. There’s always something else to do and it’s more difficult to avoid the temptations of social media, gaming, streaming your favourite show and so on. This is the time for self-discipline. Try limiting time that you can use your phone. Put it in another room an access it only when you have a scheduled break. Noise-cancelling headphones may help you concentrate or you could find ‘focus’ playlists which feature instrumental music to help keep you in the zone. Check out an earlier post with tips for being organised.

Understand how you learn

Different students learn in different ways so it’s worth thinking about what works for you. If taking endless notes and re-reading material doesn’t seem to help you process infromation then change it up. Try creating flashcards to test yourself or create a mind map to explore different aspects of a topic. Experiment with note-taking and find a method that suits you. The Cornell method is useful for organising notes to revise later. It involves dividing a page into a main column, a narrower column beside it and a space at the foot of the page. The main column is for main notes, the right-hand column is for headings and/or key words and the space at the bottom is for a summary. This format allows you to test yourself easily and the process of creating the notes actually forces you to think about the meaning of the content. Learn more about note-taking in QUT’s study resources.

Stay connected

While we’re all in lockdown it becomes the norm to stay in touch with friends and family using FaceTime, Skype, Zoom etc but it’s also important to make contact with other students. Use social media, video links, email, chat or voice calls to share ideas, discuss assignments, test each other or just share experiences. Commit to attending online tutorials and support sessions to make sure you stay connected with your lecturers, tutors and classmates. If you feel that you need extra support or some advice on how to manage your study book a Success Coaching appointment. QUT also offers free, confidential counselling services for all current students.

Don’t forget to keep checking for COVID-19 updates.

Girl using laptop

Preparing for uni

Whether you are new to uni or returning to study after a break, it can be both exciting and overwhelming when the semester finally begins. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you have everything you need to set yourself up for success.

Download the QUT app

This is a great first step in getting organised. The free student app really helps you manage your studies. Use it to search and register for all kinds of eventsand keep track of your classes. If you are on campus it can even help find a car park, check shuttle bus times and locate rooms.

App Store download
Google Play download

Connect with on social media

There are a range of social media channels to help you connect with QUT and your peers. Check out the official channels to stay up to date with all things QUT.

Facebook
Twitter
Insta

You will also find many more connections through your faculty so make sure you look out for this info in your units.

Attend orientation and study skills sessions

Make sure you join your essential orientation events. They cover everything you need to know about studying in your faculty and give you a chance to meet others.
Look out for other workshops to help you prepare for study at university.

Don’t worry if you miss something as most session will be recorded and available to access online.

Have everything you need

Be ready to start with all the text books and study materials you need for each unit. Once you have enrolled you can view your personalised booklist.
Don’t forget to check out what’s available in QUT Library as it stocks a small supply of prescribed readings and textbooks.

Strategies for managing exam stress

It’s that time of semester again and we all know that the exam period can be super stressful for many of us! Even though we know it’s coming and we have the best of intentions things often begin to unravel at the end of semester. It helps to have a plan and a reminder of some of the simplest things you can do to set yourself up for success:

Check in with yourself

Often we forget to really notice what’s going on for us. Stress can manifest in all sorts of ways but these are some common signs:

  • Feeling confused
  • Losing touch with friends
  • Feeling moody
  • Having trouble making decisions
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Lacking motivation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Upset stomach, or feeling sick
  • Tense muscles and headaches
  • So how can you minimise the impact of stress when trying to prepare for exams and assessments?

    Get into a healthy routine

    It may seem like a good idea to pull an all-nighter but lack of sleep has a significant impact on your mood and energy levels. It’s hard to focus on revision when you’re sleep-deprived and your body starts to crave all sorts of things like caffeine! Try to aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night and also make time to enjoy other activities like spending time with friends and family. Balance is the key!

    Set realistic goals

    Make a plan and divide your tasks into realistic goals with a reasonable timeframe. It can help to break each unit into sub-topics to focus on in one study session. Chunk your time down to 30-minute sessions so that you can see what your priorities really are. Make sure you allocate time for breaks as well as food and sleep! Seeing a plan in front of you can also help you stay on track so try printing it out or add it to your screen background.

