Five steps to success as an international STEM student

Students studying online

STEM International Students

The early excitement of going to an international university can soon fade when you find yourself immersed in a confusing new culture, but fitting in is more straightforward than you might think. At Proprep, we want to help you make the most of your experience, so here are our top tips for feeling at home on campus.

Allow for culture shock

The biggest challenge for many international students is getting used to a new education system and the general UK mentality. While culture shock is totally normal, it’s important to make sure you feel supported, so try and find out what programmes are uniquely tailored to international students at your university.

You’ll probably want to befriend other international students – they’ll be able to empathise with your culture shock struggle and help you work through it. Search for uni Facebook groups (they’ll often have one specifically for foreign students) or groups for international STEM students, so you can discuss any questions you have with people who’ll understand. However, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and making an effort with peers from the UK is an amazing way to help you integrate.

Focus on your language skills

As tempting as it is to avoid speaking English when you don’t feel sure of yourself, power through the shyness as much as possible. Every interaction, whether with a friend, a stranger, or a lecturer, is an opportunity to practise your language skills, so try and push yourself to talk – you’ll be so grateful in the long run. Expressing yourself more and more fluently will help you become more confident and improve all your communication skills.

Read as much as possible in English. In particular, things like textbooks, papers, and academic research will help you understand how to write to the standards of your university. If you think you might need some extra help, look out for language classes on your campus. There are also apps you can download to improve your English in a fun and engaging way, like FluentU.

Get to grips with your lectures

Even if you’re fluent in English, it might be hard to get used to native speakers at the beginning. Aside from the fact that people will probably be talking faster than you’re used to, there’s the added stress of hearing regional accents, colloquialisms, and slang in everyday conversations. 

Proprep’s video tutorials are created for your exact university, so the content is synchronised with your syllabus. If you don’t manage to catch everything your lecturer says, you can use our learning resources to catch up – reducing your academic stress, and improving your understanding of challenging material.

Having this support at your fingertips means you can cover content in your own time and at your own pace. You can pause the videos as you go and rewatch them as many times as you want, helping you tackle tougher subject areas with confidence and giving you countless opportunities to practise.

Students studying Math

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Build your confidence in class

Living in a new country and feeling that you aren’t quite there with the language can also lead to shyness in the lecture hall. Try not to let this hold you back; be brave and ask as many questions as you need. Ask your professor to speak a little slower if they have an accent that you don’t understand or are talking too quickly.

If you miss a topic in your lectures, using our personalised system of STEM video learning content and study guides can help you review key notes and fill in your knowledge gaps. You can then go over this material with your peers, and this will help improve both your confidence in the subject and your language proficiency.

Use Proprep

Whatever you study, wherever you study, we’ve got your back to help you thrive at uni. Our online video tutorials and other resources are on hand to provide much-needed support, and you can test your understanding with our thousands of practice exercises. Setting up an account is quick, simple, and free for the first two weeks – so click here to learn more and get started!

How To Up Your Time Management Game

One of the best reasons to use *Proprep is to up your time management game. We all know how busy student life is and it’s all too easy to miss lectures, forget crucial information and cram at the last minute, all while kicking yourself. If that sounds familiar, here’s how to work on changing your mindset for the better.

Understand what time management is?

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Time management is not just about being naturally good with time. It’s an organisational process that enables you to plan time effectively, and anyone can learn how to do it. Excellent time management skills will allow you to work smarter so that you get more done with less stress, especially when time pressures are high. 

Audit where your time goes

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To nail time management correctly, you need to be honest about where your time goes. If you’re always rushed for time, there’s a discrepancy between how you think you spend your time and the reality.

Ask yourself honest questions around how you use your time and then work out what you can do to solve it. For instance, are you late with your Linear Algebra assignments because you’re finding the subject too tough? Have you left revision to the last minute because you’re unclear about what you need to do? 

Make a plan and stick to it

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Whatever the reason for your lack of time management skills, you need to break your to-do list into small actionable parts, arrange these in a logical timed sequence, and create a plan.

If tasks like revising are taking longer than expected, it’s likely to be down to you not being organised and that you haven’t factored in the time required correctly. Add in time constraints to every task and eliminate the time-wasting elements that you know hold you back.

