Posts about: Academic Skills

Hop to it!

28 April 2017

Tomorrow is Save the Frogs Day

– the world’s largest day of amphibian conservation and education. You can read more about it on their website.

frog

Meanwhile, for many of you, your own year of education is nearly at its end –

and exams are just around the corner.

Many of us find exams quite alarming, but don’t worry, Skills for Learning has lots of advice to help with

You can find lots of good tips on Twitter too skillupUS and #SalfordSmart.

As well as the academic preparation for exams, taking care of your health will help you cope with stress and improve your chances of success. Try to eat well, get plenty of sleep and find time get some fresh air and exercise. The Wellbeing Service has lots of good advice to help you be at your best.

And if you are out walking this weekend, please take care where you step. You never know where a frog might be.

Panicking about Exams? Come to our Exams and Revision Workshop 2nd May 2pm

26 April 2017

With exams looming you may feel like panicking…


Hold that thought! The Skills for Learning Team are delivering an exam and revision workshop on 2nd May at 2pm.

We’ll be covering exam preparation, revision strategies and top tips for the day of your exam.

Book on to the workshop via the following link:

https://myadvantage.salford.ac.uk/students/events/detail/509639

Any questions please email studyskills@salford.ac.uk

 

Tips, tools and apps to help with revision

26 April 2017
Amy Pearson

Need help with revision? Here are some tips and tools to help you.

We all know that revising is tough. It is difficult to know where to start and very easy to get drawn into other things. Here are a few tips, tools and apps to help you ace your revision!

Tips

The trick to revision is to use more than one strategy to give yourself some variation on how you are revising. It is better to revise ‘actively’ (giving your brain something to do with the information) than revise ‘passively’ (just reading things through). This should make revision less boring, as well as helping you remember material!

You can try the following:

  1. Using colour coded highlighters or sticky notes to draw your attention to main themes or topics in your notes
  2. Summarise your notes. Then, when ,you are confident with the material, summarise again, until you have a set of cue cards or one A4 crib sheet per topic
  3. Use spider diagrams (or mind maps), timelines, pros and cons lists or any other kind of diagrammatical note-taking techniques to see the information in a different, condensed way
  4. Practice doing exam questions from past papers under exam conditions
  5. If there are ‘facts’ or ‘figures’ you need to memorise, try writing them on sticky notes and leaving them in places you see them all the time (e.g. your kitchen cupboard or by your mirror)
  6. Try making up exam questions (although do be careful not just to make up ones which you’d like to answer!). This helps to put yourself in the mind-set of your tutors. If you were them, what would you test student on?

(From our Revision Study Guide)

Apps and Online Tools

If you like your technology then you might find these apps and online tools helpful.

ThingLink

With ThingLink you can make your images come alive with video, text, images, links and music. Such a great tool for revision if you are a visual learner. Pick an image that you associate with the topic and then add text, links, videos to it that cover the key information. When you need to recall the topic you can mentally work your way around the image and visualise the information you added to it. You can download the app or access it online. Simply go to the ThingLink website to get started.

Padlet

You use Padlet to post text, video, images or links onto a virtual wall. Your Padlets can be visible just to you or you can let others read and contribute to them. You can use it online or download an App. This could be a really useful tool for revision as you can summarise topics and use the Padlet app to access your summaries whilst you are on the bus! Go to the Padlet website to get started.

Flashcards+

According to the website you will be able to ‘memorize like a pro when you’ve got flashcards in your pocket’. This app is handy for revision as you can create flashcards for key topics or theories and use these to test your recall of the topic. If you are studying a subject that requires you to memorize images then you can easily add them to the flashcard. This is a great app if you like to learn in this way. Find out more about it on the Flashcard+ website.

Exams… preparation is the key!

24 April 2017
Tracy Breheny

Tracy tells you how to find past exam papers to help with your exam preparation.

Got exams coming up?  Looking over past exam papers can be really useful when preparing for an exam.   The Library has a collection of past exam papers which are all available electronically.

To find past exam papers, you need to:

  1. Go to our past exam paper webpage here: http://www.salford.ac.uk/library/research/exam-papers
  2. Type in a couple of keywords to limit your search; often words from the module title bring back useful results.
  3. You will then be presented with a list of past exam papers we have access to that match your search. When you find the one you would like to look at, click on the title and you will be able to open it.
  4. If you are off-campus, you will be requested to sign in with your network username and password to view them.

If you have any problem accessing past exam papers, please contact your Academic Support Librarian for further help: http://www.salford.ac.uk/library/help/academic-support

There is also lots of help with exam preparation and revision tecniques available on our Skills for Learning webpage here: http://www.salford.ac.uk/skills-for-learning/home/assessment-revision-and-exams so take a look!

Good luck with your exams!

Hamlet’s Exam – the soliloquy Hamlet never delivered while he was at University in Wittenberg

21 April 2017

Lynne shares some Shakespearean thoughts about exams in honour of Shakespeare Day.

