#3 The High School –> Uni Transition & How to Study
Updated: Jan 17, 2019
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 4/02/18
University is usually the time where most of us first get to experience some sort of independence; whether it be moving out of home and making life decisions like what food to cook, whether to bother going to class (and face having to cover the lecture sometime later), whether to study or not (and facing the consequences in the form of grades) etc. Your actions now have more direct consequences and more and more of your life is directly in your hands. No teacher will be helicoptering over your life anymore and you’ll be expected to live your life more independently. Furthermore, there is no such thing as “as long as you study x amount of hours, you’ll get an A+” - it’s all about quality study time. Try not to let absurd stories like “oh that guy needed to study 30 hours every day for poplhlth in order to get an A+” distract you - everyone’s different! We detail in this article a few points to consider about the high-school to University transition and tips on how to study!
1. Welcome to a full time “job”. It is somewhat appropriate to think of being a student as a full-time equivalent job (although you’re not really getting paid to do it!); but rather, in the sense that you’ll be spending approximately 40 hours a week on it. You’ll definitely be dedicating more of your life more seriously into studying and upskilling yourself; that is the point of University, after all!
2. Schedule your hours. The number of contact hours you have at University (through lectures and labs) would be approximately 18~20 hours a week. It is reasonable to expect to spend another 20 hours on personal study time. As a student, however, it is not surprising to spend more than the 40 total hours studying due to the sheer amount of content there is; but please, please do not let study take over your life! Remember to schedule in some time for yourself, some time to just simply do nothing! Quality study time is far more important than the quantity of time spent studying!
3. The difference between Teachers vs Lecturers. Back in high school, teachers come up with a nice plan on how to understand concepts and help you through the process given the (relatively) large teacher:student ratio of 1:30. At University, your lecturers simply cannot give everyone attention at a ratio of 1:1200. Teachers are supposed to guide you through the learning process, whereas lecturers simply disseminate knowledge. It is up to you to go through the learning process and really soak up the knowledge.
4. Each lecturer has a different way of teaching. Now, each lecturer will have a slightly different style. For example, in the CHEM 110 course, most lecturers will simply go through the course guide during the lecture and fill in purposeful blanks left in there. Simply going into your lecture will result in you completely a nice set of notes. Comparatively, a BIOSCI 107 lecturer might simply have a huge bunch of slides so you’ll find yourself essentially just making a carbon copy of the slides in your notes, or you’ll just print them off. Other 107 lectures might have drawings in your course guides and will colour the course guides in during the lecture. Why is it important to know how each lecturer teaches? Because that’s how: (i) you’ll learn their content for the first time, and (ii) they’ll likely assess you in tests/exams. You’ll find that good lecturers will have prepared, and have established a good logical flow within their learning resources (e.g. lecture slides, course guide, etc.), whereas bad lecturers will seem to be unfocused and all over the place. Check out our course reviews (although, admittedly, they are slightly dated) for each course here: https://www.samsuoa.co.nz/stage-i-papers.html
5. Realise that you (probably) won’t be able to write everything down. Each lecture will cover a vast amount of content. Even with a killer runescape market grade typing speed, you’ll struggle to type down every single detail; let alone if you try to write everything down! That’s where lecture recordings come in! It’s reasonable to expect to cover each lecture again after the lecture, so missing little tid-bits of information here and there is absolutely fine given that you’ll cover the content again! Furthermore, you’ll find that depending on the course and lecturer, most the detail is already written in the course guide, which is why you won’t need to write/type a lot of stuff down.
6. Find out how YOU study best since not everyone is the same; but here are a few suggestions for you to try out or consider:
a) Note-Taking Software / Preference: Digital vs Physical. Having a laptop in class is now relatively common, and a popular note-taking software which syncs nicely across all your devices is Microsoft OneNote (p.s. No we aren’t being sponsored by big bill). It allows you to create a lot of different pages, stratified for each course - which is handy! You can type up your notes, and if you have a touchscreen (or you could use your cursor), you can draw as well. Its functionality is quite broad and many people use it. Comparatively, you’ll find that some of the course guides are already very adequate with the amount of notes in them already: e.g. BIOSCI 107 and CHEM 110. You might choose to lug around the course guides every day to write your notes on. For POPLHLTH 111, they upload lecture handouts for you to print out before the lecture, so it might be easy to print them out and annotate them; or if you’re proficient at annotating a PDF document (or the suchlike), you might wish to do it electronically. Regardless, throughout Uni you can expect to adapt your note-taking preferences, whether they be online or offline, to the different scenarios.
b) Pre-Read Lecture - Attend Lecture - Revise Lecture. An important part of consolidating your memory is repetition. By increasing the number of times you expose yourself to a certain concept, the more familiar and comfortable you get. That’s why simply pre-reading, attending, and revising a lecture is already a huge leap forward for when it comes to revising for your final test/exam.
c) Rote-Learning is sometimes useful. Particularly in biology, there are so many pathways (e.g. Krebs Cycle) chock-full with chemical compounds, enzyme pathways, and mechanisms that re-writing the whole cycle is simply the easiest and most efficient way to remember/memorise the content.
d) Making your own notes. In some University tests/exams, (e.g. PHYSICS160) they allow you to bring in a “cheat-sheet”. The reality of this faux “cheating method” is to encourage you to make your own notes. The mere act of making your own notes and re-organising the information into sizeable chunks and summaries that are intimate and tailored to you is a fantastic learning method. (In fact, it’s the “constructivist learning theory”). Try to make your own notes which you intimately know and can virtually recite.
e) Engage as many senses as possible. It’s said that when you read something, you retain 50% of the knowledge. When you write something, you retain 70% . When you summarise something, you retain 90%. Flipping through your notes or your course guide will not be as efficient as you hope. Actively engaging your brain by using not just your eyes to read, but your hands to write, will engage more parts of your brain to study more efficiently.
f) Not all papers are equally important. Depending on what you’re aiming for, e.g. MBChB, you can basically not study as much for BIOSCI 101 or POPLHLTH 101 in semester 1. Alternatively, if you’re aiming for Optom, POPLHLTH 111 is less important. Prioritise your study and the amount of study dedicated to each paper. For pharmacy however, there are no ‘core’ papers, and each paper is equally important.
g) Speed up your lecture recordings. Try running boring slow-speaking lecturers at 1.25x speed to save time. Go even faster if you dare :P
h) Flashcards and Practice Test/Exams. It’s also important to test yourself to see how well you’re retaining information. Software like “Anki” (alternatively, there are heaps of free online software to use) helps you create flashcards with ease. Furthermore, the University will supply past papers for you to test yourself with. Keep in mind that courses change slightly from year to year so it is not always accurate (e.g. some content will be missing from past papers or some content tested in the past will not be tested in your year).
Honestly, there are an abundance of study tips that are readily available online. We’ve barely touched on a tonne but we simply can’t emphasise enough that what works for some people won’t work for others. Try them all out and see which one works best for you :)