It’s time to talk about how to study. Do you use an effective study method when studying? Do you know how and where to begin studying or do an assignment?
Before you begin
Before you begin
Effective study requires an effective study environment. Identify a quiet study area, a place where you can concentrate and not be disturbed, where you feel peaceful and would like to be.
Read your tutorial letters
When reading through your Tutorial letters 101, take note of the following important information: assignment due dates, exam dates, prescribed books, recommended reading, discussion classes and planning information included by your lecturer.
Scan your study guides
Scanning your study guides is essential in getting an overview of your material and in making sure that you’re well prepared for your assignments and exams. You should spend about 2 hours doing this. Once you’ve finished
- calculate the time left until the exams (in weeks).
- deduct 2 weeks for final exam preparation.
- divide the work into “chunks.”
- put these chunks into each of your weeks, giving more time to more difficult sections of work.
- calculate the number of pages to be studied daily
Different things work for different people but there are tried and tested study methods that have proved successful over time. Here’s one you should try. It involves 3 stages:
Reading material and making notes
Making notes helps to summarise the material you’ve read, and helps you integrate and organise information into logical sections. This should take about 35% of your time.
Test your knowledge of the material by answering old exam papers and by discussing the material with lecturers and fellow students. This should take about 20% of your time.
Stage 2: Fixation
Revision helps you to fix the information in your brain. It should take 20% of your time.
While you may understand the information you study, there will always be material that needs to be memorised. This last stage of studying and preparing for exams can only be done effectively once you understand the material. It should take up 15% of your time.
Stage 3: Testing
This is also part of the exploration stage. Once again, it involves answering old exam papers (available on myUnisa) and discussing your material with lecturers and fellow students. It should take 10% of your time.
Reading your material and making notes
Simply reading your material is not enough. Making notes is essential. Notes link study, reading, doing assignments, memorising and, finally, writing exams. When learning new material you must ensure that you can understand and recall it. You need to re-organise this material to suit your style of learning. Making notes is the best way to do this.
Visual and linear note-making
These are the 2 main note-making methods:
- Visual note-making uses mindmaps, spidergrams, branching notes, clustergrams, tables, flow charts and organograms.
- Narrative note-making uses linear notes, lists, timeline notes, key words, paragraphs, questions, segmenting and labelling.
Broadly speaking, if you have an imaginative learning style, the visual approach to note-making should suit you. If your learning style is more factual, you may prefer the tidier, step-by-step narrative approach.
Revise your work within 24 hours of studying it. The revision process is where you bring all your knowledge together and start fixing the content in your memory. By the time you revise you should be familiar with the content of the module. At the beginning of each study period revise your previous material to see how the old and the new link up. Start by getting an overview: page through the chapters/study units and read the subheadings.
At Unisa, you need to argue points of view, form opinions and analyse texts. You also need to memorise basic facts, ideas and keywords. Memorising is the second part of “fixation” – fixing the information in your head. After memorising information, you’ll be able to develop and implement reasoning skills based on a sound factual foundation.
Like everything worthwhile, memorising can be difficult.
What can I do to help my memory?
“Read for meaning". The purpose of reading is not to store the whole text in your mind. You must be able to “think” through the presented ideas. It’s what you understand that counts.
How to remember the facts I understand?
Memory strategies (mnemonics) can help you remember basic information from your academic texts.
Information often needs to be restructured and reorganised for us to understand it. Grouping similar information brings order to your studies. Start with a heading, a word or phrase that summarises the information. Then subdivide it on the basis of shared characteristics.
“Unisa” - University of South Africa,
“WHO” - World Health Organisation
You can see from these two examples how acronyms can be used to remember organisations. They can also be used to represent ideas. Identify the keywords in a passage. Take the first letter of each keyword and form a new word. This is a widely-used memory strategy. It works wonders in helping you remember your facts.
Instead of saying words over and over in your head, why not use imagery, a visual representation of the information? It works. The more vivid and bizarre the image, the more effective it is. Including some sort of interaction between your images makes this technique even more effective.
Once you’ve read your material, made notes, revised, done assignments and memorised the key facts, you should spend time working through old exam papers, and discussing the material with lecturers and fellow students. Try to do the following in these discussions:
- Use language appropriate to your subject matter.
- Reference facts that you’ve memorised.
- Note areas that still need work or memorising.
It’s important to evaluate your performance against existing goals. This helps to set more realistic goals in the future. It also prepares you for exams. At the end of each study week you should evaluate your progress by asking these questions:
- Did I commit to the time I wrote down?
If not, where can you make up this time?
- Was my study time productive enough?
If not, why not? What changes must I make?
- Are there additional commitments I need to schedule?
- Am I coping with the content? Or do I need help to understand it?
This gives an idea of the volume of reading required, how difficult the work is, where you need assistance and the amount of memorising you need to do before exams.