    Look after your body

    We all know that nutrition plays a huge part in our wellbeing but when we feel stressed it’s easy to reach for something quick and easy. Unfortunately highly processed food and fast-release carbs can make you feel sluggish and unmotivated after the initial food high. Surround yourself with healthy snacks (fruit, nuts, energy bars, healthy smoothies, eggs etc) and try to plan your main meals during the entire study period. Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet to give yourself the energy you need to power through this intense time!

    Look after your mind

    When you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed it helps to just stop and re-set. Take some time to close your eyes and just focus on your breathing for a few minutes. By calming down your breathing you can decrease your body’s response to stress and give yourself a new perspective. It’s also important to find time to exercise. Just moving your body for 30 minutes a day can increase your energy, focus, and boost your endorphins! You don’t have to fit in a full gym workout – just a walk will do.

    Balancing study with everything that’s going on can be a real challenge. Just remember that it’s only for a short time and there is always someone at QUT that can support you. There are also plenty of useful resources available!

    Tackling your first assessment

    Starting an assessment task can be stressful. Not sure where to begin? Here are 5 steps to help you get on track:

    Understand the task

    During your course you’ll be expected to submit lots of different types of assessment. Understanding the assessment requirements and reading the task instructions carefully will help you stay on track and submit what is actually required. If you’re unfamiliar with academic writing you might what to check out types of assignments. The assessment guidelines include the marking rubric (CRA) which outlines the standards used to grade your work. These often contain extra information about weighting of marks and how many references to include so it pays to read them carefully for EVERY assessment task. The instructions also include information about the accepted format, referencing style and mode of delivery for presentations. Find out more about CRA sheets.

    Analyse the task instructions

    Once you’ve checked out the task itself and looked at all the criteria it helps to break it down further. You can unpack the assignment by identifying key words that tell you more about what is required:

      Content words identify the topic or issues related to your task.
      Directive words explain what you need to do to meet the criteria and how to do it.
      Limiting words narrow the scope of your assessment by providing more detail.

    Use the key words to brainstorm everything you know about the content (topic) so that you are ready for the next step. Find examples of directive words in the Task Word Glossary.

    Research the narrowed down topic

    Use the content words (which tell you about the topic) and limiting words to make a research plan. Make a list of questions that you need to answer and make sure you read with that purpose in mind. It’s important to note the searches you do so you can keep refining the search and find the most relevant, current information. If you don’t feel confident about researching a topic QUT Library has a stack of online resources to guide you through the process.

    Organise your notes effectively

    You need to read and note the information you have identified as useful for your assessment task. There’s no one method that works for everyone but it helps to have a basic system and to keep reviewing and refining your skills during the semester. So, make sure you develop a process to organise your information in a way that makes your life easier. Record the reference material every time you refer to a source. If you are doing this electronically use file names that make it easy to locate the information later and store the files under topics so you can locate them again for future reference. Learn more about effective notetaking in our study guides.

    Make a detailed plan

    Whether you’re writing an essay or preparing a presentation it always helps to have a really good plan. Use the task instructions to map out what you need to include in your assessment task.
    Most written assignments require you to organise the information logically and the task instructions will often give you a structure to follow.
    It may be tempting to think that it’s not so important to write a plan for a presentation but careful planning goes a long way! Planning the content, structure and timing of a presentation is essential to achieve maximum grades. Check out QUT’s guides for preparing a presentation.

    The first assessment you do at uni or the first assessment for a new unit can feel a bit overwhelming and it’s easy to let self-doubt creep in. The good news is, you’re not alone at there are so many resources to support you. Check out academic help and workshops available to you this semester.

    Top tips for starting uni

    Starting your first year of uni or returning to study after a break can be overwhelming. To feel more comfortable and confident about your study there are lots of things you can do to set yourself up for a successful semester at QUT.

    Attend Orientation sessions and activities

    Orientation runs every semester and is designed to help you get a great start to uni. It’s important to attend essential orientation events for your course as they give you a chance to meet your classmates and teachers, and get to know key information. You’ll learn about workload expectations, how and where to access support, peer programs, career planning and extra study opportunities (like exchanges and internships). Sessions are run by academics in your study area, as well as student support staff, student club executives and experienced students from your course.
    Once you’ve registered for your essential events, there’s lots more to explore in our campus tours, help sessions, postgraduate and mature-age student events and skills workshops.
    Check out your orientation program online.

    Connect and get involved

    O-week is great opportunity to connect whether you’re on campus or online! Speaking to people in the same sessions can help you make friends and network before semester even starts. If you don’t get a chance to connect at orientation, then engaging with other students in your lectures and tutorials can be just as effective. Perhaps suggest forming a study group to help motivate each other and share what you’ve learned.