In your plan, be specific about when you will do things. Don’t just assume you will catch up on lecture notes ‘some time this week’ – set a date and time! Likewise, if you know you’re always late for that 9 am statistics lecture, say no to the things that aren’t aligned with your priorities, like going out the night before or staying up late.

Lastly, regularly check your calendar for approaching deadlines and dates, so you know what’s happening daily.

When in doubt, use Pareto’s Principle 

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Otherwise known as 80% of the result can be gained by concentrating on the most important 20% of the task. If you are time-starved and on a deadline with no time to catch up properly, use this to help you determine what has to be done to get you the grades/results you need. Then, let go of the rest and put your focus here.

9 Ways To Prepare Yourself For The Exam Period

While some students can get away with cramming at the last minute, we all know the smarter way to study is to prepare in advance for the exam period. From having a decent revision plan to understanding what you need to know and why, here’s how to get yourself exam-ready without eating up all your time. 

Take your revision up a notch. 

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Notes, flash cards, diagrams, flow charts, if these revision techniques have worked for you in the past, use them again. Though for university STEM exams bear in mind that you will need to use higher order learning skills such as application, analysis, evaluation and creation to succeed. 

Mix up your revision subjects.

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It might feel counter-intuitive but a study has found students learn faster when they mix up topics, instead of following the linear approach used in most textbooks. This way you end up reviewing information at spaced intervals and it’s this that helps you to revise and retain the information.

Use all resources to help you revise 

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Be sure to use all the revision and course resources your professors advise you to use. Alongside this utilise any other resources you find helpful to expand your knowledge of the subject. Try Proprep videos and don’t waste your time on resources that are not customised to your course.

Practice with past examination papers

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One of the most effective ways to prepare for your exams is of course to practice with previous exam papers. Aside from helping you to hone your answers they will also help you to understand the format and formulation of the questions. See our blog post Why Use Proprep as our resources will help you put what you are learning into practice.  

Know the format of the exam

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Always check the course syllabus for a broad list of areas to study and ask your tutors and professors what the format of the exam will be.

Knowing the format for your exam can help you to determine how much of the syllabus you need to revise. This is vital in stopping you from revising the wrong area. For instance, if it’s short answers you will need a broader understanding of the syllabus, for longer style answers you need to be more focused on a specific area.

Work on your weak areas

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We all play to our strengths but if you only ever revise what you’re good at, you’ll never improve. Look at your weaker areas and work out how you can improve in this area. And if time management is a weak area for you, check out blog post on how to improve it.

Organise study groups with peers

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Study groups can help you get the answers you need and help you to revise faster. Always ensure the group you choose is same ability and you choose to focus on a certain topic area every time you meet up.

Avoid people who stress you out

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Study with peers who make you feel calm and confident and avoid spending this time surrounded by people who are negative or who haven’t prepped in time. Your state of mind is crucial to how you will cope, not only with revision but in your exams.

Find the right location to study

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This final one sounds like a no brainer, but what works for you may not work for a friend, so make sure you know the best way for you to study. The library is great if you need motivation to get your head down. However, if you like to revise in the early or late hours, your room may work out better.

The five best ways to study maths

Studying mathematics effectively at an undergraduate level is often about finding new ways to study. It can take time, for instance, learning how to take the right notes and how to pace yourself when working alone. If you are keen to find more effective ways to study, we can help. Here are five ways to master your maths study needs.

  1. Ensure you understand one topic before moving to another.

It might sound obvious but in a maths degree, you cannot afford any knowledge gaps, so make sure you understand one topic before moving on to another. A good habit to get into is to review your lecture notes immediately after every lecture. This way, you can make sure you understand the main ideas and flesh out the details where you need to. If you then don’t understand anything, seek out the help of the lecturer, or bring it up in your tutorials. It’s the best way to learn and make sure you don’t fall behind.

