How to succeed at reading, planning and doing assignments in College and University.
Many students struggle with starting projects. This tip sheet will help you get started and guide you through the steps of reading, planning, and doing your next assignment.
Have I read the assignment instructions and rubric?
Have I highlighted or circled the key words?
Do I understand what I am supposed to do?
Am I clear on what I am being evaluated on?
Do I have any questions?
Do I need to get help?
Have I broken down the assignment in to chunks?
Have I measured the time needed for each section?
Have I set due dates and put them on my calendar?
Did I re-read the assignment instructions?
Do I have reminders on my phone?
Am I limiting distractions and focusing on my work?
Have I given myself rewards after completing a section?
Have I re-read the assignment?
Have I edited or asked someone to edit my assignment?
Have I read the assignment out loud to listen for clarity?
Have I reassessed my plan?
Finally, reflect on how working on this assignment went and what you will do the next time you have an assignment.
There are four main learning styles: visual, auditory, read/write and kinesthetic. Your preferred learning style is like your favourite pair of shoes: what you go to first. You may prefer one style over another, but preferences develop like muscles: the more they are used, the stronger they become. Successful students have flexible and integrated learning styles.
Use your preferred learning style to maximize how you take in information and study
How you prefer to learn
How you best take in information
|Learn best by seeing information and images in the mind (visualizing)||
|Learn best by hearing, listening and talking things through||
|Learn best through reading and writing information and concepts||
|Learn best through physical activity and "hands-on" learning||
|Learning Style||How you prefer to study||How you best understand and remember information|
|Studies best by seeing information and images in the mind (visualizing)||
|Studies best by hearing, listening and talking things through||
|Studies best through reading and writing information and concepts||
|Studies best through physical activity and "hands-on" learning||
Presentations in college give you the opportunity to demonstrate to your teacher that you have researched and are knowledgeable on a specific subject. It sounds simple, but many students struggle with this style of evaluation.
This tip sheet will provide you with practical strategies to plan, prepare and present effectively as well as overcome nerves. It's as easy as 1-2-3.
Ensure you have read the assignment carefully paying attention to: the length of the presentation, format, specific content that must be covered, and supporting documents. Ask yourself: What is the purpose of this presentation?
Begin researching and gathering information on your topic. This often takes longer than you think, so begin the assignment early. (See tip sheet: task management). A popular strategy is to plan to present three main points.
Using sticky notes, brainstorm all of the possible things you could include in your presentation. Cluster these ideas into themes. Re-read the assignment to ensure you are covering the right information. Map out your presentation visually by creating cue cards with jot notes for each slide. This story board will allow you to rearrange, revise and delete information from your presentation. Turn your storyboard into a slide deck or speaking points having one key message per slide. Rehearse as this will increase your confidence and let you assess the flow of your presentation (see back for checklist).
The day of the presentation; choose to wear comfortable clothes, stay well hydrated, bring your speaking notes, a copy of the slides and your confidence. Review the information prior to presentation.
See the checklist on the back for specific ideas, but here are a few important ways to stay on top of presentation nerves. Start your presentation with something that will take the focus off of you (like a short video), walk around during the presentation instead of staying behind the podium, and most importantly, use the tension as it can help you stay focused, The audience doesn’t know that you are nervous unless you tell them.
I have read the assignment carefully, noting key details: topic, length/how long, supporting documents
I am clear on the purpose of this assignment. If not, Question: ?
I have researched the topic and gathered information
I have organized my research into categories
I have identified 3 main points
I have brainstormed all of the possible points I could include in my presentation
I have clustered these ideas into themes
I have organized them into my 3 main points
I have re-read the assignment again to be sure I am on track
I have created a story board using cue cards or pages
I have organized my slides in a logical order
I have rehearsed multiple times
I have my speaking notes ready
I have emailed my presentation to my teacher, I have a backup of my slides in an email and on a stick
I have brought all of the handouts and supplies I need
I have a bottle of water
I have am confident and calm
I got a good night sleep
I have all of my materials organized including: handouts, USB thumb drive, notes etc.
I have emailed a copy of the presentation to myself as a back up
I have visualized the presentation going well
I am well prepared
I have limited the amount of caffeine I have consumed
I have a bottle of water with me
I am taking deep breaths and moving my body
I am confident and calm
I am moving from behind the podium
I am breathing and speaking slowly
I am focusing on the material, not everyone looking at me
Procrastination is a problem, particularly when it becomes a habitual way of handling demands. Procrastination is really two behaviours. It can be a way to put things off until later. Or it can be task avoidance, a deliberate effort to avoid specific jobs. People procrastinate for a variety of reasons. This tip sheet will give you tips on overcoming procrastination and help you reflect on why you do it.
