At university you are expected to learn independently; this means taking responsibility for your own study. Many of the academic skills you are expected to use whilst at university will be new to you. Some of the skills you will need to develop are:
- Reading and Note-making
- Research & Evaluation
- Critical Thinking Skills
- Writing Skills
- Groupwork & Presentations
- Exams Skills
Your department may provide workshops covering many of these aspects of study during your first term. UCL Library Services run training sessions on research and referencing skills (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/training). There are also some useful resources below to help you master these academic skills.
Study Skills Resources
Please find links below to presentations and other useful resources to help you with the academic skills required at university such as essay writing, learning techniques, referencing, presentation skills and assessment methods at UCL.
Describe, analyse, evaluate...what's the difference? Find out what essay instruction terms are really asking you to do.
Powerpoint presentation by the UCL Outreach Team (Academic Skills)
Page last modified on 13 feb 17 13:51
By Stacey Wonder
20 April 2016
7 Tips to Learn New Skills Fast
Everybody has their own reasons to learn new skills. Some need them for work, some because of the changes, caused by various life events, some choose to do it just because it’s fun. Wherever your motivation lies, mastering a new skill in a quicker and more efficient way will certainly benefit you. We’ve collected 7 tips to help you do this. Pick the one to your liking or try combining all of them!
Stare & Steal
In the vast majority of cases learning a new skill is not a matter of being naturally gifted. It’s rather a combination of perseverance and practice. The research suggests, that to get started on this way you are to do two highly important things: stare at people doing something you want to learn and don’t hesitate to use your observations in practice. Go to master classes, recitals or tournaments and turn them into a study session from an entertaining activity.
Staring means close examining of what helps a person do something proficiently. Stealing is using these little details in your own activities. For instance, if you aim at learning how to play the piano – watch the moves of the musician and do your very best to notice special tilt of the wrist and the way they touch those ivories. And when you go back home, mimic the manners.
This principle applies to lots of spheres of activities. Take it and use it.
Learning a new skill gets far more manageable when you dissect it into several constituents. A functional model of doing this in an effective way was suggested by Tim Ferris, an expert on learning issues. He has come up with DiSSS system: Deconstruction, Selection, Sequencing and Stakes. So, first you have to break down the skill into small bricks. Then you choose the way of applying 20% of effort, that’s going to bring 80% result. Next, you are to think of the best order to learn the blocks of the skill. Last but not least, you need to come up with a system of praise and punishment, that’s going to motivate you to actually go all the way through.
Let’s say your goal is learning how to play the guitar. To begin, you need to learn a set of chords, necessary to play a couple of your favorite songs. Having looked through the list, you may range them from the easiest to the most complicated ones. Then, start practicing, gradually increasing the difficulty level. Don’t stop until you’ve come to the first evident result. Once you’re there – throw a little party and perform for your guests. If you’re not – don’t go out until you reach the needed result.
See? DiSSS in action!
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Stupid
That’s one of the most common fears. Don’t let it stand in the way of your learning new, amazing things. Ask questions and make mistakes – that’s a sure recipe of getting not theoretical knowledge, but hands-on experience, which is a much shorter way to succeeding in a new area.
Don’t hesitate to take risks and make scary decisions. Going the safe, correct way may deprive you of the opportunity to engage into an interesting journey, that will actually be far more beneficial in the end.
Who knows, maybe the stupid question you ask on the forum will lead to unexpected fascinating circumstances? Maybe the way you cook that meal is even better than the original recipe? Be a daring explorer and have fun with it.
“No” to Routine
The study has shown, that changing the way of practice is more advantageous than mere repetition of the action. The participants were asked to attend several training sessions, aimed at teaching them to move a cursor with the help of a device, that responded to squeezing. Representatives of one group were asked to perform different exercises during the sessions, while people from the other one stuck to a single exercise pattern. In the end, participants from the first batch showed better results, having demonstrated higher level of ability to adjust to new conditions as well as better overall performance.
Although the research concentrated on motor skills, the approach is applicable to other ones just as well. For example, when you learn a new language, you may either simply repeat and revise new words or use them in different constructions or word games. In fact, you’ll see the benefits of the second method quite soon.
Don’t Make Things Difficult
That’s simply a matter of common sense. The best practices of learning the skill you’ve chosen have probably already been established. So don’t reinvent the wheel. Watch a couple of YouTube tutorials or go through articles, devoted to the topic. It never hurts to use other’s experience. Once you learn the basics, you’ll get a chance to create your own routes.
Be a Doer, Not Just a Learner
Going through theoretical basis is definitely a good start. However, if you’ve decided that to learn the skill you need to read 10 classic books, devoted to the topic, you are most probably wrong. If you don’t see the first result of your practice soon, you’re very likely to lose all the interest. Don’t let this happen.
So, if you want to learn how to cook, for example, get down to business as soon as possible. You may seek inspiration from different sources later. However, at the starting point you need to be as down-to-earth as possible. Cook that salad and you’ll get to the bouillabaisse faster.
Discomfort Is a Friend
People love being comfortable. Nevertheless, relaxation is not good if you want to master a new ability quickly. Your brain feels that the environment is safe and warm, thus, you shouldn’t try any harder. That’s why putting yourself in rather tough conditions is actually good. The best-performing schools and training facilities often look pretty basic and definitely are far from luxury.
So, don’t get too comfy and try to avoid distractions. This technique will facilitate learning, enhance your performance and make you even happier, when you praise yourself with a little something, having made progress.
Learning is an adventure, where the prizes are guaranteed, in case you pay enough effort and diligence. Have an awesome one!