How not to fail a degree

While we know it can be dull, studying is part and parcel of being a student, so why not make it as easy as possible?

Girl standing by books in the library

The University library: designated spot for studying and flirting.

Before you start your degree work…

Buy a diary and use it. Put in deadlines for work, tutorials and exam dates and tick off the things you’ve done. Stick a copy of your timetable inside too, so you always know where you should be. This is a good habit to keep so don’t let it die off.

Stock up on folders, dividers, paper and an assortment of pens. Try to keep things organised from the beginning. Even if you can’t be bothered with many of these tips, putting your lecture notes in order as you go along will help.

Get to know your campus or college. Where are the computer rooms? Does you department have its own facilities (computers, printers, photocopying, research papers archive)? Where is the library? How does their catalogue system work?

Go to lectures and classes

OK so we know they’re not compulsory at uni, and it’s easy to skive in sixth form, but do try to go to them. And if your hangover is really too bad or the bar’s too inviting to make it, at least get the notes off someone else. Get a copy of your syllabus, reading list and past exam papers as early on as possible and keep them with your notes. Tick off sections as you go along. If you feel your lecturer or teacher is making no sense, ask them to explain further, and if this fails mention the problem to your tutor.

Take notes

Don’t worry about making them neat as you can write them up properly afterwards. Don’t take down every word they say, instead write down names, dates and key words, and listen to them. You can fill in the gaps afterwards, but only if you get the vital bits down. If you are a slow note-taker use a dictaphone and make full notes later.

Write them up

It may sound duller than dull but you’ll be glad you bothered come revision time. Use your own words when writing notes and keep them brief, it will be easier to understand when you read them through again later. Set out your notes in a way that is easy to relate to the syllabus and use key words, that way you won’t spend time searching for one fact among a mountain of pages.

Find study time

You usually find that lectures and tutorials take up very little time, leaving you many hours of each week free (especially for arts students). It can be easy to fill this free time doing very little, but if you want to stay ahead and have an active social life, set aside some time each week (say before or after a lecture) to study. You can use this time to rewrite notes, research essays and catch up on your reading. Find somewhere that you won’t be interrupted, like the library, your room, or the local park. Read our article to make sure you stay motivated.

Active study

Set reading is often dull, rather than reading pages and taking nothing in try taking the odd note as you go along to keep you focused. Or make revision cards, then when exams draw near you can read them at the same time as pacing around your room or outside. And when it comes to revising, we have lots of tips, as well as a great checklist for making sure your essays are amazing.

Tutorials and seminars

These are where small groups of people on your course meet to discuss, debate, ask questions and get feedback on the course content. Seminars tend to involve more people and occur less often, while tutorials are slightly more intimate and often involve presentations.

It’s important to go to most of your seminars and tutorials, as they will help facilitate your understanding of the topics, and prepare you for writing your essays. You’re usually set work to prepare for each session too, some of which may count towards your final year assessment.


Don’t spend all your time studying. Uni life has much more to offer, the idea of good study technique is to free you from stress and cramming so you can go and enjoy it, and that’s not so dull now, is it?

Next Steps

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015