Expect feedback a few weeks after the final submission date for your assignment. You’ll receive a tutorial letter containing the correct responses to the questions posed. This tutorial letter will also contain guidelines and explanations that will help you prepare for your exams.
Life can be stressful, especially when you’re doing a degree on top of everything else. Stress is what you experience when you believe that a specific demand exceeds your capability, causing you to feel you’ve lost control of the situation.
Put under stress, your body’s instinct is to defend itself. It releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that prepare the body for an emergency. Your heart beats faster, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises and your breathing quickens. These physical symptoms prepare you to fight, flee or freeze, the typical stress responses. Stress isn’t always bad. In manageable doses, it can motivate you and, also, show you how you perform under pressure. But if it escalates and your physical symptoms continue for long, it can damage your health. Knowing the symptoms will help you manage stress effectively.
The table below indicates the various symptoms of stress. The more of these symptoms you recognise in yourself, the more chance you have of stress overload. Talk to your doctor. Get a full evaluation.
Simple stress management techniques
|Know the symptoms:
||Tension in your neck and shoulders, clenching your teeth and shallow breathing are all signs of stress.|
| Get outside help:
Make an appointment with a counsellor.
||The book Effective study by Van Schoor, Mill and Potgieter has excellent relaxation techniques. It can be purchased from Unisa Press.|
||Visit friends and family.|
||It’s a great way to get rid of pent-up feelings, energy and tension. It also releases endorphins, which make you feel better.|
|Look after yourself:
||Eat balanced meals, drink enough water, get enough sleep.|
|Do what you love:
||Participate in hobbies and watch movies, etc.|
Unisa’s health services
These services aim to create a nurturing environment, promote student wellbeing and create a sense of belonging.
|Training and development:
This incorporates accredited health and wellness training programmes for educators and students.
||We provide information on a range of topics relating to healthy lifestyles.|
|HIV/Aids awareness campaigns:
We help to raise awareness of the pandemic, offer counselling and testing, as well as advice on how to live positively. We also provide information on care and support groups.
|Substance abuse awareness campaigns:
||We provide information on the effects and treatment of substance abuse.|
|Mental health education:
||We provide information about mental health services, patient assessment, psychiatric diagnosis and medication management.|
||We offer strategies for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and healthy body, and for managing eating disorders.|
|Physical fitness programmes:
||We provide guidelines for improving and maintaining cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, flexibility and body composition.|
|On-site health services:
We provide mobile health services to students, including nursing, dental and ancillary health care, opticians, physiotherapists, neurologists and gynaecologists.
||We provide referral services concerning welfare support and social grants.|
|Community outreach programmes:
||We organise voluntary outreach to communities by peer educators|
For more information contact a Unisa Student Health and Wellness Practitioner:
Tel: 011 471 2849 E-mail: email@example.com
Assignments must be submitted via myUnisa, placed in a Unisa assignment box or posted to Unisa. Please don’t submit the same assignment on two separate channels (via myUnisa and the post, for example).
Assignments must be received before or on the due date for them to qualify and to be marked. No extensions will be granted. By not submitting your compulsory assignment, you may forfeit your admission to the examination for that module.
Assignment results, as soon as they are available, can be received via myUnisa or SMS (you will receive an SMS with your assignment result as soon as the result becomes available)
|Completing your assignment|
Assignments posted to the university, excluding mark-reading sheets, must have the following on the assignment cover sheet:
- student number
- module code
- assignment number
- registration code (eg 01 or 02)
- assignment due date
- unique assignment number
- postal address
Layout and formatting guidelines for typewritten assignments
- Set the paper size to A4, default tray, auto feed (or auto select).
- Set the left margin to at least 2,5cm and the right margin to 5cm.
- Use black ink.
- Use common fonts (eg Times New Roman, Arial).
- Font size: 16 for headings, 12 for normal text.
- Use the page break function to force a new page, ensuring that your page numbering stays as indicated on your contents page.
- Pictures and diagrams may be included, provided that they are not too complex and not in colour.
- Don’t embed objects from other programs that require dynamic links. Rather, create a graphic of your spreadsheet or diagram, save it as a bmp, jpeg or gif and insert this file into your document.
- Keep tables simple. Complex tables can cause printer memory problems.
- Remember to attach a barcode.
- No assignments may be posted or e-mailed directly to lecturers or academic departments.
- The university will not accept assignments or portfolios submitted via e-mail or fax.
- Don’t submit different sections of the same assignment separately. You must keep a copy of each assignment you submit.
- Marked written assignments will be returned to you approximately five weeks after the closing date for the assignment. Portfolios, however, won’t be returned and the results will only be released with the examination results.
- To enquire whether the university has received your assignment go to myUnisa or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (include your student number in the subject heading).
|Types of assignments|
These can be submitted in one of three ways:
- Online, using myUnisa.