    Joining a club or society is also a great way to get involved and meet like-minded people. QUT has dozens of options and something to suit everyone. Check out the full list online.

    Get familiar with the campus

    If you’re studying on campus it helps to be familiar with your environment before you start. Take time to work out where everything is on your campus and decide on the best transport options for you so there are no surprises. Access campus maps and shuttle bus times to make sure you’re fully prepared.

    Whether you’re planning to do some quiet study in the library, or you need to book a room for group work, there are plenty of options for you on both campuses. You can find out more about booking rooms and accessing computer labs, audiovisual and multimedia equipment, assistive technology rooms, and printers, copiers and scanners on the student site.

    Learn how to balance study

    Staying on top of your studies and creating a healthy balance is important for long-term success. Use your time wisely and plan how you’re going to spread your workload across the week. Make the most of time on public transport and catch up on reading or review lecture material. Check that your schedule includes times to have a break and build in other acticities.

    Making the most of social and sporting events can be a great way to take a break from studying. To encourage a healthy body as well as a healthy mind you have the option of using pools, gyms and sports facilities on campus. QUT Guild organises all sorts of events throughout the year as well as providing free advocacy, legal and tax help to assist you when needed.

    Don’t wait to ask for support

    Studying can be a real challenge for a number of reasons and QUT offers a wide range of support for all students including free counselling services for current students. Our counsellors are qualified professionals and their services are flexible and confidential. Counsellors can work with you to develop strategies that best meet your needs via phone or face-to-face appointment.

    We also have a academic help and workshops for undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students in all faculties. Whether you’re looking for a quick chat or are needing some assistance to get on track with your studies, you can book in for a one-to-one coaching session to start working on your own individual success plan. There is a wide range of workshops on offer to help you improve your academic and communication skills.

    Set yourself up for success

    It’s the beginning of another new year and you might be feeling excited about what’s ahead or dreading the thought of getting back into study routine. Either way, it’s a good idea to start your preparations early and be ready for the approaching semester. There are a few things you can do to ease yourself back into your studies and successfully prepare for the year ahead.

    Set realistic goals

    Before you begin the new semester, set some goals to work towards for the year. Commit to things that you can realistically achieve and reflect on what you can improve on from last year. You might want to aim for a certain GPA, get better at planning assessment tasks, attend more workshops and support sessions or make more of an effort to meet people. To get started it can help to break down the year into quarters and focus on the first three months.

    Make a budget and look for ways to save money

    While the summer break is often a good opportunity to earn and save money, it can be challenging to manage finances during the semester. If you have to live on a student budget, now is a great time to start planning for the months ahead. Identify your busy periods and consider when you might be able to pick up some extra hours. Don’t forget to check out QUT’s financial help and support resources.

    Check off all your admin tasks

    Before you have to head back to campus or attend your first classes make sure you have completed as many administrative tasks as possible. Class registration usually opens about four weeks before semester starts so you have plenty of time to plan your timetable. Arranging your textbooks and course materials during the holidays can also give you time to source second-hand books or plan your budget. If you have access to unit outlines, you can even start noting down assessment due dates and plan for those busy periods in advance.

    Look for ways to expand your learning

    Not all learning happens in class and the holidays are a good time to think about how you can build your skills before your workload starts to increase. Reflect on areas for improvement and look for opportunities to develop academic skills such as reading articles, note-taking and academic writing. It’s also a good time to research potential internship and volunteering opportunities or ways to get more involved at uni. Don’t forget to refresh your résumé by adding any skills or new experience you’ve gained.

    Organise your study space

    The simple act of clearing and tidying your study area is a great way to get back into study mode and motivate yourself for the year ahead. This includes , as well as buying stationery and supplies so that you have everything you need for the semester. Creating good study habits relies on having a space in which you can be most productive. This may be somewhere quiet where you’re on your own or it may even be in a space where you are surrounded by people and noise. Whatever works for you. The key is to find your preferred space and stick with it so you can create a consistent study routine.

    Preparing for short answer exam questions

    Short answer questions test your recall of information and ability to apply knowledge. This requires an active approach to revision as it’s not enough just to ‘know’ the content. It’s really important to activate your knowledge by practising answers and testing your recall of information.

