The Centre of Academic Success

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The Centre for Academic Success is the university’s central learning development service. This is a service offered to you, free of charge once you become a student here at Birmingham City University. They can be located on the first floor of Curzon B in room C033A (continue past Benugo coffee and the Curzon B reception until you see the glass entrance).

They provide a variety of services within the centre, available for all students of differing abilities. Examples of the services offered include:

· Workshops

· One to one tutorials

· Group tutorials

· A wide range of online resources

Due to the popularity of the centre for academic success, availability of appointments are  limited. For this reason you are able to book your appointment with one of four members of staff up to 2 weeks in advance but do not wait until the last minute as these slots get booked up quickly. You can opt. for a technical session (Computing, maths, ICT, programming, statistics advisory and project management). You can also book a non-technical session (Academic writing, referencing, personal and professional development).

What we can do with you in a tutorial:

· Look at a few pages of a piece of written work in progress and make suggestions on, for example, how to structure your work appropriately (such as how to write effective introductions and conclusions).

· Explain how to use sources and make references correctly.

· Help you to improve your technical skills in areas such as maths, programming and project management.

· Advise you how to analyse your data.

· Discuss general approaches to your studies such as time management; reading techniques; exam preparation and techniques; research methods and critical analysis skills... in fact, anything related to your studies.

What we can't do with you in a tutorial:

· Proofread, or "check", a finished piece of work for you. We aim to help you develop as a learner and expect that you will make the improvements suggested in the tutorial yourself.

· Comment on the subject matter of an assignment (we cannot tell you the answer or suggest content).

· Analyse your data for you.

As a part of the graduate+ week, the Centre for academic success held a workshop to help raise awareness of their service. The session was focused on helping students with their time management skills. The session began as a self-assessment allowing us to think of ourselves in the university environment. Here we highlighted our individual strengths and weaknesses in terms of study. This is useful because many students leave is up until the last minute to figure out where they are going wrong and by then it is too late to change that and this equates to even more stressed on top of the current academic pressures.

During this very informal session they also gave us tips that can help us as individuals to beat things like procrastination and come out on top with good time management skills. For example:

As students we constantly leave things (academic and personal) to the last minute and then give the common excuse that we ‘work well under pressure’, but could it be that we only work under pressure? And for this reason we need to learn to say No! And learn to put ourselves first sometimes especially when it concerns academic achievement. The best way to do this is to prioritise. The number one rule of prioritisation is to ‘eat the frog first’ which essentially means you need to put the task you least want to do first to get it out of the way and then the following tasks will become easier to complete. How to do this? The best way to do this is:

· To-do-lists.

· Post-it notes.

· Apps: wunderlist.

· Covey grid.

Important + Urgent Important + Not urgent Urgent + Not important Not important + Not urgent

· Gantt chart.

A very common issue among students is procrastination, the thing that has proved most effective is removing yourself from the distraction and provide a reinforcement that will make you want to do the task mainly to avoid guilt. This is best known as the Carrot/Stick scenario, with a horse the Carrot being your reward and the stick being the punishment / undesirable outcome for not doing the task! (However, if you aren’t feeling very horsey you can adjust these to your preference). Another method is pausing your distraction, an example being, pausing the movie you are watching to do just half an hour of work because the movie isn’t going anywhere and will still be paused at 32:28 whereas your deadlines are moving closer.

Goal setting – an issue for most students, however the S.M.A.R.T technique is designed to help businesses set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely goals however, it is also very relevant to student goal setting.

S - Your goal should be clear and specific, otherwise you won't be able to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve it. When drafting your goal, try to answer the five "W" questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is it located?
  • Which resources or limits are involved?

M - It's important to have measurable goals, so that you can track your progress and stay motivated. Assessing progress helps you to stay focused, meet your deadlines, and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your goal.

A measurable goal should address questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?

A - Your goal also needs to be realistic and attainable to be successful. In other words, it should stretch your abilities but still remain possible. When you set an achievable goal, you may be able to identify previously overlooked opportunities or resources that can bring you closer to it.

An achievable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How can I accomplish this goal?
  • How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?

R - To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress.

A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labor of love.

T - Every goal needs a target date, so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward. This part of the SMART goal criteria helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals.

A time-bound goal will usually answer these questions:

  • When?
  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do six weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?

Time

The Centre of academic success outlined that you can only stay focused for a limited amount of time so there is no point in blocking out hours of time to study as you will slowly become less attentive and therefore will have to repeat it all over again. To better make use out of your time, be sure to plan your essay, have a clear understanding of the task ahead and then do all of your research before you start writing your essay so you are prepared to start writing, essentially this will cut down the time spent editing.

Writing â€“ the way to write an essay effectively whilst avoiding wasting time is to create a skeleton-body of the essay, this is done by using bullet points of short sentences using key words in the PEETC format, this will help you begin to form paragraphs (Point, example, evidence, link to title, conclusion).

Editing - Once you have completed an essay it’s time to proofread to see if you can spot any spelling errors or other grammatical mistakes, however, this becomes hard to do when you are so accustomed to your own style of writing therefore the best steps to take for the best results are:

1) Use grammarly! - Grammarly is an online tool designed to spot these costly mistakes, although word also does this, it often ignores your word order than whether it makes sense.

2) Print it out!- In this day and age we find it easier to just proofread from a screen but it has been proven that printing it out to highlight mistakes in physical form is very beneficial.

3) Manchester word bank – when going back to edit your essay it will be useful to use the word bank as it gives you ready made ‘fill in the blanks’ in an academic sense.

Quote of the week:
“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else” ~ Peter F. Drucker