Library & Student Services

Step up to second year

We know that moving into your second year at university can be daunting. Let’s look at some of the academic changes you can expect and how you can step up to this new level:

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It all counts now

This is probably the most common phrase we hear from second years. Your assessments now count towards your final degree, and this can feel overwhelming. However, your first year will have given you solid foundations for this change. Your work this year is an extension of what you’ve already been doing – the first year was great practice!

Top tip! Read your assignment briefs carefully so you know exactly what’s expected of you before you get started.

A bigger workload

Second years often find they have more to do. Your assignments may be longer, you may have more reading to do and you might even have more classes, depending on your course. It’s important to plan your time carefully – give sufficient time to each module and try not to leave work until the last minute.

Top tip! Use the Skills for Learning Assignment Calculator to plan your time effectively.

More independent work

You may have heard that your lecturers ‘hold your hand’ less in second year, expecting you to work things out for yourself. While that’s true to an extent, they will always be in the background waiting to help and advise. They will expect you to use the skills you developed in first year but will always recap if you aren’t sure.

Top tip! If you need to strengthen any of your academic skills, try attending a Skills for Learning Workshop.

Develop critical thinking skills

‘Critical thinking’ is one of those university terms that can be difficult to grasp. Broadly speaking, critical thinking is about demonstrating your ability to think independently about information. At each level, your lecturers will expect you to do this a bit more. You’ll need to think about what the evidence you encounter means and why it’s relevant. This can be a tricky skill, so don’t worry if you find it difficult to begin with.

Top tip! The Skills for Learning Critical Thinking Guide is a handy resource to use when doing assignments or classwork that require critical thinking.

Sharpen up your referencing skills

In first year, you might be forgiven for making errors in your assignment citations and reference list. By second year, you should have had plenty of chance to practice referencing. Remember to leave yourself enough time to check your in-text citations and references before you hand in an assignment. Follow the referencing guide for your School carefully to avoid mistakes and take a look at the Library support for referencing and plagiarsm and Quote Unquote.

Top tip! Check your assignment feedback from last year if you struggled with referencing. Reading your feedback carefully will help you identify the changes you need to make in your next assignment.

Read more effectively - and just read more!

Learning how to read literature from your subject area is an important university skill. In first year, you will have been getting to grips with the format of academic articles and books. You will have also learned a lot of new terminology. In second year, you need to work on reading purposefully and actively. Always read with a goal in mind, whether you’re trying to answer seminar questions or you’re working on an essay. Make careful notes, copying down just the information you need, rather than everything you read.

Top tip! The Skills for Learning Reading Guide contains advice on approaches to university reading. Try downloading one of the note-making worksheets to help you take effective notes.

Find out more about what to expect in your second year by enrolling on to the Library’s online module, Second Year Study Smart, available on MyBeckett. You'll hear about the second year experience from staff and students and also find advice on assignments, skills development and wellbeing.

Originally published September 2021; updated August 2022.

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