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Study skills > Module 1 > Page 4


What can I expect from Higher Education?

Teaching methods

These can differ, but at least some of the following can be expected.


  • the purpose of lectures is to provide a general over view of a subject or topic
  • these can vary in size (50-300 people), length (1-3 hours), frequency (5-20 hours per week)
  • lecturers deliver the material using microphones, overhead notes projection and blackboards. Students are expected to listen, take notes and participate only if invited


  • these are much smaller groups and are used to provide feedback on your work and facilitate discussion of topics delivered in lectures
  • tutorials are delivered in small groups of 5-20 or on an individual basis. They are rarely more than an hour’s duration and can occur weekly or only once or twice a term


  • seminars are aimed at developing discussion of topics. Size is generally small to medium with approximately 10-30 participants. Length can be 1-3 hours and frequency depends on the department in question but can vary from 1-3 a week or 1-2 per term
  • a student or a group of students may be asked to open discussion with a presentation. It is vital to prepare for seminars by completing readings or preparing discussion materials as your participation is assessed
  • attendance and contribution at seminars often counts towards a final subject mark

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Other teaching styles include:

Group work

This might be for discussion or study purposes but may also involve preparation and delivery of a group project to a larger group for assessment purposes.

Work Placements

Some vocational courses such as social work or childcare will require students to spend some time on placement in the work place. This will involve report and journal writing, and supervision by academic staff or work place nominee – or both.

Laboratory work, studio work and practicals

Science students in particular spend a significant amount of time carrying out practicals, while some Fine Arts students may perform studio based work.

Independent study

This is the most significant style of work required by university students. This is time spent studying in addition to scheduled classes and forms the basis of your work at third level.


Seeing your Lecturers

While tutors are often reasonably accessible, it is sometimes more difficult to make contact with a lecturer.

  • adhere to the office hours or visiting hours specified by the lecturer in question
  • some lecturers are available to speak to students directly after a lecture
  • others will request that you make an appointment to speak in private and at a scheduled hour

Varied approaches

All departments and even individual lecturers have certain preferences regarding the behaviour of, or contact with students; essay writing styles and assignment presentation. Be alert and try to learn what your lecturers or departments prefer. Peer tutors can often help you with this.

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The University Year


  • the University year begins with an Induction week or Freshers’ Week (for First Years) in late September or October
  • it is vital that you are available for Induction Week as personal documents and timetables can usually only be collected by yourself and not by a nominated party

Terms and Semesters:

Traditionally, the year is divided into three terms based around national, public or religious holidays. September to Christmas, New Year to Easter and Easter to Early Summer. Other universities are implementing the 2-semester system and these run from September to Late January and February to Early Summer. Find out which system your university uses and you will have an idea of exam scheduling.


Courses vary widely in how work is assessed. Some are by coursework or continuous assessment only, some by formal exams, while others implement a mixture of the two.

Deadlines and extensions:

These exist in order to train you in time management and task completion and it is in your interest to adhere to them strictly. In special circumstances, such as illness or bereavement, exceptions may be made but a lecturer is under no obligation to provide such consideration and in some cases, may not be in a position to facilitate requests for consideration.


The University Week

If you choose a full time college course, expect just that – a full time study week made up of:

  • scheduled lectures
  • tutorials
  • independent study hours. This means that you are expected to study for 35-40 hours a week. Don’t hesitate to ask your tutors for guidance in relation to planning a study week


Summer Vacation

Between June and early September, students avail of this time to relax, travel, re-sit failed exams or earn some money.

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