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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.

    Top tips for exam prep

    Near the end of the semester it can be such a relief to hand in that last assignment or submit that final blog post, but for most students the work is far from over. Preparing for exams can be a real challenge when motivation and energy levels are low so it helps to have a few effective strategies in place.

    Set up your study environment
  • Display your timetable and let everyone in the house know you are preparing for exams
  • Set up a dedicated space for study to help you focus
  • If you’re studying in the library choose a quiet spot and use headphones to block out noise
  • Create a plan for the exam period – including relaxation/sleep habits/nutrition/exercise
  • If you live alone prepare meals in advance and freeze them for easy access during exams
  • Think about how you can limit distractions such as online notifications, chat and social media
  • Own your time
  • Make a detailed timetable for each exam (unit) – try concentrating on one per day
  • Make sure you know the details for each exam – log in to Blackboard for updates from lecturers
  • Check that you understand the type of exam that you will be doing
  • Organise and store revision notes so that you can refer to them easily
  • Break your study into 30-minute chunks and plan exactly what you will focus on
  • Try different methods to revise content
  • Summarise the key points for each week’s topic
  • Quiz yourself to identify what you need to work on
  • Use apps such as Quizlet or stick to hardcopy cards to carry around with you.
  • Make a list of things you’re not confident about you may want to do
  • Create your own set of questions to answer
  • Find a study buddy and test each other
  • Try any practice tests that are made available to you – note what you found difficult
  • While it’s important to have a study plan and stick to a routine don’t underestimate the power of a break. Give yourself a morning or afternoon off during exam time. See friends, go shopping, watch a movie, do some exercise. Taking some time out will refresh you so that you can return to study with a clear mind and purpose.

    And, if it’s all getting too much for you make sure you reach out for support. Talk to friends, family, peers or access the free services at QUT Student Counselling and Welfare.

    Make sure your mental health and wellbeing are a priority!

    How to prepare for your timed online assessment

    When it comes to any type of assessment the key to success is preparation. This is no different for online assessment tasks and exams. Having a clear head and being prepared can make a huge difference to the outcome.

    Preparing the technology
  • Update and double check required software (e.g. RStudio, MATLAB, Mozilla Firefox, etc).
  • Install Mozilla Firefox; this is the recommended QUT browser for online assessment (Internet Explorer and other browsers may cause issues).
  • Restart your computer to free up any memory.
  • Once restarted, only open the apps you need to complete your assessment.
  • Check your unit’s Blackboard site and HiQ for who to contact if you need support.
  • Preparing the space
  • Let your housemates/ family know when you plan to begin your assessment.
  • Set up your desk with only what you need
  • Get comfortable; make sure your chair, desk and computer are arranged at an appropriate height and angle.
  • Address any potentially annoying distractions in the room (e.g. creaky doors, loud ticking clocks etc).
  • Ensure the space has good lighting.
  • Preparing yourself
  • Have notes ready and pages bookmarked; organise them into themes or categories and use labels to help you find things quickly.
  • Plan time for your assessment; allocate time blocks to peruse, answer and revise the different sections. Also allow enough time toward the end for uploading files.
  • Turn off your other devices to avoid being distracted by texts, phone calls, notifications, etc.
  • Take 5 minutes before you begin to do some light stretches and breathing.
  • During your assessment
  • Read all instructions carefully.
  • Stick to your time plan – don’t allow yourself to be stuck on one question or problem.
  • Check that your answers are inserted correctly and are in an acceptable format for the system.
  • Follow all directions regarding academic integrity. QUT has systems in place to check for this.
  • Tests can be set up with different options, so each test you take may be different to one you have taken before. Your lecturer, tutor or unit coordinator may give you details about the test’s settings, and you will also see a screen summarising the settings as you enter the test. Check out Preparing for Exams for more tips on revision and time management.

    It’s ok to take a break

    As a student it’s really easy to focus on all the things you ‘have to’ get done and forget to look after your own health and wellbeing. As the semester goes by and there are assessments looming self-care often moves down the list of priorities or even drops off completely. When you are stressed and anxious about everything you have on your plate it can be hard to see things differently but you can start with some small changes.

    Change your daily routine

    Change doesn’t have to be massive. There are so many things we can do to look after our health and wellbeing without going to too much effort. Think about something you enjoy doing and build it into your routine. Start the day with your favourite music and a healthy breakfast. Take a walk, do some gardening or join a friend for a workout.

    Be nice to yourself

    It’s easy to be our own worst critic when we’re feeling the pressure but we can turn things around by being a little nicer to ourselves. Write a positive note and stick it to your screen. Treat yourself to your favourite food. Download some new music or buy some stationery to organise your study.

