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6 ways you can improve your academic skills

Imagine a world where you can get feedback on that dreaded assessment you’ve been putting off. It would be pretty amazing, yeah? While your academics aren’t the be-all and end-all of your university experience, it’s a crucial part of helping you find success. After all, isn’t the content you’re studying the main reason you came to university?

Researching, writing academic essays and referencing can feel like pretty foreign concepts when you’re starting out. Knowing this, Uni of Newcastle offers a huge amount of free and easy to access academic support services. Here are Navigator’s top 7 ways the University can help you ace your studies.

Academic Learning Support

Academic Learning Support are able to help you through all stages of your study program. These include developing your academic writing, improving your study skills, organising revision timetables, providing course-specific maths and statistics support, and assisting with English language skills.

Senior Learning Advisor, Alison Hillier, works extensively with students to help them overcome the obstacles they face when starting tertiary study.

“A lot of [students]…have really good time management skills, but adding that extra layer of study on top of it means things get crushed,” explained Alison. “Sometimes it can impact on family relationships, sometimes it can impact on their studies and paid work. So it’s a little bit of a balancing act in the first couple of months of uni to try and get all of that working.”

The REALLY amazing, almost too good to be true, service offered by Academic Support is providing feedback on your assessments. You can submit your draft assessment or assessment outline online and a learning adviser will reply within 24 hours with a response.

“The thing about e-consult is we obviously can’t tell you whether you’ve answered the question, but we can look at the assignment question and see whether you’re hitting the right notes, see whether you’re hitting the target areas of the question, and tell you whether you’re writing paragraphs that match up with the things in the question. So we can tell you whether you might have accidentally missed out an entire part of a question, or gone too far perhaps!” said Alison.

Alison has found that students who access Academic Support on average receive seven more marks in assessments than those who don’t. Seven marks might not seem like a big deal, but that can be the difference between a pass and fail.


If you find asking your tutor for help or putting your hand up in class intimidating, PASS is the answer you’ve been looking for.

PASS, aka peer assisted study sessions, give you the chance to learn from other uni students. They provide a no-pressure environment where you’re able to review weekly course content, compare notes and work through difficult concepts.

These sessions are run by students who received at least a distinction/high distinction mark in that course previously, so you know you’re definitely in good hands.

PASS sessions generally run for one hour per week during semester, with many offering intensive sessions in the lead up to exams. Attending is a great way to cut down on your study time, with one hour at PASS equalling three hours of individual study.

Currently there are more than 50 courses offering PASS across all campuses. But no need to stress if you can’t make it on campus. Many of these PASS sessions are also offered online.

To find out when the sessions will be held check out the timetables online. Make sure to enrol for PASS sessions in your myTimetable account and  have a look in Blackboard under ‘My Other Sites’ in PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) for access to PASS resources.

Peer Writing Mentors

Uni assessments can seem really difficult at first glance, even if you’ve come straight from school. Chances are they require a different style of writing and referencing that you’ve used previously.

Peer Writing Mentors are able to help fast-track your understanding of assessment requirements and develop your writing skills. You’ll be churning out quality essays in no time.

Just bring along a hard copy of your essay, assessment question and marking criteria, and the peer writing mentor will be able to provide feedback and show you different writing strategies.

These drop-in sessions are available 11am-2pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, from 8 March 2021 until the end of semester, excluding mid-semester break.


Turns out, there’s more to the library than just books and a quiet place to eat your lunch.

If you head on over to the Library website, there’s a stack of academic resources at your disposal. Under ‘Subject Resource Guides’ you’re able to select your field of study, and it will provide you with databases, journal articles and other sources specifically tailored for that course. There are also online tutorials covering topics such as how to research and learn the basics of referencing.

The University libraries are manned by academic research experts – don’t let their knowledge go to waste. Book a librarian to help you with your study, or even attend a library class.

Prep – Bridging & Refresher Courses

It doesn’t matter if you finished school last year or twenty years ago, sometimes we all need a refresher. Many courses (especially Maths and Science related ones) have assumed or recommended knowledge, and will start off from the basis you already have that knowledge (e.g. Extension 1 Maths).

Prep Courses mean you can start your study off on the right foot, rather than trying to play catch-up. These courses run for roughly 15 hours over one week and are completely free.

Topics include Mathematics, Chemistry, Statistics, Linguistics, Physics, Biology and General Computing.

There are also a variety of short courses offered online, such as Academic Survival Skills. This course is essentially a crash course on how to be a uni student, covering things like how to make sense of university jargon and write an essay.

Academic Apps

If you head on over to the App Store or Google Play, you’ll see there’s heaps of apps designed to help you with your study. But did you know there is actually one designed by the University of Newcastle?

Maths Tune Up is designed to help with your maths skills. The short animated videos provide explanations and examples of fundamental maths concepts, meaning you’ll be up to speed in your actual courses.

There are plenty of academic support services on offer at university. You don’t need to access all of these to do well at university, it’s just about figuring out what works best for you. If you ever find yourself struggling, make sure to reach out to one of these services. Happy studying!

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