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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.

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.