In honour of Shakespeare Day (23rd April), here is the soliloquy Hamlet never delivered while he was at University in Wittenberg.

Hamlet ponders exams

2B, or not 2B: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the test to hazard
To scrap and erase the outrageous reference,
Or to make plans towards sensible essays,
And by planning finish them? Revise: to sleep
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart ache and the thousand natural shocks
Of losing our notes, ‘tis an avoidance
Devoutly to be wish’d. Revise, or sleep;
To sleep: perchance over-sleep: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep what exams we may miss
When we have snuggled in this warm duvet
Must give us pause: there’s the prospect
That makes calamity of such long tests;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The examiner’s call, the proud student’s wrist cramp,
The pangs of missed data, results day,
The temperature of summer exam halls
That concentration of the student takes,
When they themselves might their leisure make,
Round a pub table? Who would text books bear,
To grunt and sweat over an exam paper,
But that the dread of something after term,
The undiscover’d results on whose decree
Some student resits, puzzles the will
And makes us rather swot past papers we have
Than chance those questions that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the healthy hue of nervous first years
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And revision plans of great depth and detail
With this regard their purpose turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Good Ladies and Gentlemen,
Should this speech seem to see into your heart,
You should read our guides to the exam art.
Exeunt with alarums

Top Revision Tips

17 April 2017

If you have exams coming up in the next month or so, you might be thinking about how to get the best from your revision.

  1. Time! When is/are your exam(s)? Look at your calendar and block out any times you know you can’t revise because you’re at a wedding / in lectures / working / abseiling down the Eiffel Tower. How much time do you have left? Revision tends to work best in small chunks, so try to plan some little-and-often revision slots.
  2. Reward yourself! You need breaks, and you need to do something enjoyable to give your brain time to recover from all that revision. Plan some treats, quiet time off or nights out with friends so that you have chance to relax as well as study.
  3. Don’t just highlight! Highlighting and re-reading chunks of information probably won’t help it to sink in. Do something ‘active’ with your notes so that you can understand and process the information: rewrite it in different words, draw diagrams, discuss the topic with someone or tell the goldfish everything you know about it.
  4. Use past papers! If you have access to past papers, use them. They will help you to become familiar with the kinds of questions you’ll be asked, the wording, the length of answer required and so on.
  5. It’s not just a memory test… Exams are about demonstrating understanding of a topic and applying it to a question or situation, not just regurgitating facts. Think about how the things you’re revising would be used in practice or real life.

…and if you need something to take your mind off all that revision, have a look at Lynne’s lovely poem from this time last year!

Assignment feedback: the good, the bad and the ugly…

10 April 2017
Catherine Tomlin

Catherine explains how to use your feedback.

So you’ve received your assignment mark and feedback. Happy? Disappointed? Shocked?

 

 

 

Here are a few tips on making use of feedback so your next essay is epic!

 

  • Don’t ignore your feedback. Your tutor has spent time explaining how you can improve. Although criticism is hard to take, it is the best way to learn and develop.

  • Confused by your feedback? Use our Feedback Glossary for commonly used feedback terms. Alternatively, get in touch with your tutor to discuss.

  • Take action. Think about what you can do to make improvements; Workshops? Online resources? Talking with tutors, friends, library support?

  • Spot patterns. It may be that a similar problem keeps popping up. Get support from your tutor or the Skills for Learning team to tackle the issue once and for all!

  • Create an action plan/checklist so you are clear on what you need to do and when you plan to do it.

  • Recognise you are at university to learn. You are here to develop skills and knowledge by making mistakes and learning from them. Our Student Diaries blog shows you aren’t on your own!

 

Fake News

7 April 2017

Be a savvy news consumer – Joanna gives some useful reminders.

Fake news has become a hot news topic! We all want our news to be accurate, truthful, and honest, so how do you sort out truth from lies, or identify exaggerated stories, or facts reported out of context?

The simplest strategy is to make sure you get your news from a variety of sources – don’t get stuck in your own media “bubble”. Be critical and analyse any news you share on social media.  We all have a responsibility not to spread lies.

There are no hard and fast rules, but here are some things to think about –

  • Beware sensational headlines. Not every shocking headline is associated with fake news – but it’s a warning sign.
  • Be very cautious about stories intended to prompt an extreme emotional response, particularly anger. Verify the story from other known, reliable sources.
  • Check whether other “mainstream” news sources are reporting the story.
  • Take a look at the domain name. Does it suggest a bias, or potential unreliability?
  • Check out the “About us” tab, or look at the contact details. Is the content attributable to a “real” person, or an identifiable organisation? Do they have a particular agenda? Look for more information about the author or organisation.
  • Look for supporting evidence. Use a fact checking site if appropriate (FullFact.org Factcheck.org, Politifact.com, Snopes.com etc). Follow up links to research studies, or data sources. Ask yourself if they are authoritative. Look for other reports about the same study. Remember fake news doesn’t have to be “made up”. Facts reported selectively can be dangerously misleading.

Looking for more?