- Via an internet-enabled mobile phone. When submitting in this way, use the Unisa Mobile MCQ app. Read how to download it to your phone and submit your MCQ assignment answers: http://www.unisa.ac.za/mobileapp.
- Complete a mark-reading sheet and post it to the university.
- Filling in a mark-reading sheet:
- Only use the orange mark-reading sheet that you received with your study material. No others sheets will be accepted.
- Only use an HB pencil.
- Do not attach a barcode sticker.
- Mark-reading sheets should not be put in an assignment cover and stapled.
- A mark-reading sheet that is filled in incorrectly, damaged or folded cannot be marked.
- Fill them in as follows (link to guidelines in pdf)
Short question or essay assignments
Assignments, other than multiple-choice assignments, should be compiled using a word processing package (eg MS Word) or handwritten. For handwritten assignments use either an official assignment pad or your own A4 paper. For printed assignments, use double-line spacing and leave a 5cm blank space on the right-hand side of each page (for the lecturers’ feedback).
Please follow the lecturers’ instructions (found in your tutorial letters) and the printed instructions on the assignment covers.
Use a file format that can be uploaded to myUnisa. These formats are listed in the “Specify the type of file” drop-down list on the submission screen. A pdf file is the preferred option as formatting and layout is retained.
Submitting your assignment
Access myUnisa. Navigate to the Assignments tool and start the submission process
When you click “Continue”, your assignment will be uploaded to the Unisa network. This may take several minutes depending on the size of your assignment and the speed of your internet connection. Once the assignment is received, its details will be displayed on your screen for final checking.
- Please use a header for all word processor files, with your name, student number, course code and assignment number.
- If you use a dial-up connection, ensure that your answers to multiple-choice questions are ready before dialling up. It will cost you money to work out answers while online. Check for mistakes before you submit an assignment.
- Unisa’s Assignment Division will not accept requests to cancel assignments submitted via myUnisa. Don’t wait until the closing date. Try to submit your assignments at least three working days before the due date in case of unforeseen problems. Your internet might be down on the last day, for example.
- Please don’t submit the same assignment on two separate channels (via myUnisa and the post, for example).
- Any documents/assignments uploaded to myUnisa must be virus free. If you repeatedly submit documents with viruses, you may lose the right to use myUnisa.
|Post and assignment boxes|
- Number each page.
- Staple each assignment into its own assignment cover (check the page order).
- Post each assignment in an individual Unisa C4-size assignment envelope.
If you submit your assignment in a different envelope, it will be sent back to you unmarked. Extra postage is required for C4-size envelopes – confirm the amount payable with the Post Office. The following must be on the back of the envelope:
- student number, name and surname
- module code and assignment number
- return postal address
Posting your assignment
- Please take public holidays and weekends into consideration if you are posting your assignment. Allow for at least three working days for the assignment to reach Unisa.
- You will receive an SMS confirming that the university has received your assignment. Please ensure that Unisa has your correct cellphone number.
Computer Science students
You may submit programs or program output in either a text (ASCII) file or in a word processor file. Only submit one file per assignment – you may have to combine different files into one document. You can create a single pdf document that combines different source files.
We suggest using a fixed width font (eg Courier), so that your documents are more readable and the indentation remains correct. Converting your document to pdf will ensure that your file presentation remains exactly as you intended.
Refer to your tutorial letters for the submission formats of assignments on myUnisa.
- You must be seated 15 minutes before the start of the examination. Latecomers will not be allowed to enter the venue, so factor in enough time to travel to your exam centre.
- Also, make sure that you know what type of exam it is (open book or not) and what stationery you need (calculator, pens and pencils, etc).
- You must have your student card and ID book, driver’s licence or valid passport with you.
Unisa reserves the right to change your examination venue due to logistical reasons. If Unisa needs to change your examination centre you will be notified by:
- 15 April for the May/June semester examinations
- 15 September for the October/November examinations
- 15 December for the January/February examinations
Unisa’s official examination periods are:
Aegrotat examination R180,00
Special examination R180,00
Supplementary examination R180,00
Re-checking of examination script R135,00
Re-marking of examination script R315,00
To apply for a re-mark, send an e-mail to email@example.com with proof of payment. Your student number must appear in the subject line.
Your examination centre was confirmed at registration. All examinations in one examination period must be written at this centre unless you apply, in writing, to Unisa to change the venue. Unisa will confirm whether it is possible to change your venue (depending on availability, venue capacity and the closing date for applications).
To change your examination venue, apply before
- 31 March for the May/June examinations
- 31 August for the October/November examinations
- 15 November for the January/February examinations
You can do this
- via myUnisa
- via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) including your student number in the subject heading
- via SMS (43584)
- via fax (012 429 4150)
CTA levels 1 and 2 students should note that examination centres for these exams are limited to venues used for tests during the year. CTA exams take place prior to the October/November examination period. Applications for venue changes must be submitted to Unisa by 31 July 2013.
