Tips to Prepare for Courses Effectively – Part 1

The beginning of a term is always an exciting time for me – it’s like a breath of fresh air to start learning new, interesting topics and doing this after reflecting on how the last term went. However, all the new information can be a bit overwhelming. 

After experiencing many “beginning of the term” times throughout my years at UBC, here are the things that I keep in mind to ensure that I have an amazing term! 

Prepare before the first day 

Many courses require that students enter with previous knowledge from past courses. Sometimes, I remember everything well, so I only do a quick review of a section or two. If I require more preparation, I review the main topics and ideas of a past course with old textbooks and assignments. The professor might also share material and exercises by email or on Canvas, such as a ‘math refresher’ to brush up on your math skills or past assignments and exams from a prerequisite course. 

Read the Syllabus

It is important to read the entire syllabus since it contains tons of essential information about the course! Here are the sections I especially find important: 

Course Description and Objectives  

This is a great summary of the content and learning goals. It also indicates the most important concepts and aspects, which can help you study better and provide insight on how to approach assignments. 

Grading Breakdown 

This list shows each graded component (e.g. midterm, assignment) and how much each one weighs for the final grade. 

This is useful to know how much time and resources to put into each component. For example, if an assignment is worth 50% of the final grade, I make sure to spend a lot of time working on it! 

This is also a great place to quickly check that you aren’t forgetting about any graded components. For example, sometimes participation in class is graded. 

Course Schedule / Structure 

The section includes important dates and lists the course contents and activities. 

  • I recommend writing down the dates! I use a calendar to write down all the exam dates and assignment deadlines. 
  • Check if the contents and pace of the course match your learning style and goals. See if the course is right for you or, in the case that it’s mandatory, if a section with another professor who has a different approach might be a better option. 
  • If I miss class, I use this section to see what was taught that day’s lecture. The content list is also helpful for knowing what to study for the exam. 

I hope these tips help make the first few days of your term less hectic! Do you have other tips to prep for the term? Share them below.

This blog post is part of a series! Come back next week to check out part 2 for even more tips. 

Leave a Reply