By: Tasnim Chowdhury
My first ever lecture, I got there early, got out my notepad, pens and highlighters, ready to begin this new journey. But there was a teeny tiny problem; I had no idea what to do, what to write or how a lecture was even taught…
University can differ a lot to A-levels, and rather than leaving you in the dark, I’m here to tell you how the two differ based and tell you all about my experiences
Going from an A-level class of 15 students to a lecture theatre with nearly 250 students was a big change for me. In short, lectures are weekly classes where an academic teaches you the basics of a topic, which often they specialise in.
How you focus and take in information in lectures really dependent on the person. For me, writing up notes during lectures helps me understand what I’m being taught, for others it’s printing out lecture hand-outs or using a laptop to type up notes instead.
Something I’d advise is not to write or type up everything from the slides. You won’t have enough time and you might miss something important said by the lecturer which isn’t on the slide. Making brief notes is easier and saves time, anything you miss; you can catch up on from lecture slides.
What I’ve learnt from all my lectures is that each academic teaches in different ways. I found that some use hand-outs or booklets, others use lecture slides, some not at all , so in the first lectures you can plan out how to take in the info. There is never one ‘ideal’ way of learning, for me though, the most useful are lecture hand-outs and note taking.
Tutorials and Seminars
Tutorials and Seminars are essentially the same thing. These sessions are a lot more
similar to A-Level classes. Groups are made up of 10 to 15 students with a seminar/tutorial leader, who is either an academic or a PhD student who specialises in the unit you’re studying. These weekly or fortnightly sessions dig into the topic you studied in your previous lecture. Here is where you will ask questions, discuss in groups, practice exam questions and get your feedback. In my tutorials, we usually work through worksheets which are relevant to the lectures and often are in the style of exam questions.
Again, like how every lecture differs; seminars and tutorial sessions also differ. For some, we work through sheets, we go over the lecture readings, planning essays or learning to use features for exams or essays.
My advice is to prepare for your sessions and have questions ready. This is the time where you can clarify on your readings or anything you find confusing. It’s easier to get a clear answer and ask for any examples to help consolidate understanding.
Being assessed in your learning differs by each course unit. Sometimes you’re assessed on individual work but often its group projects. Group sizes range from pairs to 4 people, you work together to produce a piece of work which you submit together.
Working in groups is a great way to develop collaborative skills, leadership and communication. It’s also a great way to meet people in your course.
For me, in A-levels I never really had to do a group project or a presentation and when I did I worked with my friends. So this was a whole different experience, which isn’t too bad when you share the workload, communicate with your group and regularly meet up to see how you have progressed.
Each week, you’ll be assigned readings to supplement your learning in lectures. These could be chapters in textbooks, articles or journals. Again, this was a massive difference compared to A-levels where the only reading I had to do was for English Literature. This was pretty daunting at first, but the readings weren’t so bad and did help my learning.
I recommend doing the reading bit by bit, so you don’t overwhelm yourself, anything you find important or helpful, make a note of it.
A really useful thing that the University offers is online textbooks. It’s a great way to save money and makes your readings accessible. The University library also has a high demands section, where you can take out a book for 24 hours.
So there it is, my take on the different learning styles at university and A-levels! I hope I haven’t bogged you down with too much info. Starting university can be scary but it’s also a massive part of your life and it can go by pretty quickly, so make the most of it!
Got any questions? Or if you’re a student, got any tips? Please leave a comment!