Study tips

18 January 2016

One of the big adjustments when you arrive at university is that there’s nobody looking over your shoulder – so it’s up to you to work out how best to study. Here are a few pointers to help you settle into a winning routine.

Visualise the outcome

Not all your courses will be of equal interest to you, but if you can project yourself into the future, you’ll have a better sense of why you need to jump a particular hurdle. If you’re finding it really hard, then create little rewards for yourself so that you can push through and get to the really interesting stuff.

Go to class (always)

As much as it’s tempting to stay in bed and miss that first lecture because nobody is going to find out if you do, it pays to attend all your classes. Lectures will give you a good overview of your material, and help to guide your studies and preparations for exams.

Smaller tutorials and practicals are generally compulsory, so here you don’t have a choice. You will only qualify for a DP (Duly Performed) if you attend these sessions; otherwise, you won’t be allowed to write your exams.

Be as diligent as possible

It’s important to keep up with classwork (the academic term is incredibly short), and it helps if you go over your notes every day and make sure you understand the day’s work. Start working on assignments as soon as you get them, and hand them in on time.

Develop your own system

A simple filing system (on your computer or in physical folders) will help you to maintain order. Keep everything pertaining to one subject in a single place, so that you can easily find what you need. Make ‘to do’ lists to keep track, and have the pleasure of crossing things off when you’ve dealt with them.

Plan ahead

One way of avoiding a crisis is to manage your time by planning ahead. You can use a diary or a year planner to plot all the key points in the term ahead (tests, assignments, exams). By doing this, you can work out how much time you need to put in ahead of these critical points, so that you don’t find yourself in a hot mess at the end.

Know yourself

By now you probably have a pretty clear idea of what works for you.
Are you an early riser? Or do you find it easier to work at night? Establish a pattern, and stick to it.

Find your study space

Distractions are everywhere – particularly in the form of your cell phone. Some students choose to study in the library, where the atmosphere helps them to knuckle down. Others might go to a computer lab, or the Knowledge Commons. Or you might prefer a quiet space in your own room or at home. It helps if you have a desk or table to sit at, so you can spread your notes around. Find a place where you are free of disruptions, and you can focus for a few hours every day.

Call in the troops

There are times when it’s easier to bed down your knowledge in a group. This doesn’t have to be a formal study group – it might just be you and a couple of friends who agree to meet up and work together on a regular basis. That way you can test each other verbally, and even bounce a few ideas around if you’re having difficulty bedding down a particular piece of knowledge.

Manage your stress levels

Stress comes with the territory of being a student, so look after yourself.


Don’t run on empty.
It’s important that you get enough sleep if you are to concentrate on your work during the day, and especially when preparing for tests and exams.

  • Get enough sleep (at the right time).
  • Exercise regularly. The UCT gym, on lower campus close to the Graça Machel Hall women’s residence, is a great place to work out and meet people (membership is R500 for the year).
  • Eat properly.
  • Take time out to chill with friends.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Student Wellness Service offers psychological support and counselling.

Contact Student Wellness on 021 650 1017 to make an appointment.

Campus Life 2016

Read more from the
2016 Orientation edition.

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