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Studying means continual exposure to new ideas, deadlines and financial pressures, and these can increase your stress levels.

Many students cope well, but all will get fed up at some stage during their studies. The key to maintaining your momentum is to balance studies with other activities:

  • Sport has obvious health benefits but can also bring a sense of achievement, and team sports mean you’ll meet lots of students from other departments.
  • Doing some paid work; this is good so long as it fits around your studies (not the other way round!).
  • Doing something ‘cultural’; this is a great way of trying something entirely new, so check out your University’s Arts Centre.
  • Getting off campus or away from home; this puts things in perspective – so go somewhere new from time to time.
  • Do something for someone else. Visit your university’s Volunteers web page, sign up and make a difference. You’ll feel great about yourself if you do … so do it!

However, if you think you are beyond a ‘normal range’ and especially if you cannot attribute causes to your feelings, then please get some help. Start with your personal tutor or admin staff who will be able to direct you to professional help – and provide a listening ear anyway. Remember, everyone has worth so consider your merits and don’t compare with (your perception of) others around you. Your feelings will certainly change over time, especially with help, so you do have things to look forward to within and beyond university life. Work through your issues with those that can help:

Interacting with others can give shape and meaning to your life … and one day you can ‘repay’ by helping others or simply being there for them.


Get organised and tackle any lifestyle or study related problems early. Write them down to get them in perspective, in order and under your control. Share your concerns with friends and your tutor. Again, don’t internalise your problems – this will make them worse. Your Director of Undergraduate Studies will guide you in your choice of subjects (if any) and can advise you on general matters such as degree and examination regulations. Make sure you provide required information promptly e.g. change of address, completed module option forms, etc. so that accurate records can be kept. Your lecturers will be pleased to help you with specific problems related to the modules they teach. Such problems should be raised at seminars, or exceptionally, by appointment. Don’t expect a drop-in service or them to be on-call 24 hours a day!

Your Personal Tutor will help you with any outstanding problems (academic or personal) and you should make contact every 2-3 weeks during term time (or immediately for urgent issues). It’s important to be realistic about what your personal tutor can and should do. There will be departmental or university-wide guidelines about this but generally they can advise you on study plans, choice of optional courses and even help with specific questions on the course content (after you have attended all lectures, tutorials etc. – not instead!), provide academic references etc. If in doubt, just ask! However, personal tutors do not ‘argue your case’ (you have to do that) and certainly cannot enter into confidential discussions with you. If you need that, please get the help you need from a suitable professional, see below. What’s more, you can talk to doctors, counsellors, clergy etc. confidentially (legally this is called a privileged communication), but for personal tutors, whilst what you say will be treated with discretion, it may be shared with others. Your tutor is acting on behalf of the university, not as a private individual here, and your records will be passed on if your tutor changes. So whilst you should be open and honest with your personal tutor, that doesn’t replace getting professional help when you need it. The bottom line is that your tutor is an ordinary person (apart from being very good at their discipline) and should refer you to proper help if need be.

Your tutor must be informed of any extenuating circumstances affecting your studies or exams, which should normally be backed-up by documentation. It is your responsibility to provide this written documentation. Failure to do so will mean that the Progression (or Exam) Board may be unable to take it into account. You cannot normally submit extenuating circumstances retrospectively i.e. after the Progression Board. Your personal tutor, or your Course Director, should also be told of any permanent, protracted or recurrent problems (e.g. illness, dyslexia, disability or injury) so that they can point you to the help you may need, and so that they can form an accurate picture of your academic abilities. This information will again be treated with discretion.

You are recommended to submit ALL extenuating circumstances, whether or not you think you will pass; it is your right to do so. You should bear in mind, however, that although you will be treated individually and fairly by the Progression Board, decisions are normally based overwhelmingly on the evidence of your marks; extenuating circumstances will normally only make a difference in borderline cases. It is also worth bearing in mind that the Progression Board has a responsibility to you to ensure that you are prepared academically for the next level of study; of themselves, extenuating circumstances cannot make good any knowledge deficit.

Discuss your exam results and choice of optional modules with your tutor. Discuss your hobbies and interests too, if only so that your tutor can write an informed reference for you. Your tutor may be able to help you prepare your CV and advise on other aspects of job hunting, so keep him/her fully informed. If you do not get on with your tutor, you have the right to change tutor; to do so, see the Senior Tutor or Course Director. However, in real life, you will have to work with people who may not be ‘on your wavelength’ so establishing a polite and professional interaction with all your staff will prepare you for coping later on.

