Michael J.A. Clark
Michael Clark is a professional software developer who creates high-quality products for startups in Cambridge, UK. Skills: C#, Java, PHP, XHTML, AS3, CSS, ML.


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Cambridge study skills and time management

These are short notes built on content from Cambridge University Skills Portal.

Time management

Having skills in time management allow you to accomplish compulsory activities faster, leaving more time to dedicate to extracurricular activities. Five principles of time management are:

  1. Setting specific academic and personal goals
  2. Creating long-term schedules (termly)
  3. Creating short-term schedules (weekly)
  4. Creating daily todo lists
  5. Being flexible and prepared to review your schedules regularly

See also Randy Paulsch on Time Management, summarised here.

The Cornell Method

Cornell Notes are an efficient system for making the most out of lectures. Pages are split into three sections:

  1. The Note Taking Column for use during the lecture
  2. The Recall Column for terms and concepts
  3. The Summary for key ideas

Note taking is then a process composed of five essential aspects:

  1. Recording into the Note Taking Column using abbreviations and paraphrasing and noting any keywords into into the Recall Column
  2. Reducing content in Note Taking Column into the Summary section
  3. Reciting the notes to improve recall
  4. Reflecting using questions like “What’s the significance of these facts?”
  5. Reviewing by covering up the notes and answering points in the Recall Column

This PDF by Cornell explains it best.

Being an active reader

Ensure there is a reason behind reading and that the text is appropriate.

When approaching a book, aim to be focussed with the reading, not reading from cover to cover. If contents page is only a broad overview use the index to look for keywords.

When approaching an article, the abstract is a minisummary of the article providing an overview of the author's approach and summary of keypoints. Read the introduction (overview of approach) and conclusion (summarising main points).

Skimming is reading for the main ideas only so you get an overall impression of the context of the text. Look at the introduction and conclusion and focus on the topic sentences on most of the paragraphs (open and closing lines). Allows you to get through material quicker.

Scanning is reading to find important information quickly. Make a note for keywords and find main points relating to these keywords. Highlighting and margin notes can summarise key ideas and show areas needing further research. Mind maps can be useful for summarising the information.

Being a critical reader requires distinguishing between facts and opinions. The goal is to ascertain the key arguments put forward by the writer and whether given evidence supports these arguments.

Taking exams

Do not sit up the night before the exam. Glance to key points to sharpen the mind. Last minute cramming will confuse rather than clarify. Moderation with water and food is key. Arrive in good time but not too early.

Time is limited in the exam. Strategic planning is important. Initial reading, thinking about the written answer, division of time between answers, before checking answers for small errors.

Academic writing

Academic writing is objective rather than subjective and uses cautious language (suggests instead of shows) to express statements with precision, caution and diplomatic deference. All statements of fact should be supported with a reference to the original source material (dates can indicate obsolescence).

It is based on formal language, avoiding:

  • Phrasal verbs, formed from a verb and a preposition and reduce understanding because they have several meanings and different syntactic patterns (ran into)
  • Contractions, shortened forms of words from which one or more letters have been omitted (it's)
  • Abbreviations, including Latin (e.g., i.e.)
  • Colloquial language, all forms of slang

Common title contractions (Doctor to Dr) and abbreviations (Professor to Prof.) are allowable.