Common Issues Quick Guides

How can I improve my essay writing style?

  • Look up common words used in questions and understand their proper meanings.

  • Always use an essay plan.

  • Write the introduction last as you might not know what this should cover until you have finished writing.

  • Redraft the essay as an ongoing process.

  • Read it aloud to better pinpoint those punctuation points.

  • Read other students’ essays and you will get an idea of what reads well and what doesn’t read well.

  • Go through feedback that you have been given and identify the areas that need improvement e.g. style, structure.

  • Get another student/friend to read your essay and give you honest feedback.

  • Consult your school style sheet.

  • Consult library resources on essay writing.

  • Use Learning Development resources on essay writing, particularly our essay writing booklet.

  • Make an appointment with the Learning Development Service and bring a sample essay to ask advice and gain practical pointers from tutors who are used to marking essays and know what to look for.

  • Use the support on Queen’s online to ensure you are following all the guidelines given by your School.

As an international student, how can I deal with grammar and punctuation difficulties?

  • Practice reading basic materials to get used to English grammar/ punctuation - start with course handbooks etc as these will be interesting and not too academic/ ambitious to begin with.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Pay attention to your feedback to spot the areas of your English that need improved upon.
  • Read your work aloud to native English speakers.
  • Engage verbally, as often as possible, with native English speakers.
  • Buy an introductory book to grammar and punctuation.
  • Have a look at the Learning Development Service's Grammar and Punctuation Guides.
  • Check out the interactive tutorials listed on the Learning Development Service website to help with grammar and punctuation.
  • See also:

I need some help regarding how to reference properly?

  • Find out which referencing system is preferred by your School e.g. Harvard, MHRA  etc. and obtain guidelines online or from your School.

  • Each School should set out its preferred form of referencing in its handbook, which is either online or handed out at the start of the year. Follow these directions carefully.

  • Ask for copies of first class dissertations from your department to see how this is put is put into practice and done well.

  • Remember if you are confused the most important thing is consistency with referencing style throughout the document.

  • Start using a referencing system such as RefWorks. This will help you keep track of references and ensure they are formatted correctly.

  • You should talk to your lecturers or tutors or make a one-to-one appointment with an LDS tutor to discuss different types of referencing with you individually.

  • Download helpsheets from the Learning Development Service

  • Visit the interactive guide to referencing Harvard, MHRA, OSCOLA and Vancouver (footnotes) systems: cite2write

How can I balance studying and working part-time?

  • Try not to work more than 15 hours per week as this is the threshold recommended by Queen's for a full- time student.

  • Complete a time management planner. This will allow you to get an overview of where you are spending your time and help construct a more efficient weekly (or daily) plan.

  • Try to find an employer who will understand your needs as a student. For example, Student Jobshop on campus offer many rewarding positions in which you can gain valuable experience while balancing your academic commitments.

  • Check when you are working, e.g if you are working in a bar until 2am is may be affecting your attendance and energy during the next day.

  • Structure your job around your studies, i.e. do not work late nights when you have class early in the morning. Try and keep it to the weekends.

  • Book holidays/time off surrounding exam/assessment time. Perhaps you can work extra hours for your employer during quieter study periods.

  • Try to include a small amount of leisure time outside of work and study to maintain a work/ life balance as your work and study time may then be more productive.

I have never followed my perfect timetable for more than 2 days. Any suggestions?

  • Having a plan to begin with is a good start.

  • Inevitably things don’t always go according to plan. Plans may need to be changed and activities re-prioritised due to unforeseen circumstances.

  • Complete an actual timetable that covers what you actually do for each hour (168 hour planner) then start to identify what is working for you and what isn’t.

  • Make your targets achievable and specific.

  • Make small changes rather than aiming for perfection.

  • Murphy’s Law dictates that everything takes longer than you would think so try to overcompensate with your timetable then any extra time is a bonus, rather than falling short of time which may create more pressure.

  • Contact the Learning Development Services for a one to one session to help work on this.

How can I deal with my “internet addiction”?

  • ‘Delay Gratification’ – for example, promise yourself 15 minutes of internet use after every hour of study as a reward for your hard work.
  • Drastic measures - depending on the level of your addiction remove internet completely or only allow yourself access in certain environments.
  • Find a workspace that is free from distraction. Working on a laptop where there is no wifi access for example
  • Get out there and find some new hobbies that take you away from your desk!