The timetable you received when you registered contains the preliminary dates for all examinations. These preliminary dates are also on myUnisa. Unisa will only change these dates if absolutely unavoidable. Once dates have been finalised, an official timetable will be posted which will clearly state that it is final. This final timetable will be posted to you approximately one month before the commencement of the examination period. You can also find the final timetable on myUnisa.
You must contact the university immediately if you have not received your final examination timetable two weeks before the commencement of the examination period.
Fax: 012 429 4150; E-mail: email@example.com (student number must appear in the subject heading)
You can access your examination results via:
- call 083 1234
- by sending the following SMS to 083 1421 0119 (Results [space]+student number)
Your results will also be posted to you. If you do not receive your results, check that outstanding fees have been paid and that you have no outstanding library books. This will result in your results not being made available to you.
Enquiries: Contact the university within three months from the release date of your examination results. If the university does not hear from you within this period, it will regard all results as correct and complete.
Most modules provide for two opportunities to rewrite the examination – either a supplementary or aegrotat/ special examination. Should your module only provide for one examination opportunity, you will not qualify for a supplementary or aegrotat/special examination.
Should a supplementary examination be granted and you are unable to write the examination, you will not be able to apply for an aegrotat/special examination. Supplementary examinations may be granted by the university provided you received a sub-minimum of 40% in the examination.
Some modules do not make provision for supplementary examinations – this information will be included in your Tutorial letters 101.
- If you qualify for a supplementary examination you will be notified when you receive your results.
- If you fail your supplementary examinations, you need to re-register for the relevant module.
- A student’s year mark is not taken into consideration when calculating the final result for a supplementary examination.
- If you owe tuition fees or library material, your results will be withheld and you will not receive notification of your supplementary examination. Supplementary examinations missed as a result of this will not be rescheduled, nor will students be granted any further examination opportunities.
Aegrotat and special examinations
Aegrotat or special examinations may be granted for the following reasons
- Illness on or before your examination date. You must provide a valid medical certificate specifying the start date, nature and length of the illness, and state that it was not possible for you to sit for your examination
- Extenuating personal circumstances. These include work commitments, serious illness or death of a relative during the examination period. Evidence of these circumstances must be produced.
- You must apply within 10 days of the original examination date. A valid application must include a completed application form or letter of motivation, supporting documentation and proof of payment. Your student number must appear on all documentation.
Application submissions and enquiries
- Via fax (012 429 4150)
- E-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) (student number must appear in subject heading)
- Post (PO Box 392, Unisa, 0003)
- Please keep copies of your application and follow up to ensure that Unisa has received your request.
Re-marks and re-checks
You may apply to have your examination answer book re-marked or re-checked. The criteria for re-marking is an examination result of 35% to 49% and 68% to 74% (final results). Details will appear on the reverse-side of your original examination result sheet. The process and closing date for these applications will appear on the reverse side of your original examination result sheet. The fee for re-marks and re-checks must be paid along with the application.
You may apply to purchase a copy of your examination answer book. The cost is R35 plus 60c per photocopied page. A payment of R50 will cover the cost of 25 photocopied pages.
Only photocopied copies are available and are sent via registered mail or e-mail once the application has been approved. It takes approximately14 days for a copy of the answer book to be sent. Question papers and model answers/memoranda and mark-reading sheets are not included. To purchase a copy of your examination answer book, apply in writing for a copy of the prescribed application form.
E-mail: email@example.com (student number must appear in the subject heading); Fax: 012 429 4150
A final-year student (undergraduate) who has one or two modules outstanding to complete a qualification may qualify for assistance in terms of the policy to assist students to complete a qualification. The student must have written and failed the modules in the last official examination. The university reserves the right to award or decline the special assessment opportunity based on the student’s formative and last summative assessment. Certain postgraduate students will be considered for assistance if they owe 24 credits or less to complete their qualification.
Second assessment opportunity for postgraduate students
Postgraduate modules now also have a second assessment opportunity. Honours research article students and CTA level 1 and 2 students are excluded and do not qualify.
- Postgraduate examinations in October/November will have their second assessment opportunity in January of the following year.
- Postgraduate examinations in January/February will have their second assessment opportunity in May/June of that same year.
Students registered for the January/February examinations who qualify for the second assessment opportunity (in May/June) must still re-register for the relevant module before the closing date for registrations. No late registrations will be permitted.
To qualify for the second assessment opportunity (supplementary examination), students must obtain between 40 – 49% in the examination. Students who are unable to write their examinations due to ill health or work-related commitments must apply in terms of the rules for aegrotat/special examinations. Students who are unsuccessful at their second assessment opportunity will have to re-register for the module and pay the full tuition fees.