International College

10 study tips for international students

Posted 04 December 2015
The University of Sheffield international students in the University library

The skills you need for successful study in your home country can be different from the skills that will bring you success while studying abroad. Take a look at our list of study skills that can be particularly beneficial to international students.

Ask questions

It can be unnerving, but it’s always best to admit that you don’t understand as soon as possible, so that you don’t miss any important points that were talked about in class or mentioned in a book. If you’re still working on improving your English skills, don’t be afraid to ask other students – or the person teaching the class – for help with things you haven’t understood.

Read carefully

Absorbing information when reading in English can be a challenge. It can be helpful to break each chapter into smaller sections, review what you’ve learnt at the end of each section, and jot down a few summary notes before moving on. If you find a section particularly difficult, don’t skip it – mark it clearly and return to it later.

Start early

It can be tempting to devote the initial weeks of your course to settling in and leave the real study to later on – until you find that you have an overwhelming amount of revision to do. Get stuck into a study routine as soon as your course starts, and you’ll be in a strong position when it’s time for exams and assessments.

Listen to the radio

In our digitally focused age, it can be easy to forget the benefit that comes from simply listening to the radio. Whereas many specialist journals and papers command large subscription fees, many of the contributing experts and journalists are often also featured in radio documentaries and news programmes. Even better, radio panel discussions give you the opportunity to listen to discussions of key topics – often around business, science and other academic themes – from a variety of different angles. If the broadcast is live, you can even participate by submitting questions via social media. If you’re keen to improve your level of English, listening to the radio is a proven method of boosting your listening skills and vocabulary.

Make study a social activity

Consolidate what you’ve learned by discussing topics with fellow students. While organising study groups is one way of doing this, a debate doesn’t need to be formal or argumentative. A productive discussion can be as simple as asking another student their opinion or perspective over coffee or on your way to class. This also helps you to build your network and deepen your connections with others.

Switch on the subtitles

Watching films and television may not seem like the most obvious way to advance your studies, but if your aim is to improve your English, then watching TV with the subtitles switched on can be very helpful. You can read the words as you listen and get a deeper understanding of pronunciation and meaning. Even watching films in your native tongue can be helpful – as long as they have English subtitles to help you translate key phrases.

Make time to relax

Studying abroad comes with an increased sense of responsibility – after all you have invested a lot of time, money and effort in your course. At the same time, without your usual support network of family and friends, social distractions can be fewer. In these circumstances, it can be tempting to spend all of your time studying. But remember that you need time to rest. Whether it’s simply going out to see a film or to enjoy a walk alone, or joining with other students to visit local attractions or to have a meal, always make sure you set aside time to unwind.

Plan ahead

When it comes to study and revision, it can sometimes be hard to motivate yourself. A good way to keep yourself on track is to schedule a realistic amount of time for study and revision each day. Once it’s done, you can enjoy doing other things.

Take a test run

Previous papers and sample questions are available for most exams, and these can be a good way to make sure you’re studying and absorbing the right things. Look through the questions and think about how you might structure an answer. Then focus on tackling the parts of the paper that you would find difficult.

Don’t panic

Studying abroad – and in a foreign language – can be challenging at times. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, but remember you’re not alone. College staff are there to help – and are always happy to support students through the more challenging times of their course.

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