  1. Take lecture notes properly. 

It also pays to take notes in the right way. Unlike school, you do not need to write down every word, but you do need to understand what a lecturer is saying. Some top tips to get you started: 

  • Take notes in a way that makes sense to you. Whether it’s in diagram form, with examples or leaving gaps for you to fill in with independent work, at a later date.
  • Try to make your notes as complete and as accurate as possible so they are valuable but keep them brief enough so that you can still listen to what is being said.
  • Be prepared for varied lecturing styles from lecturers; not all will use a whiteboard or equation examples when explaining topics.
  • Annotate all lecture hand-outs as you are given them, to correlate with your notes, so you can see where they slot in.
  • Organise your notes under topics; this will help for practice and revision.
  1. Work with your peers.

Working with peers can help with understanding and theorising as well as with your revision. Peers can also provide enlightening insight and crucial ideas but try not to rely on them for solutions. The best peer group work happens via collaboration and support. To ensure this works for you, choose like-minded friends to work with, who have the same goals and work patterns as you.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice.

Mathematics is all about problem-solving, and the only way to test your understanding is to work through problem sets and keep practising. It is impossible to study maths by just reading and listening so make sure you put in the required independent work too. If you are having difficulties with mathematical proof and analysis (common amongst first-year students as it’s so different from A-level maths), seek help either from your professors or an independent tutor. 

  1. Give Proprep a try.

As the key to taking maths at university is to get plenty of practice, Proprep can really help you here. Our video tutorials not only match your syllabus and textbooks but also take you step-by-step through each problem and solution for all of your course’s topics. 

This enables you to practice at your own speed and master any topic area in three steps: 

  • Watch the video tutorials.
  • Solve practice problems.
  • Then watch the video solutions to check your work.

It’s an ideal way to master complex problem sets when you are working on your own and will give you insight into new areas you haven’t come across before. Also in response to the outbreak of Covid19, we have now opened up all our customised learning resources for free to all students until the end of the academic year. All you need to set up your account is an email address, no credit card details required, which you can do by clicking here

How do the top students study for STEM exams?

Doing well in STEM degrees relies heavily on your performance in exams. If you want to know how the top students make it look so easy, here are some of their best study tips.

  1. Maintain good study habits all year round 

Doing well in your exams and STEM, in general, requires daily work. Not reviewing lectures, missing tutorials, ignoring your knowledge gaps and trying to wing-it just won’t work. This is because STEM skills are cumulative, and build on each other, which means you can’t cram for success.

The best route to good exam scores is a continuous process of review, assessment, and application of knowledge. Not only will this help with memorisation, but it will also stop panic building and allow you to feel your studying is under control.

  1. Constantly ask yourself questions

To study effectively, you also need a plan. As university STEM classes move at a rapid pace, the material can get confusing quickly if you don’t have a system to keep it all organised.

One way to do this is to ask yourself questions while you study. Questions like why, how, and what are a great way to assess your level of understanding. If you then don’t understand something, focus on that for the day. This will allow you to absorb complex knowledge at a faster rate so you can move ahead.

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  1. Use the study cycle to organise yourself

The study cycle is a tried and tested way of working on STEM subjects, especially at a time when you are being asked to work online and alone. This method helps prepare you for your online lectures and so your study time isn’t wasted.

  • Prepare. Review the learning objectives and work before the lecture and ensure you have done the assigned reading.
  • Actively participate in lectures. Take useful notes and get answers to the questions in your lectures. 
  • Review what you learned post-lecture and supplement your class notes with work problems and extra reading.
  1. Ramp study sessions up as you get closer to exams

Nearer to your exams you will need more intensive and specific study sessions. Aside from having a revision timetable, you need to do the following:

  • Focus on stringent self-testing to gauge what you know and what you still need to work on.
  • Work on memorisation and paraphrasing of your lecture notes or textbook.
  • Expose yourself to as many different problems as you can, to help develop the critical thinking skills needed for exams.
  • Work out problems without looking at solutions or using any resources.
  • It’s also important to practice under time pressure, to get yourself used to solving problems more quickly than you might be used to.
  1. Take action over skipped/missed lectures

Proprep can help if you need to go over missed lectures and understand complex modules more clearly. We have an easy-to-use personalised system of STEM video content and study guides tailored to the specific needs of your university and your professors. All you need to set up your account is an email address which you can do by clicking here