How to be a more productive student


Let me guess, this year is the year that you plan to buckle down and work hard. This year, you’ll never miss a lecture, you’ll attend all your seminars having thoroughly read all the suggested reading and made notes, and you’ll be lugging books out of the library reading for your coursework research looking like you’ve just completed an elaborate heist. That was exactly what I planned last year. Yet somehow, I never managed to drag myself out of bed for that Wednesday morning seminar and my grades in Lent term were significantly lower in comparison to my Michaelmas term of pure academic enthusiasm.
Whilst I make absolutely no claims of being the best student in the world, I can share some of my third year wisdom with you to try and help you along the path of first class degrees, with a bit of what I learned.
First of all, come to your lectures prepared. It seems like a daft thing to say, but if you’re rocking up to every single lecture hung over and/or exhausted because you found cat videos on YouTube or the Spine section of SCAN (*hint hint*) far too appealing, you’ll almost certainly never learn a thing. Sadly, you cannot absorb knowledge simply by dragging your sorry arse into that lecture hall (I’ve hoped and prayed).
Start off by making sure that you have some form of note-taking equipment. I don’t care if it’s a crisp new notebook, a shiny tablet-style gadget (I’m an Apple girl) or the inside of your arm – I refuse to accept that you can remember absolutely everything the lecturer is saying and walk out of there wiser. Your elephant memory will quickly realise it knows nothing when you sit down to revise and have to beg all your mates to lend you their notes. In addition to this, nobody likes the idiot who sits bashing their keyboard for the full hour – type quietly or get used to wrist ache.
Secondly, please don’t be that person that talks all the way through the lecture, thinking every little thought that pops into their head is absolutely hilarious. I know it’s hard to concentrate, sometimes trying to pay attention to what the lecturer is saying feels like you’re trying to figure out the meaning of life. That’s fine, we’re not all perfect. But rather than wittering on for the whole hour to the poor sod who somehow ended up next to you, do what I do. Take a recorder to your lecture if you really can’t focus, press ‘Record’, and do your best to absorb as much information as you can.


Another great way I’ve found of consolidating your knowledge is to type notes during your lecture, and when you’ve got the time later on, write them up for yourself.
It can be time consuming and annoying, especially when you want to come home from lectures and veg out on your sofa, but it’s worth it in the long run.
This year should also be the year you actually think about doing some of your seminar reading. In first year, it’s perfectly okay to not do the reading and fluke your way through the class, because let’s face it, your tutors know you were probably in Hustle till 2am – they’re hardly expecting you to have spent your evening actively reading a 20 page article and preparing for the seminar.
This changes in your second/third/fourth year. If you come to a seminar empty-handed, not only will your tutor add you to their mental blacklist, but if you’re expected to take part in a group discussion, or share your thoughts on the reading with everyone, prepare to get on the nerves of your fellow students as well.
I’m not saying read every single thing on the list, but it doesn’t hurt to have a good knowledge of one, maybe skim over another if you have the time. Overall, the seminar reading is there to further and consolidate the knowledge of your subject, as is any homework a maths, engineering or science subject might ask of you. Choosing not to do it only affects you in the long run.
Finally, and I feel extremely hypocritical for this, as I notoriously avoid doing it at all costs: start revision early. Exam season will creep up on you before you’ve had a chance to finish ripping the heads off your Malteser bunnies, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you at least sit down and think about how you’re going to approach revision.
That’s pretty much all the advice I have for you. The chances of me following my own advice are slim, especially since I’m fated to spend at least 20 hours a week on this paper.