Study Skills

Organising sills

One of the most effective techniques to being successful in your studies is effective use of your time. As a student you need to find the right balance between relaxation and study. Your study time is partly fixed by regular lectures, tutorials and seminars. Coursework submission and examination nation dates are also fixed. You should use this fixed framework to plan and organise your study for the year. Use a diary or a wall planner to plan your tasks and to put the amount that you have to achieve into perspective. Weekly plans will help you to balance study, work and relaxation and will help you to make the most efficient use of your study time. You should aim to plan private study at times when you know you can study most effectively.

Using your study periods effectively

Everyone works and studies in different ways, and there is no one way that can be guaranteed to work for all students. To be successful, you need to develop your own study skills - try out different techniques and select the ones that work for you. Effective study requires a comfortable place to work with minimal distractions, and the length of the study time is also important. Long sessions are not always advisable, and you should make sure that you have short breaks between study sessions. Set yourself realistic goals within the time limit of your sessions and do not try to do too much.

Try to concentrate while you are studying.  Concentration involves you in actively processing the material being presented.  The length of time for which you can concentrate fully will vary, and you will find it easier to concentrate on subjects that interest you or on subjects you already know something about.  If you are finding it difficult to concentrate then try switching to another subject or take a short break.

Reading effectively

Effective reading will vary depending on the material that you are reading, but in general it is possible to get the gist of a text without having to take in every single word. With practice, you can increase your word span to 5 or 6 words, and increase your reading rate to several hundred words per minute. You will almost certainly have to read through course material more than once before you can understand them fully. You should aim to read with attention and comprehension, making sure that you understand all the concepts. You may find it helpful to highlight key points, as long as you own the textbook!

Consider what you are reading in the light of what you already know and have a few questions at the outset. When you read the text for a second time, note down the main points and try to recall what you have read in your own words. Check your understanding by looking at the text.

Learning from Lectures

A lecture is most effectively used by actively concentrating on what is being said and by making notes. Notes are a concentrated, personal record of the lecture and require you to select the essential information and organise it in such a way that you are able to refresh your understanding of what was being said at a later date. Your notes will be of use to you for revision and in preparing coursework or reports. You will develop your own style of note taking, but the following pointers may be useful:


• try to strike a balance between making notes and listening carefully;
• try to understand the main points of the lecture and make sufficient notes to enable you to recall each point later;
• include headings and sub-headings, underlining or highlighting and clearly lay out the information on the page;
• leave a wide margin at the side to add extra points later;
• use abbreviations that are clear to you.

Development of key skills

You will find it difficult to proceed to the second year unless you attain a high enough standard in written communication. Presentation of your work through good written English is an essential skill for an engineer and you will be less likely to succeed if you cannot communicate in this way.  

If you are struggling with your English skills, you should contact the University’s English Language Support Centre, which is able to offer language support classes for international students, online language support materials via MOLE, writing advisory service, one-to-one tutorial advice, dyslexia support and English language testing (we administer our own University of Sheffield English Proficiency Test (USEPT).

You will need to develop your mathematical skills if you are to be successful in the technical engineering science subjects in the first year and hence those in the second year which build on these key skills.  The University offers a service called MASH (Mathematics and Statistical Help) which offers services such as one-to-one support from tutors, drop-in facility for support, study room with resources and tutors to help if necessary, online material for self-study, appointments for targeted provision (individual or small groups), support for the use of mathematics and statistics software, and targeted provision and classes in key topics.

If you need further information on these services, use the right hand links or ask at the Undergraduate Student Support office.