What patterns do I notice in my answers?
Are these habits I am willing to change?
What am I willing to do differently?
These tips will help you to study more EFFECTIVELY so that you can REDUCE text anxiety, manage your TIME, and ACHIEVE better marks!!
I created a place to study with good light and space
I created a semester planner and a weekly planner to schedule study time
I have included time in my schedule for a weekly review
I have scheduled time for regular breaks from studying
I read my textbook before going to class and made study questions
I read my notes after class and made study questions
I used cue cards, sticky notes, maps, and charts to create study tools
I used colour to organize and categorize study material
I attended all test reviews in class
I found a study buddy
I organized or joined a study group
I met with a tutor (visit the Academic Success)
I asked questions during class reviews
Most students come to college with the best intention of doing well. However, some students do not get the grades they had hoped for or end up leaving college. Transitioning to post-secondary education can be challenging because you have entered a new culture with its own set of expectations. If you manage your education you will have lots of time to fully enjoy life outside the classroom. Remember you are not alone. If you are experiencing any difficulties there are many services here on campus to help.
Remember: It is easier to keep up than catch up.
This sounds so simple, but it is so important. Students who attend class often report having better grades. Reading the Powerpoint slides is not the same as attending a class. Your teacher will explain the concepts in more detail and often give hints as to what will be on the tests. In class, you will learn from your peers and develop many skills other than academic. These include but are not limited to: communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, team work, project management. These are the skills you will need in the future to be successful in your chosen career.
You are responsible for balancing your personal, academic, social and work commitments. Readings and assignments are part of post-secondary life and, if not managed well, can lead to undue stress. Use semester planners and day planners to stay organized.
Every student has a unique learning style. Some people learn best in the morning and some late at night. Some students need a picture to explain a concept and some need to physically manipulate items to learn best. There are many tools to help you uncover how you learn best. See our tip sheet on working with your learning style.
There are many committed people on campus who are passionate about your success. The only way they can help you is if you ask. Your student fees provide you with many resources at no extra cost to you, so take advantage of the supports that are there to help you be successful.
Check Blackboard and student email regularly for updates from my teacher
Read the Academic Policies and Procedures
My program coordinator is:
Prepare for class by reading the chapter summary and looking up new terms
Create a note making system that works
Arrive at class 10 minutes early to prepare myself
Bring water and snacks
Create a semester plan with all of my assignments listed on one page
Create a reading plan for each class
Use my student planner or create a weekly schedule
Break my readings into chunks of content and avoid reading an entire chapter at once
Start my assignments as soon as they are assigned
Break the assignment down - see tip sheet on Assignments
Discover what my learning style is
Uncover what time of day I learn best
Become aware of how I process information
Review class notes often and summarize them to create study notes
Set a clear goal on what success looks like for me
Discover ways to stay motivated - see tip sheet on Procrastination
Find out what resources are available to you. For example, counselling, tutoring centres (e.g. Writing, Math), faculty office hours, study groups and more
Get involved on campus and stay connected
Seek out students who share my commitment
Prepare questions and bring them to class
Ask for help
Taking an online course can be an excellent learning experience and many students excel at learning using this format. There are specific things you can do to ensure you have the best chance of doing well. This tip sheet will provide you with proven strategies to help you get started.
An online course is more than just PowerPoint slides on BlackBoard.
An online learning environment can take some time to get used to. In a face to face class there are many built in organizational systems like: handouts, teacher reminders, fellow students talking about the course. An online course you will have to organize yourself so you can stay on top of the work. Be sure you put all of your assignment and test due dates on a calendar. Many students find setting reminders on their phones helps them remember to go on BlackBoard and check their course.
The number one reason students do not succeed in an online course is they do not book time on their calendar to work on their course and they fall behind. They often underestimate how much time it takes to do the readings, watch the videos, post discussions, and do the course work. Plan to book at least two 2-hour blocks of time per week on your calendar to work on your online course. Find a peer in the class that will keep you accountable and will meet up to work with you on a specified day and time during the week.
Even if you have taken an online course before, each teacher will set up their course in a unique way. Take time to understand what is expected of you and how to contact the teacher if you have any questions. Read over the course outline to gain a big picture view of the course and what the assignment expectations are. Email the professor if you have any questions.
You will learn at a deeper level if you participate in the online discussions. The students in your class have a lot to offer and you can learn from their posts as well as the teachers' comments. Connect with your teacher early so you will have developed a relationship in case you have questions in the future.