    Shift focus with a podcast

    Listening to something non-study related can be a great way to shift your focus while still staying engaged and informed. We really are spoilt for choice but here are a few great podcasts about life, the mind, and human behaviour.

    podcastoneaustralia.com.au/podcasts/the-briefing

    tofop.com/wilosophy

    abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/

    Remember – it’s okay to take a break! In fact, it’s often just what you need to refresh your mind and be more productive.

    How to be more critical in your writing

    Have you ever been told your ‘writing is too descriptive‘ or ‘you need more critical analysis‘? This is common feedback on written assessment and a source of frustration for many students. While some description is necessary most uni assessment tasks require you to produce more analytical and critical writing. This shows that you are engaging in current academic debates and have evaluated the research relevant to your discipline.

    So, what does it mean to be critical?

    In order to be a more critical writer you need to be critical throughout the whole writing process.
    This involves:

  • questioning what you read and not necessarily agreeing with it.
  • looking for reasons why you shouldn’t accept something as being correct or true.
  • identifying problems with arguments or methods, or referring to criticisms of these.
  • suggesting ways in which something could be improved (if required).
  • sometimes reflecting on your own behaviour/attitudes/performance.
    Demonstrate your understanding

    Your writing needs to show how you have interpreted the unit content and readings, how you have used that information to demonstrate your understanding, and what your position is on the topic. This doesn’t mean that you are including you opinion (unless asked to) but you are building an academic argument based on what you know and the evidence you have.

    The way you structure your argument and the quality of the evidence you use to support your claims illustrate your thought process and how well you have understood the issue or topic.

    Support your argument with quality evidence

    Make sure you always use evidence to help you strengthen your position. Synthesise sources to ensure you answer the reader’s potential questions and counter any opposing arguments.

    For most assignments you don’t need to provide a lot of background or historical information so you should keep descriptive statements to a minimum. Focus on providing more analysis and evaluation to demonstrate your interpretation of the facts, and support your arguments by explaining the significance, outlining consequences and/or implications and making recommendations.

    Tips for being more critical
  • Don’t just describe something. Make sure your writing also identifies the significance of the issue/evidence.
  • Rather than simply explaining what the theory says go further and show why that theory is relevant.
  • It’s also not enough to outline the method/intervention/treatment. You need to demonstrate how appropriate it is.
  • Make sure your writing always answers the question so what?
  • For useful phrases to use in your writing check out Manchester Phrasebank’s section on Being Critical.
    And if you really want to learn more try this free online course from Future Learn

    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.

    Procrastination is your enemy during exam time

    Procrastination is the art of putting off until later what you could do right now. We all do it but unfortunately it’s one of the most common reasons for poor performance during exams. If you want to ace your exams then studying needs to be the most important thing you do.

    So how do you make it a priority? Check out these strategies to help you stay on track for exams.

    Own your study space

    Creating good study habits relies on finding 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. Some people listen to music while others require absolute silence to study. Whatever works for you. The key is to find your preferred space and stick with it so you can create a consistent study routine.

    Make a plan

    It seems obvious but careful planning is essential for effective exam preparation. Make sure you know exactly what is going to be covered in each exam – check Blackboard for unit outlines and any other information about the weeks or topics included in the exam. Then plan out each day of your study period by dividing your available time into chunks of 30 mins to 1 hour. For each time slot plan what unit and topic you are going to revise. You can break this down even further by creating a checklist for each topic and ticking things off as you go.

    Get organised

    Once you have a plan in place the next step is to arrange all your notes from lectures, tutorials and readings into some kind of logical order. Use unit outlines and lecture topics to organise your notes and rewrite the main points. Try and add diagrams and mind maps to connect the content where possible. If you don’t understand something or need more information then do some research so that you feel more confident about answering any quesions about the content. Summarise each topic further to about 2-5 pages by rewriting only the major points. Then just before the exam condense your notes down to one page.

    Test yourself

    One of the best ways to revise content is to test yourself or have someone else test you. Access any practice exams that have been provided and use chapter quizes from your textbooks to help with sample questions. Create a bank of questions or use flascards to keep checking your knowledge and understanding. You can use apps such as Quizlet or stick to hardcopy cards to carry around with you. This is an effective way of identifying gaps and prioritsing which topics your need to spend more time on.

    Take a break from social media

    We all know that surfing the net and social media can take up huge amounts of our time. You might start out checking a few messages and then find yourself spending a couple of hours scrolling through social media or watching videos. Why not take a complete break during exam time so that you can focus on your revision? If you can’t give it up altogether then make it part of your daily study plan so there’s a limit to how long you spend online. For example, allocate an hour at night or at lunch time when you need a break from study.

    Access resources and support

    Sometimes the stress of preparing for exams can lead to anxiety, depression and fear which stops you from being productive. If you find yourself struggling emotionally reach out to family, friends, peers or uni support services.
    You can also access free, confidential counselling by qualified professionals.

    Check out other QUT resources for successful exam prep.