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Making the Most of Your Mid-Year Break

Exams are almost over and it’s nearly break time! Semester breaks may be short, but they’re still an opportunity to recharge and have a blast. Instead of letting the limited time slip away, why not make every moment count?
Check out these tips to help you make the most of your short semester break and have some fun.

Plan Mini Adventures

Even though your break is short, it doesn’t mean you can’t embark on exciting adventures. Plan short getaways or day trips to nearby attractions or scenic spots. Explore hiking trails, visit a nearby beach, or go on a spontaneous road trip with friends. These mini adventures will not only create lasting memories but also give you a much-needed break from the usual routine. The weather’s perfect for some outdoor exploring.

Dive into a Hobby

With some time on your hands, it’s the perfect opportunity to try a hobby you’ve been wanting to explore. Always wanted to learn to play the guitar? Grab one and strum away! Have a passion for cooking? Try out new recipes and unleash your inner chef. Join a yoga class or learn to make pottery. Whether it’s painting, writing, photography, or dancing, indulge in activities that bring you joy and let your creative side shine.

Connect with Friends and Family

Uni life can often leave little time for connecting with loved ones. Use your short break to catch up with friends and family members you haven’t seen in a while. Organise a fun get-together, plan a movie night, or simply spend quality time together. These moments of laughter and connection will rejuvenate you and strengthen your relationships.

Set Personal Goals

While it may seem challenging to achieve significant milestones during a short break, setting personal goals can still provide a sense of accomplishment. Choose a specific goal that you can realistically achieve within the timeframe. It could be finishing a book you’ve been meaning to read, mastering a new yoga pose, or completing an online course. Achieving these smaller goals will boost your confidence and motivate you for the upcoming semester.

Relax and Recharge

Remember, breaks are meant for relaxation and rejuvenation. Give yourself permission to unwind and recharge your batteries. Catch up on sleep, binge-watch your favourite shows, or simply lounge around doing nothing. Taking care of your mental and physical well-being is essential, so don’t feel guilty about giving yourself the gift of rest.

Reflect and Plan Ahead

Use a small portion of your break to reflect on the previous semester. What worked well for you? What could you improve upon? Take some time to evaluate your study techniques, time management skills, and overall performance. Based on your reflections, plan ahead for the next semester by setting realistic goals and outlining strategies to achieve them.

While your semester break may be short, it’s still a great opportunity to have fun, relax, and reset. Make the most of this time by doing things that you enjoy and taking care of yourself. Remember, breaks are all about finding a balance between fun and rejuvenation. So go out there, have a blast, and return to uni with renewed energy!

Preparing for Case Study exams

Exam questions that ask you to anlayse case studies (also called scenarios) are usually designed to test your ability to relate theories and concepts to real-world situations. Scenario questions often require a longer answer, so they will be allocated more time and more marks. Generally there is no ONE right answer, but there are concepts that the lecturer will be expecting you to apply.

Preparing for the exam

  • Identify the theories and concepts covered in your unit. Organise and review the information you have on these theories/concepts so you understand them.
  • Practise reading case studies and identifying relevant information. It’s probably useful to do this with a time limit similar to what you’ll have in your exam.
  • Use flash cards, mind maps and acronyms to learn and rehearse the key concepts, theories, models and protocols.
  • Try relating concepts and theories to real-world situations: ask lecturers and check textbooks or Canvas for examples. Try finding past exams if possible to see if there are examples of case study questions.
  • During the exam

  • Plan your time for each scenario or question. Have a clear idea of time you have for reading the exam question, reading the case study and writing your answer.
  • Read the exam question(s).
  • Then skim read the case study to get the general idea. Highlight or underline key points.
  • Reread the question to make sure you understand it and to focus your attention when you reread the case study. Make sure you know what is being asked of you.
  • Reread the case study carefully. Make a note of any ideas that you think of.
  • Answer the question linking relevant theories and concepts to specific information from the case study. Usually you’ll need to write your answers in clearly formed paragraphs which have a clear topic that is well-supported with evidence and examples.
  • Don’t just describe or restate information from the case itself, use specific details or examples to support the points you are trying to make. This is where you link theory to the facts from the case study.

  • Knowing how to prepare for exams and implementing strategies for preparation is a big part of managing your study time and getting good grades. Exam time can be a period of stress and anxiety for many students but if you know how to prepare for your exams, apply effective study strategies, and take care of yourself, at least you’ll feel more in control of the situation.

    How to make the most of Small Talk

    Do you avoid making small talk? Is it something you dread? Some people seem to be naturals when it comes to small talk but many of us struggle to know what to say. But small talk has its place and building rapport using casual conversation is a useful tool to have in all areas of your life. So try these simple tips to make it less of a chore.

    Be Prepared

    Part of the problem is not knowing what to say so it helps to have some simple stories prepared. Whether it’s about the coffee you spilled first thing in the morning, an interesting problem that is challenging you, or a funny conversation you had with a friend, find something that has a clear beginning, middle, and end that you feel comfortable talking about.

    Find Common Ground

    It’s human nature that we’re not always interested in things that don’t directly involve us. If you really want to enage the person you’re talking to it’s best to base your story on something you have in common. Whether it’s your study, the public transport or a contact you both know, talking about something that the other person can relate to will help to keep his or her interest.

    Keep it Short

    If you’re sharing an anecdote make sure it takes no longer than a minute to get through. Remember that you’re having a conversation rather than delivering a presentation and you want the other person to engage with you. You have to be careful not to dominate the discussion and leave your partner with no chance to respond.

    Ask Open-ended Questions

    Most people enjoy speaking about themselves because it’s easier than talking about a subject you don’t know much about. An open-ended question allows the other person to answer using their complete knowledge and understanding. These questions can help you generate dynamic, exciting conversations, and encourage the other person to share information.

    Small talk is a simple exchange that is not meant to delve into your deepest thoughts, feelings, and ambitions. It fills the silence while waiting for something or during an introduction, but you never know where it might lead. If you want to improve your skills in this area, look for opportunities to make small talk and approach people as if they are already your friend.

    QUT’s Speakeasy Peer Program offeres a range of interactive sessions aimed at helping you gain the confidence you need for success at university and beyond.

    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.

    Connection is 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.

    Kitchen Lab awarded Women in Research grant

    Great news! The Kitchen Lab team have been awarded a Women in Research grant to further develop work that was piloted in 2020.

    The project is titled “From the lab bench to the kitchen bench: expanding the accessibility to science skills training in uncertain times” and aims to determine how to better teach science students in remote learning situations. All students, including regional and remote, off shore and students with vulnerable health conditions will be able to access hands on laboratory learning in their home environment.

    Our team is busily ‘hacking the pracs’ in preparation for deploying kits in semester 1, 2022.  Watch this space!

    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.


    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.