Preparing for your classes
Whether you’re a new student or you’ve been at university for a while, it can be hard to know how much preparation to do before a class. The start of a new semester is the time to form some good habits – and here are some Skills for Learning tips to help too:
Make good use of MyBeckett
MyBeckett is the home for all things related to your course – module handbooks, assignment briefs, reading lists, lecture recordings, course announcements – the list is practically endless. Many lecturers list module content week by week, so you know exactly what resources you need to look at ahead of your class. Check your module pages regularly as any changes to schedules and content may be posted there, too.
Some Schools at the University may also use other online systems to post relevant content – ask your lecturer if you’re not sure if this applies to you.
Plan your time carefully
When you receive your schedule, it can be quite overwhelming. Some courses will involve attending lots of classes. Others will have less scheduled face-to-face time and more independent work. Either way, it’s sensible to plan out study time for each week to ensure you get the work done on time. You can find helpful time management resources on the Skills for Learning website.
Work on your reading skills
Whatever your subject, it’s likely you’re going to need to do a lot of reading. Often, university reading is quite different from the kinds of reading you might do in your spare time. In particular, you’ll be expected to read academic books and articles at some point. This kind of reading can be time-consuming; the language and concepts in them are often difficult to interpret. You’ll need to understand them and have opinions about them so you can contribute to class discussions. Luckily, the Skills for Learning Finding Information & Reading web page contains advice and resources to help.
Make effective notes
You will also require some sort of system to record your ideas when completing your classwork. Otherwise, you’re likely to forget what you’ve read and this will make it harder for you to contribute in class. You might choose to keep digital notes on your PC or tablet. Alternatively, you could try a more traditional method like handwritten notes. Whichever system you choose, try to be organised so you can find things easily. The Skills for Learning Approaches to Note-making resource introduces popular methods you may like to use.
Try things out
Universities are all about challenging existing ideas, pushing the boundaries of what we know and learning more about our world. Having done the reading and made notes for your class, you may have some half-formulated ideas about what you’ve read. You might feel you’re struggling to make sense of it all. But that’s OK. The great thing about class discussions is they can often lead you to see things in a totally new way. Sharing your thoughts about a topic will help your whole class come to new types of understanding about your subject.
So, be brave. Be the one who speaks up about your ideas – they might just lead to a really interesting discussion. Your courage will impress your lecturer, too, as you’ll be demonstrating that you’re thinking critically about your topic.
Don't be afraid to ask
Sometimes the tasks set for a particular week may not seem totally clear, or you might not know exactly where to find the resources you need. If you’re unsure about what to do, chances are someone else on your course will be feeling them same. So, be proactive: ask your lecturers to clarify. They will be more than happy to make sure you have the right information.
You could also make an appointment with a member of Library staff as they will be able to help you make sense of things like reading lists and assignment briefs. Book an appointment via the Library Get Help form.
Originally published January 2022; updated October 2023.