Essential Academic Skills to Help You Succeed at Uni

Last week, Richard Knott in our LEaD (Learning Enhancement and Development) team here at City delivered some really helpful sessions as part of our Start@City programme.

These focussed on key skills that will help you succeed at university and manage the independent learning that will be expected of you. Below are a few key points on each key skill and the videos for you to watch in more detail.

Academic Writing

Make your writing sound more academic for reports and papers you might need to write during your course by being:

  • Precise
  • Formal
  • Impersonal
  • Objective

Watch the 10 minute Academic Writing video to find out how to do this:


Online Learning

  • Creating your own space to work at home (that’s not the sofa or where you sleep) is really important.
  • Make a study schedule and let others know about it so they’ll be less likely to interrupt online classes or study time.
  • Check in with your lecturer if things aren’t clear.
  • Keep communication (whether that’s emails to lecturers or personal tutors or Zoom chats) short and clear. Identify yourself in your emails with your name and student number.

Download the full Online learning PowerPoint slides to find out more about learning effectively online.

Critical thinking skills

  • When assignment instructions include words like critically examine, discuss or analyse, you are being asked to have a critical attitude towards the subject and texts written on it.
  • ‘Critical’ doesn’t mean be negative about subject or texts – instead you are being asked to think more carefully about what you read or write.
  • Lecturers don’t just want to find out what you know about a topic, but also what you understand and what you think about the topic.
  • Use who, what, when, where, why, and how questions to explore a topic.

Download the full Critical Thinking PowerPoint slides for more details.

Note taking

Young person works and writes notes
Photo by Look Studio /

A key skill when you are in lectures (whether online or in campus) and useful to review and create your own revision notes.

  • Consider if paper & pen or keyboard is better suited to making notes for the subject you’re studying. (E.g. annotating diagrams might be more difficult on computer.)
  • There are lots of different ways of taking notes (linear notes, visual notes, Cornell method, mind mapping and concept mapping).

Watch the 15 minute Note taking video for details on these different methods:


Find out more about the support you can get at City to improve your academic skills (whether that’s booking 1:1 tutorials, downloading study guides or more).

Read Diana’s helpful guide to staying productive whilst studying at home.

Check out more of our support services available at City.

(If you are planning to go to a different uni, then do your research and find out what support is available at your chosen university!)

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