Campus Life

Insider’s guide to university

If you’re new to university, getting used to your studies and to university life can take a bit of adjustment. During your degree, your timetable will be made up of a combination of lectures, seminars, labs and practical work, as well as independent study.

While the pace and intensity of university learning is different from school, you will receive a great deal of encouragement, support and guidance throughout your studies.

Here’s our insider’s guide to university:

How many hours do I study in a week?

Hours of work vary from programme to programme, and there will be days where your timetable is completely full as well as days when you have very few, or no classes at all. You should use much of the time when you have no classes for independent study.

What are lectures like?

Lectures are designed to be an initial step to introducing different topics to you. With up to 200 people in the room, you are usually expected just to listen and take notes whilst the lecturer speaks, rather than ask questions or have a discussion. Lectures usually last an hour.


What happens in seminars?

A seminar, or tutorial, is designed to expand on the lecture topics. While styles of seminar vary from subject to subject, there are always a relatively small number of students (approximately 12) and you are free to ask questions and discuss issues covered by the lecture. In some cases, you may be asked to prepare a paper that will be used to start the discussion.

What are labs?

In subjects such as engineering, science and computing, you will receive tuition in laboratories using either IT or other equipment necessary to learn the subject. This will usually be done in a small group, using high technology equipment under the supervision of trained staff.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed using a combination of coursework and examinations. During each semester, your coursework – in the form of essays, written assignments or practical lab work - lets you demonstrate your grasp of the subject throughout the course. Coursework marks count towards your final overall score in a subject (eg coursework might be worth 30% and examination worth 70% of the final grade).

How do I prepare for exams?

Unseen examinations may be very familiar to you, especially if you have just left school. Good exam techniques are a vital ingredient to success in your studies, and you can use past exam papers to assess your strengths and weaknesses in preparation for exams.

What are semesters?

The semester system splits the academic year into two parts. Both Semester A and Semester B each last approximately 15 weeks. Twelve of those are spent being taught in lectures, labs and seminars, and the final three weeks are used for exams. Semester A begins in September and Semester B in early January.

What are modules?

Within each semester you will usually complete three modules. Each module will cover a specific topic, most of which are compulsory parts of your programme. After Years 1 and 2 of your programme, you will be given more module options to choose from. To complete a module, around 175 hours of work is necessary prior to your exam. Half of this time will be spent in class and the other half spent in private study or research in the library. At the start of each semester you will be given a class timetable, which will let you decide when it is best for you to study privately.