Best Study Tips You NEED To Try | From A Second Language Science Student | uOttawa

Good morning everyone, we are getting very close to exam season, so today I am sharing some of my favourite study tips, tricks and techniques to hopefully help you find something that works for you. A little background, I am in my final year at the University of Ottawa studying for my HBSc – Biology with Extended French. My first and main language is English, but I have been in a French Immersion program since I was 4. I chose to continue with this into university, which ended up being a big shock (this could be a whole post in itself!) but it has also led me to things and people I would have never known otherwise. If you have never heard of an immersion program or if you attend an all english univeristy, then you may not know what I am talking about. So my program is Biology, all my classes will lead me to a science degree, however because my school is officially bilingual (French and English) I can choose to take these classes in either language (so long as I have the minimum credits taught in french). Anyways the reason I bring this up, is that it’s quite different doing school in a language other than your native language. While I am speaking from english as my first and french as my second, all of these still apply even if your second language is English or something else.


General Advice and tips:

1. Allocate more time for classes not taught in your native language

While this is similar to ‘start early’, when you have an assignment in another language it will take you longer than it would if it were in your native language.

2. Start early

Similar to the last point, try to start early. This is always easier said then done, but if you can avoid cramming the night before/day of, you will be much better off.

3. Ask questions!!

This applies to both exam prep as well as during your exam. At my school we are entitled to a translation of a question regardless of the class (except language classes). So If you don’t understand what the question is asking or need to clarify the meaning of word, do it! During class if you don’t understand something, ask! If you are struggling with a concept, ask! If you don’t understand why you got a question on an assignment or test, then ask! There is no shame in asking, even if profs aren’t very open to answering questions, look for other ressources, which brings me to my next point…

4. Utilize office hours + Ressources on campus + Online resources

These are the places to ask questions. Nowadays there are so many options to get help. At my school we have a Math Help Centre, an Academic Writing Help Centre along with many others. Usually there is a place to get help. If you can’t find one or need help at a weird time (you know like those 1 am study sessions) then try watching YouTube videos, looking up other explanations online or homework help programs like Chegg and Khan Academy. Don’t forget about your friends, lots of times, if one of my friends understands something from class that I didn’t they can explain it to me in a different way then the prof did and most times it helps.

5. Get a good night’s rest

This speaks for itself, you have probably already heard so many people talk about why you need to sleep. You can’t be as productive when you are low on energy. It also hinders our alertness and brain function (which is crutial during an exam).


Tips while studying:

1. Take note of questions you have

I like doing this with a post-it note, that way I can put it in my textbook even bullet journal, that way I can add to it and then when I have the opportunity to ask questions I am ready.

2. Have everything within arms reach

This includes stationary, course material, chargers, devices, water etc. anything you can think that you will need, have it readily available. Not only does this save time, it helps to prevent you from getting distracted by having to go get something.

3. Choose your caffeine carefully

Not everyone reacts to caffein the same way, and not all caffeine is the same. What I mean by this is that there are many types. Caffeine in green tea is a much more stable form than caffeine in coffee. So if you know coffee makes you jittery, then try a tea, maybe herbal (no caffeine) or green tea. Sometimes we think having a coffee is going to help us work (which for some people it can) but sometimes it can cause more distractions.

4. Have Google Translate or WordRefrence open (even a dictionary)

This is kind of specific to second language students but if you know you know. I always have this open, in fact it never really get’s closed since it’s a collapsed tab in Safari. Especially with French, I am always checking wether a word is masculine or feminine. If a translator is not revelant to your studies, then a dictionary may comme in handy (also we all know I mean a website or google, becasue who really uses a dictionary when you have access to the internet).

5. Drink lots of water

Just do it! Check out last weeks post here if you need more convincing.

6. Create a good environment

This look different for everyone but I suggest limiting distractions as much as possible. If you want more ideas, check out this blog post here.

7. Don’t forget to eat

Similar to my point about sleep, your body needs energy, and you must fuel it accordingly. Where possible, try to eat healthy meals and snacks to keep you alert and energized.

8. Take study breaks

Hustle culture has really got us believing we need to work hours on end with out breaks, when in reality, breaks are good! I find it hard to get focused, so I don’t like methods like pomodoro, I personally do my best work in 1 hour or 1 hour and 15 minutes chunks. I also try to avoid my phone on my break because it’s much harder to focus after scrolling twitter. I do like setting timers for both my study period and break time.


Thank you so much for reading, I hope you have found some value in this and good luck with your exams! See you all (hopefully) Sunday with a video.
~Tori Scherle~

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I'm 22 years old and starting my Masters in Biology at the University of Ottawa in September. I just recently graduated with my Honours BSc - Biology. I love photography, baking, plants & adventures!

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