For a more comprehensive overview of Fake News and how to spot it, check out the University of Rhode Island’s excellent resource

News Literacy and Alternative Facts: How to Be a Responsible Information Consumer

And Remember –

As University students you should routinely evaluate all the resources you use for your own research and assignments, particularly anything found via internet sources.

  1. How up-to-date is the information? Is it still current?
  2. Is this information source going to help me write my essay? Is it relevant to my topic?
  3. Is this “the right sort” of information – is it suitable for academic purposes? Is the author an expert in this subject area? Is the information reliable and accurate?
  4. Why has this information been written? What is its purpose? Is there any bias I need to take account of?

What is Critical Analysis…

27 March 2017

Want to improve your critical analysis skills? Anne shows you how.

and why do I need it?

 

During your time at university you will often be asked to critically analyse things – in your reading and writing, in essay titles, assignment instructions and exam questions.

Also, when your assignment is marked your tutor might comment that your work is “too descriptive” or that “there isn’t enough critical analysis”.

What does it all mean?

Descriptive writing is simply describing a situation or summarising what you have read.

Critical analysis shows that you have examined the evidence, understood the arguments and analysed the conclusions – and can discuss these in your own writing.
examine the evidence

You need to use both. If you are discussing a book, article or report you will need to provide some description of what it is about before you can analyse it, but the critical or analytical element of your writing is more important.

Why?

Because the ability to show that you can identify arguments, clearly analyse, evaluate and compare ideas, and synthesise the information to support your own arguments shows that you have learnt something.

This what your tutors want to see!

Unsurprisingly, the better your skills are, the better your grades will be.

Want to learn more?

This e-Learning will introduce you to critical analysis and help you to understand the difference between descriptive and critical writing.

Play Critical Analysis e-Learning

 

Planning and writing your assignment – your 5 steps to essay success!

20 March 2017
Amy Pearson

This time of year is all about assignments. Amy has shared the Skills for Learning 5 steps to essay success!

It’s that time of year again when deadlines are looming so we thought we’d share with you our 5 steps to essay success.

  • Step 1: Analyse and Plan
  • Step 2: Search and Evaluate
  • Step 3: Read and Make Notes
  • Step 4: Write your Essay
  • Step 5: Review and Submit

Read on to learn more about each step!

 

 

 

Step 1: Analyse and PlanStep 1: Analyse and Plan

When you are given a question or task to complete you need to make sure that you understand what you are being asked to do and then plan how you will approach it. If you don’t answer the question being set you are more likely to get a low mark. With this in mind, the first step to essay success is to ANALYSE and PLAN. This involves analysing your task, making a plan and identifying useful words that describe your topic. You need to make sure that you pay attention to the instructions you have been given, be clear about the topic you have been asked to explore and any restrictions to the scope of your answer.


Step 2: Search and EvaluateStep 2: Search and Evaluate

Next you need to search for information and evaluate the usefulness of what you find. You need to think about what you already know and where you could search for information. A useful way of evaluating sources is to ask yourself these questions:
1. How up-to-date is the information? Is it still CURRENT?
2. Is this information source going to help me write my essay? Is it RELEVANT to my topic?
3. Is this “the right sort” of information – is it suitable for academic purposes? Is the author an expert in this subject area? Is the information reliable and ACCURATE?
4. Why has this information been written? What is its PURPOSE? Is there any bias I need to take account of?


Step 3: Read and Make NotesStep 3: Read and Make Notes

Now you have your materials together, it’s time to start getting the information that you need from them. There are different ways to approach this task depending on what you are reading. If it is books then you might want to start by looking at the chapter headings to decide which will be most useful. If it is a journal article then it is a good idea to read the abstract first as this help you decide whether it is worth reading in detail. Next you need to read the introduction as this will tell you about the main argument of the article. Read the conclusion next for a summary of the main ideas and finally if you still think it is relevant you may want to read the rest in detail. Make sure you annotate and summarise as you read.

 


Step 4: Write your EssayStep 4: Write your Essay

By now you should have a good idea about how you are going to answer the question. It is a good idea to re-visit your plan as it may have changed as a result of all the research and reading you have done! Give some thought to how you will structure your essay – it will need an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. The introduction tells the reader how you will answer the question. The main body is the ideas and analysis to support your argument, it is your opportunity to critically analyse the topic. Finally, the conclusion tells the reader how you have answered the question. Don’t forget to paraphrase, summarise and reference correctly as you write.

 


Step 5: Review and SubmitStep 5: Review and submit

Leave plenty of time to proofread your work paying particular attention to spelling, grammar, the question, word count and references and citations. When you are happy with your essay and confident that you have done your best to answer the question you can submit it.

 

 


Learn more

  1. Have a look at our 5 Steps to Essay Success online resource for more detail about each step.
  2. Read our study guides:
    – Writing your assignment
    – Reading and note making
    – Spelling and apostrophes
    – Proof Reading
  3. Book on to the Planning and Writing your Assignment workshop