Need help with studying?

Are your lecture notes confusing you? Finding it hard to write your essay? Struggling to adapt to independent learning?

This Help! section is designed to give you a fresh perspective and ways to overcome any difficulties you may have regarding studying at university.

Help! I don’t know what to write in my essay?

Writing an essay is a skill you practice and perfect during your time at university and there are a new set of rules, structures and guidelines to follow. Go through our section on how to write an essay to give you a few pointers on choosing your topic and how to do your research. If it’s the essay topic in question that's giving you some problems, go and see your tutor and ask for some clarification. If it’s a case of not having enough material or knowledge then it’s off to the library to research some books.

Help! I’ve written too many words for my essay!

This can be quite a common problem when writing an essay, especially if you really enjoy the topic and have lots to say on it. Take a few days away from your essay once it’s finished (as long as you have time before the deadline) and then come back to it with your editor’s hat on. Be ruthless and make sure the essay is analytical, concise and answers the question.

Go through each paragraph and summarise the main point, support and argument sections. Then use this to spot all the unnecessary ‘filling’ words you’ve used and look out for ways to reword sentences and structure.

Help! I’m finding it hard to get up and go to lectures!

Take a minute to think about your lifestyle and whether that could be affecting your ability to get out of bed in the mornings. Make sure you get enough sleep every night. Try and establish a routine of waking up at a specific time so your body clock gets used to waking up in the mornings. The more you do it, the easier waking up and getting go will become. 

Help! do I need to do the reading?

Being presented with an extensive reading list can be a bit daunting and off putting but to put it simply; yes! You should do the reading to prepare you for the seminars, exams and to further improve your knowledge. The onus is on you to get the most out of your degree and doing the reading is part of this.

It’s really vital you do the reading for seminars as this is the time you participate and discuss questions and arguments about a topic. For some modules seminar participation contributes to your overall mark. If you’re not sure how to read effectively or how to do it in general then look over our reading section

Help! How do I revise?

By now, after having done your GCSE’s and A-levels you should have a good idea of how you revise and what works well for you. Make sure you plan your revision and do it well in advance of your exams. Remember as well that studying a language requires revision in reading, writing, speaking and listening so don’t neglect one area - they all need practice.

Draw up a revision plan and stick to it. Make sure you’re realistic about when and how long you’re going to revise for. Make sure you take regular breaks and focus on the quality of your revision rather than the quantity; by doing it thoroughly you’re more likely to remember and retain what you’ve revised.

Revise in an environment that works for you. This might be the library where it’s nice and quiet or in a spacious room at home with some soft music, use whichever method and place works for you.

Help! I can’t concentrate...


Going to university means your timetable’s been reduced in hours and you’ve taken on a lot more responsibility; for example, doing your own shopping, cooking and cleaning. All this means you’ve got a lot more things to think about during the day and this may distract you from concentrating in lectures. Here are some tips for keeping you on the ball:

  • Find out the place you study best
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Hydrate - drink plenty of water and drinks during the day
  • Plan your week so you know what you need to do when
  • Keep a notebook or memos on your phone to write down those ‘to do’s’ as you think of them and then they won’t distract you any longer
  • Make sure you’re getting enough relax time - sounds great, but seriously make sure you’re giving your brain enough ‘switch-off’ time so it’s capable of concentration when you need it.

Help! I’m scared about giving a presentation...

Presentations are daunting especially as you could be giving them to more people than you’ve ever seen in one room before! Although they seem scary they’re a big part of development and preparing you for the future. Make sure you’ve researched and know your topic well and have had plenty of practice. Look at our section on giving presentations if you need a bit more info.

Help! I’m struggling to meet deadlines...

Deadlines play a big part in university life and the best way to deal with them is to give yourself plenty of warning. Have a calendar of the semester on your wall at home with all your deadlines on and review it every few days so you see what’s coming up and when. Use this semester plan to work out what to do to prepare for the deadline on a weekly basis, by planning your time with the deadline in mind you’ll neatly approach it feeling fully prepared.

If you suddenly find out you’ve got a deadline you didn’t know about then don’t panic. Find out what you need to do for it and prioritise this above other things. Universities penalise late work so try your hardest to get it in on time. If you’re not sure how best to plan your time then check our time management section.

Help! How do you learn all the language?

There’s no need to worry about learning every word in the dictionary because no-one can learn all the language. Everyday almost you come across new words in your mother tongue but this doesn’t impair your ability to communicate in it.

Make sure you practice your language every day and use all the resources available to make it an interesting and varied activity: such as watching authentic TV and films as well as reading the daily papers. Doing a little every day helps keep your ear tuned and your brain thinking in your foreign language.