I often miss deadlines. How can I plan to meet them?

  • If you have a lot of deadlines you need to carefully plan your work and prioritise your assignments through careful time managment.

  • Assignments that carry the highest marks will obviously need the most time. But don’t neglect the ones that maybe don’t carry as many marks – all the marks count and these assignments should not take too long to do.

  • Decide how much time you will need to do an assignment and try to start far enough in advance to get the work finished on time.

  • Don’t leave things until the last minute – this will only cause you to panic and is counterproductive.

  • A good idea is to make your own deadlines – aim to have the work finished a couple of days ahead of the official deadline. You will be surprised how this can start to work. When you have it done, leave it, and move on to something else. Giving yourself a couple of extra days also mean that you do have time for changes if you need it.

  • Plan to have work finished a week early to allow for unforeseen circumstances.

How can I improve my self confidence after my first exam/essay failure?

  • Congratulate your success - how many modules have you passed in comparison?

  • Figure out where you went wrong and believe that working on these issues will improve performance.

  • See if you can get feedback from your tutor/exams officer. From here you can pinpoint your weaknesses and work harder on them. You can also modify your strengths to pick up even more marks.

  • Set yourself mock exams based on revision for exams and witness your own improved performance.

  • Know that you are not alone, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. You are not the first and certainly won’t be the last student to fail an exam. This does not mean you cannot get a good degree!

  • Studying at university is a learning curve - learn from your mistake and see it as an opportunity to improve.

  • You would not be here if you were not capable.

How can I keep motivated?

  • Set yourself realistic goals.

  • Remind yourself why you chose the degree path you are on.

  • Remember the bigger picture. Even if an exam or piece of coursework seems unattainable, remember that – in the long run – the effort will be worthwhile and it’s just one more hurdle to overcome.

  • Use a reward system.

  • Get involved in school/university activities. Attend seminars with guest speakers, for example, as this may help keep up your interest in your subject area.

I have high anxiety around exams. What should I do?

  • Exercise more.

  • Watch your diet. Cut down on nicotine, alcohol and caffeine. This will aid your concentration and help you sleep better!

  • Separate your personal anxieties from your academic ones. Sometimes it can help to write them down. Plan out your time to manage the academic worries, seeking help for areas you are particularly concerned for.

  • Learn to take breaks away from your workspace. Relaxing in between revision/coursework periods can help you return to your work with a fresher enthusiasm.

  • Check out our exam preperation resources (including tips on handling exam stress).

  • Speak to Queen's Counselling Service about your feelings of anxiety.
  • Make a one-to-one appointment with the Learning Development Service about exam preperation to help you feel more prepared.

I need some tips for exam preparation.

  • Pay attention to your tutor/lecturer. Often they will drop hints and tips that will relate directly to the exam paper. This is an easy way of picking up marks that many overlook.

  • Filter out your notes to key terms and concepts. These are easier to remember and link together.

  • Focus your revision around specific areas and topics.

  • Look at Learning Development resources on exam preparationThey cover various areas, including revision techniques, tips for answering different types of questions and advice on stress managment.

  • Make a one-to-one appointment with the Learning Development Service for further help.
  • Think about your time management and use weekly planners to schedule your study time.

During the exam I feel my mind is blank and can’t concentrate or remember important points. What should I do?

I need to improve my presentation skills.

I find it very difficult to concentrate while studying, especially at home?

  • Divide your study time into manageable slots of time (try using timetables). Don’t try to do three or four hours without a break. Plan ahead what areas you are going to concentrate on and do 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Take a short ten minute break and then go back and do another session. This way you will start to see the results of your work and this will help to motivate you and get the concentration going.

  • Some people like to study with music and others like complete silence. Decide which suits you.

  • Let the other people in the house know that you are working and that you don’t want to be disturbed.

  • You need to find a quiet place away from the rest of the household. If you are easily distracted by the TV, internet, or people calling then remove yourself from these distractions. If you are on your own decide how much time you are going to devote to study that day/night and then reward yourself by calling a friend or perhaps watching a favourite TV programme. If you set a reward goal you have something to work for. But don’t cheat!

  • Turn off mobile phone and internet connection!

  • Try another quiet space like the library.

  • Try the Pomodoro technique.

Have a look at our time management resources.

How can I access past exam papers?