    You can make your exam preparation more effective by setting goals for each revision session and having strategies for the exam itself.

    Revision Sessions

    • Study in short blocks (no longer than 50 minutes)
    • Understand and memorise key terms, theories, concepts, and applications
    • Make concept maps to see how theories and concepts relate
    • Think about how to apply the theories and concepts to real world scenarios
    • Practise any relevant calculations or formula
    • Complete all questions from textbooks, online quizzes or tutorials
    • Make sure you access all practice questions and past exam papers
    • Develop and answer your own set of questions
    • Work with a study buddy to test and motivate each other

    Exam Strategies

    • Carefully check the marks allocated for each question
    • Make a quick plan for how long you can spend on each section
    • If a question is worth 10% of the marks, then it deserves 10% of exam time
    • Plan to have some time at the end to check your answers
    Read the instructions carefully and note if you need to use full sentences or paragraphs
    • Answer questions you are most confident about first
    • Make sure that you are addressing the question and not going off track
    • If you run out of time, make sure you at least write something for each remaining question

    It can be tempting to keep pushing yourself during revision but if your concentration level starts to slip, it’s much better to take a break and start again when you are more alert.
    If you’re keen to learn more about exam prep and different types of assessment at QUT check out our online resources.

    And above all, a positive, calm mindset will go a long way to exam success!!

    Dealing with distractions

    I might just quickly just check my phone. I need to create a new playlist before I start revision. I’d better put on some washing. Does this sound familiar to you?

    We can all get distracted when studying or when we have things we don’t want to do. During exam time particularly it’s really important to work out what is taking up your time so that you can avoid distractions and maximise your revision.

    Track your time

    Keep a time-use diary and list what you do each hour. After 24 hours, identify your patterns and see where you might be able to save time. Looking at time in blocks helps you be more productive.
    For example, are you spending too much time on these activities?

  • Reading or watching TV
  • Re-writing notes
  • Catching up with friends
  • Checking social media
  • Online games or browsing
  • Cleaning or organising things
  • Once you know where your time’s going it’s easier to manage it.

    Create digital discipline

    If you’re distracted by emails or text messages, turn off your phone or lock it away while you are concentrating on study. You can even schedule in specific blocks of time for calls and emails. You can also use apps to restrict access to sites that may tempt you away from your revision. Check out these tools:

      RescueTime to track your time on websites and apps.
      Cold Turkey allows you to schedule blocks when you need them or simply reduce distractions by adding pomodoro-style breaks or allowances.
      SelfControl is a free and open-source app for macOS that lets you block anything on the Internet.
      StayFocusd is a productivity extension for Google Chrome that helps you stay focused on study.
      LeechBlock NG is a simple productivity tool for Firefox to block those time-wasting sites.
    Avoid procrastination

    It’s more common to avoid things when you feel overwhelmed with a task. Use a study plan to break down your revision into smaller tasks and set deadlines for each topic or unit. Use checklists and quizes to test yourself and identify what you need to focus on. Perhaps reward yourself with a coffee or treat when you check something off the list.
    Try to be selective with your reading and always read with a purpose in mind. It can help to have a set of questions you want to answer.

    Maximise your time

    We are all different so it’s important to work out when in the day you concentrate best. If you’re more productive in the morning, try organising your time so you study early in the day and take breaks or socialise later on. Or if you’re a night owl you can use the morning to relax or exercise and plan your study for the afternoon. It’s important to schedule regular breaks so that you are working at your best.

    Set yourself up for success

    Find a place to study where you won’t be interrupted. Some people find it easier to concentrate in the library or a quiet spot on campus than at home. Music and background noise can make some people more productive. You could try classical music, movie or game soundtracks, or ambient sounds (rain, waves, birdsong etc.) to help you stay on track.

    Change your mindset

    It’s easy to feel like it’s Ground Hog Day when you are studying for large blocks of time so make sure you give yourself incentives. Arrange something to look forward to after your study session, or include something fun to do in your breaks. It can also help to change up the order you study in. It may help to start with what you find easier or more interesting. This can help you feel more positive and settle in to study mode.

    Learn to say no

    You may have made a detailed study plan, found ways of dealing with the things that distract you and been really disciplined but you still don’t have enough time! It could just be that you’re trying to do too much. If you have too much going on in our life you might need to say’no’ more often – even if it’s just during exam time.