When you first look at your course timetable, you may think that you will have lots of spare time – for part-time paid employment or just to have fun. Most students need to undertake some paid work, and we hope that you will also enjoy yourself! However, if you are a full time student, you’ll need to allow the same amount of time for study as for any other full-time job – that is, at least 35 hours a week.
Formal teaching sessions will take up only a small part of this time because all university courses demand a substantial amount of independent study. So it’s vital to plan your non-contact time effectively – for reading, project work, more reading, writing assignments, revising for examinations, more reading and most important of all, developing your own ideas.
Read on for some top tips from students and tutors about how to manage your time to avoid getting behind with your work to make sure you get the most out of your university course.
You may find it helpful to keep a record of how you spend your time over the next few weeks. Be honest – this is for your own information. Are you giving yourself enough time for study and for necessary relaxation? Are there any changes you could make? Compare your results with friends and fellow students – they may be able to suggest improvements.
Download a blank weekly timetable
Decide on the length of each independent study session and set yourself a target to achieve (eg ‘Read 20 pages and take notes on them inside 2 hours’). If it’s hard to arrange regular periods of uninterrupted study, identify in advance a few tasks each week that can be fitted into short time slots – sorting out lecture notes, for instance, or drafting an essay plan. That way, you won’t waste all those odd half-hours, and your longer sessions will be free to tackle the work that really does need more extended concentration.
Credit ratings can provide a rough guide to expected total study time: in principle a 10 credit module will require 100 hours, 20 credits 200 hours, and so on. In many subjects, especially those which involve a lot of background reading, independent study time may be at least 75% of this total. If so, you will need to fit in 25-30 hours of private study every week, in addition to lectures and seminars.
However, how individuals use this time will will vary; one student may read more rapidly than their friend but take longer to produce written coursework. Think carefully about your own working habits and adjust your planning to fit.
If there is a piece of work you’re really dreading, do it first. Tell yourself you’ll get the work out and just do 10 minutes or 1 small item off the list.