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Study tips for commuter students

Expert guidance from Study Advice at the University of Reading


Studying at home can have advantages and disadvantages. It's sometimes no bad thing to stay in your pyjamas all day! Or to know you can always get a cup of coffee. On the other hand, you do have to be disciplined and organised to make sure you don't waste time.  

Getting organised

If you have a place you expect to go to for studying, you're much more likely to stay focused on your tasks. If you can, setting up a dedicated study space where you can keep your books and files all in one easily accessible place is best - perhaps a desk in your bedroom? If you have to use a shared space have some box files to keep your documents in, with one designated for current work. Keep a pen and notebook in here, and stick a copy of your timetable and a list of your deadlines into the inside of the lid, so that you can easily find them when you need them.

When you're not on campus every day, you may miss announcements and information. So always check your University email at least once a day, and try following social media accounts for University depts and services.

Get ahead and make sure you know how to access off-campus resources like Blackboard or the e-resources the Library holds. If you have any problems, it's best to sort them out early.

Staying motivated

When you're studying at home, it's up to you to make sure you stay on track. It will always help to have a plan, but you also need to think about how and when you study best, and to recognise the things that can distract you from study.

  • Find out when your deadlines are and use them to make a work schedule. Break your assignments down into a series of tasks and fit them into a termly plan so you know when you're aiming to have started the next task. Study Advice have free wall planners that can help you with this.
  • Use your termly plan to make weekly to-do lists. Prioritise the top three tasks and decide the night before which one you're going to start with the next day to save you making the decision then.
  • Set yourself small achievable targets, e.g. by 11.00 I will have finished reading this chapter and I can make a coffee. This can be especially helpful if you have, for instance, family commitments. If you can say "I'll be working on this until 11.00 and then I can come and help", it gives everyone a clear idea of when things will get done.
  • Think about how you study best. Are you better with or without music? Can you focus better early on in the day or are you a late starter? Make sure you use the time you have as efficiently as possible by working in your best way.
  • Identify the things that distract you and decide in advance how you're going to deal with them. Always looking for an excuse to make coffee? Fill a vacuum flask up before you start working. Distracted by phone notifications? Put your phone on silent and turn it over so you can't see the screen.
  • Got stuck? Try talking through what you've done so far and trying to work out what happens next. If you have a friend or family member you can do this with, so much the better, but the bathroom mirror or your phone's memo recording program will do. Or tell the cat!

It's worth picking the brains of your friends too to see how they deal with these issues. Everyone is different so try strategies till you find the ones that work best for you.