Study plan or late night cram: ten tips to get you back into the swing of study
By Hamish Williams
So you’ve finally done it. You’re enrolled in a long overdue course or qualification and you’re chomping at the bit to get back into the wonderful world of study. How long has it been, years, decades, millennia since you last used a textbook for anything besides propping up a shelf? Have you still got what it takes? Did you ever have it?
Don’t panic, while some of the courses and qualifications on offer today may have some heavy duty titles and a long list of units with even more heavy duty topics listed beneath them, they've all been designed to be completed by mere mortals just like you. You’ll need to put in some serious work but if you stay organised, you can get some good marks and get qualified.
If you’re feeling anxious about getting back to study, we’ve put some tips together to help you get into the swing of things again.
- Read the course outline – What are the intended learning outcomes of the course? What are the assessment criteria for passing the course? Keep these in mind while you’re studying to ensure you focus on key concepts and information in the course material. This isn’t to learn what you can ignore but your course material should align with the key outcomes in the course outline.
- Get the textbook early – Is there a textbook required? Don’t try and rely on course notes and outlines alone. Yes the textbook has a lot of pages but it has a wealth of case studies, diagrams and examples that will enable you to fully comprehend the concepts underlying your course. Don’t wait until after the course has started to get your copy, it’s best to familiarise with the chapters required so you have a clear idea of the amount of reading expected.
- Locate all course materials – Aside from a textbook, are there course notes, supplementary reading materials like journal articles? Either print these out or save them somewhere easily accessible on your computer so you can read them when you have time. Are there videos or podcasts? Does the textbook have a tutorial webpage? Do some exploring before your course starts so you know what you have in your study arsenal. You may not need 100% of it but knowing where it is when you need it will alleviate stress.
- Find or create a study timetable – Your study program will have been designed in some form of time format so you can keep up with a reasonable amount of regular effort. If you can’t find a timetable for required reading, get in touch with your course administrator so you can get an idea of which chapters or notes you’ll need to read at each stage of the course. Remember that you may have assignments to complete during the course so allow extra time to complete these as well as keeping up with your reading.
- Find references early for assignments – Academic writing normally requires you to reference information in your assignments. Finding these resources can be as time consuming as the actual writing on occasion. Has your course provider given you access to an online portal for resources? Familiarise yourself with the search function as your ability to use the right keywords when searching academic articles will be the key to writing the perfect assignment.
- Talk to other students - If you're studying on-campus, there should be opportunity to talk with other students about how they're finding the course. What are they finding difficult or confusing? You'll find any problems you're having, they'll also be experiencing so you can find the answers to questions together. If you're studying online, student chat forums and online discussion threads will be a treasure trove of information. While its tempting to stay anonymous, you'll get more value from the course if you contribute to discussions, even if it's just to ask questions.
- Make the most of your commute – Whether you commute to work or not, all of us have a few hours of dead time somewhere in our lives for squeezing in some extra study. Put your course notes in your bag to read on the bus, download a podcast to listen to while walking to work or login to your online course portal on your lunch break at work. You’ll still need to schedule some time on weekends and after work to study but making the most of the dead time in your diary will mean you have some time to just relax.
- Don’t get overwhelmed – Many of us will resort to avoidance behaviours when we’re feeling stressed out. If you fall behind on your study it can start to really worry you. It’s OK to worry but don’t let that worry paralyse you into thinking you’re too far behind to catch up. The best way to alleviate fear and stress is to simply get stuck in. You’re allowed to worry when you’ve put the work in and you still don’t know anything! You’ll find if you put in the effort, the knowledge will come and everything will work out fine. I promise.
- The housework can wait – Studying can bring the most creative procrastination techniques out of the most driven people. A good tip is to get your study done first before you do anything else. While a clean and tidy environment is helpful for productivity, don’t decide you need to scrub the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush before you can read your textbook.
- Reward yourself – Rather than just having a schedule for study, have a schedule for fun things you’ll do when you aren’t studying. Is there an addictive new TV series you’re watching? Try doing two hours of study followed by two episodes of your favourite show. Are you meeting up with friends? Get some study done first so you can have guilt free fun. You’ll be more relaxed, happier and more confident around the people you care about when you’re right on top of things.
We can’t do the work for you but we do our best to make your study experience as stress free as possible here at AIM. That’s why we’re excited to be offering students their very own Study Coach when they enrol in selected qualifications with AIM. Our Study Coaches will be on hand to teach you effective study techniques and help you to find the information you need while giving you the confidence to capably complete assessment requirements. To find out more, contact one of our training advisors on 1300 658 337 today or click here for more information.
Offer available on enrolments on selected qualifications before March 15th 2016.