Familiarize myself with the learning platform and ask for help early if I don't understand
Review the course outline and information package
Record all of the tests, quizzes and assignments on my monthly calendar
Back up all my electronic submissions that I post online in a folder for my course(s)
Set reminders on my phone to ensure I stay organized and stay on top of my work
Book a consistent time in my weekly schedule to work on my course(s) work
Log on often during the week to stay on top of discussions and announcements
Create a distraction free zone where I can focus on my course(s) work
Submit my assignments before the due dates in case there is a technical glitch
Set specific goals and deadlines for myself and stick to them
Read the teacher's introduction and expectations carefully
Be sure I understand the types of assessments and methods of submission
E-mail teacher if I am unclear or having problems, well before the due date (or Contact using preferred method of communication).
Plan to add to the discussions at least twice per week
Connect with at least one classmate that I can email outside the discussions
Access all of the academic supports available via online, face to face or through video phone
Read the assignment carefully and decide which part would best suit your strengths
Get to know your group members as this will help with determining roles
Appoint a leader who can commit to keeping everyone on track and be the contact with the teacher
Decide how, how often and when you will communicate with each other
Create a contract for the assignment with deadline dates for each part
Divide up the parts of assignment (be specific)
Do your part of the assignment and stay connected with your group
Don't be the person who lets the group down
Preparing yourself physically, mentally and emotionally for tests is an important skill for every college student. This tip sheet will provide some proven success strategies that can help when you sit to write the test.
Mastering test taking is an essential skill for college students, are you ready?
As you look over the test, note the length, the marks for each question, if there are diagrams and how long you think each question will take. This overview will help you plan your time during the test.
A knowledge dump is done after the teacher instructs you to begin the test. Using a scrap piece of paper or the back of the test, write down all the things you want to be sure to remember. These may include acronyms, definitions, confusing concepts, formulae, or steps to a problem. You can refer to this during the test if you need to recall these items.
Read each questions carefully by marking up the questions. Pay careful attention to what the question is really asking. Note words like always, never, best answer, summarize, briefly. Cross off any information that is not important and re-write the questions. Jot down ideas as you think of them.
By doing the easy questions first, you will ensure you get marks for the questions you know. When you go back to the more complicated questions you will have given your brain time to process your thinking.
A couple of tips for staying calm include: visualize your success, breathe deeply, scan your body to identify any tension, tense and relax your muscles, drink water, eat nutritious food, and get a lot of sleep. If you struggle with test anxiety, our counsellors are available to help with individual strategies.
Ensure you have all of your supplies: calculator, extra pens and pencils, erasers, scrap paper if permitted
Practice your breathing and relaxation exercises
Review the final concepts you were studying
Avoid the pre-test chatter with classmates
Listen carefully to the teacher's verbal instructions
Do a knowledge dump
Read over the entire test
Note how many marks each part is worth
Mark up the question ensuring you understand what is being asked
Cover up the answers
Read the question and think of the answer
Uncover the anwers and see if your preferred answer is there
Cross off the answers you know are incorrect
Read the answer back into the question to see if it sounds right
Ask yourself: is there a case when this would NOT be right?
Read question carefully
Read the question carefully
Distinguish between: analyze, compare, explain, summarize, discuss, describe, criticize
Create notes with key points and make an outline before you write on the test paper
Introduce the answer by getting to the point not just restating the question
Write legibly; you don't want to lose marks because the teacher could not read your work
If the question is worth 5 marks, be sure you have 5 strong points
Concentrate on key words and facts i.e. Analyze, contrast, compare
Be brief and ensure you have enough details for the number of marks assigned to the question
Write an outline to get your thoughts organized
Effectively managing your time will help you to reduce stress and maximize your ability to get good grades.
Good time management skills are key to success as a student and as a workplace professional!
I think of being a student as a full-time job (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)
I understand the time commitment required to be successful
I will create a weekly and semester planner to stay organized
I will include time for myself and fun activities
The syllabi for all my courses have been printed and the readings, assignments and tests circled
Each course name, day, and time is filled in at the top of the semester planner
The readings, assignments, and tests are recorded in the column below
Their percentages have been recorded beside them
All the fixed events have been recorded in my weekly schedule first
Time has been scheduled before class, after class, and during the week to do readings, assignments, and test preparation
Highlighters have been used to colour code my courses
I have multiple copies for my binder and study space
Do a quick survey of the table of contents, all the headings, pictures, captions, tables, bold type, key terms, questions (at the end of the chapter), and the chapter summary. Say all of these out loud.
(The 3 Rs)
Read the first section. Stop.
Review your notes immediately before the class, immediately after the class and daily for the next 30 days. This will increase what you remember from virtually 0% (no review) to 75% - 100% (for 30 days of review or until your exam). Remember it only takes 4 to 5 minutes to review notes.