The Class Representative is an elected student member of the class who can approach the department on your behalf if you have any problems, suggestions … even praise for your staff! Your classmates can also be a great help in your studies. Discussing work with them fills in blanks and gives fresh insights.

Different sources of help

Remember the following are there for you when you need them:

  • Students’ Union Information and Advice Centre, (especially for accommodation, welfare and financial advice)
  • Study Advice Unit; study advisers are especially helpful in decrypting feedback you don’t understand, underpinning and planning your studies, but they will not ‘teach’ you the material. The idea here is that they can ‘stand you back on your feet’ so you can re-engage with your classes when you get lost or simply need a bit of help
  • Student Health Service
  • Counselling Service
  • Chaplains and many others will give advice if you ask

See also the International Students web pages of your university web site, which will have a lot of advice on living and studying in the UK.

Language Centres at universities generally run courses (typically 1 hour per week) which you should consider attending to improve your English, even if it’s your first language:

  • English language problems for speakers of English as a first language
  • English language, literature & culture for overseas students
  • English as a foreign language
  • writing skills for overseas students
  • surgeries for individual student language problems (native and overseas) by arrangement

See their web site for details.

The Careers or Professional Development Centres will provide advice on all aspects of job hunting and information on companies you are interested in. They usually have a selection of sample videos and CVs. Make an appointment to see them.

The Library will help you find what you need or order it for you. Most course books are available here. Ask at the Issue Desk about the Library Tour (both physical and online). Computer Support will help you with any software (and sometimes hardware) problems and advice, and they can sometimes retrieve deleted files from backups in an emergency. However, it’s advisable to make your own backups on the University server … laptops get stolen, dogs eat memory sticks etc! If you suspect your files are being tampered with, see your Computer Support staff IMMEDIATELY.

A really great web site is Mathcentre at Loughborough University. This will allow you to download leaflets on a wide range of maths topics.

Learning Difficulties

Some of you will come to university with no idea that you suffer from a learning difficulty until you start your course. DO NOT PANIC. Whilst this happens to some students, it could be that you are not, for example, dyslexic and are just finding the work harder than you anticipated. If you think it is more that that then you should discuss your case with one of the disability officers, who can, if need be, arrange for an assessment.

Learning Difficulties encompasses a wide area of learning impairment such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dysgrahia, Dysnumeria, Dyscalculia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. You may already know that you suffer from some form of learning difficulty and your last school or college may have already taken measures with assisted learning to remedy that fact. You might also have seen an Educational Psychologist. The psychologist may have made recommendations to assist you in your academic life such as:

  • extra time in coursework and exams (usually 25% extra in exams),
  • computer usage during exams. For maths-rich answers this may not help much, since maths is very slow to typeset (unlike typing text), so discuss other options,
  • a person to act as a reader,
  • a person to act as a writer,
  • exams to be printed on different colour paper or in a larger font.

You should show these recommendations to your tutor and undergraduate course director who may be able to act upon them. This is often done automatically, but if in doubt, ask.

You might find the Dyscalculia and Dyslexia Interest Group’s web site interesting and useful although this is targeted more at (maths) teachers than students. If you see something there that might help you, ask your teacher/lecturer to implement it in your classes/exams. is a commercial company selling specialist software.


The last words should be from the students, who are, after all, the most important people here!

  • Approach everything with a positive attitude
  • Plan (it may be boring but it will pay off)
  • Do not be afraid of spending more time on work than your friends
  • Speak out; do not be afraid of asking for help!”


About the Study Skills for Mathematics pages

These pages were originally created by Martin Greenhow.

Creative Commons Licence
Study Skills in Mathematics by Martin Greenhow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Study Skills – Introduction

Study Skills – Time Management

Study Skills – Lectures

Study Skills – Reading

Study Skills – Projects and Essays

Study Skills – Using Charts and Graphs

Study Skills – Problem Sheets

Study Skills – Experiments

Study Skills -Presentations

Study Skills – Revision

Study Skills – Exams

Study Skills – Getting a Job

Study Skills – Help

Study Skills – Postgraduate Research

Featured Image by Neil Thomas on Unsplash