Preparing for your studies

Tips and advice to help you prepare to succeed at masters level study at the University of Edinburgh.

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Plan your time

It is important to plan your time for effective study and successfully fit your studies alongside any other commitments. Consider how your studies will be structured and fit into your life: will you allocate specific slots to studying (e.g. specific evenings, and times during the weekend), or can you be more flexible? Think about what works for you (e.g. are you an early bird or a night owl), and how you tend to study best (e.g. little and often or longer, concentrated sessions).

Plan your diary: get classes, key deadlines, and study time noted down as soon as possible. If you are not used to doing this, get used to it! You will have lots of things to do and if you are not on top of your deadlines, you may struggle to get it all done.

Block off time: will you need long blocks to attend classes? Or daily short slots to check message boards? Or a combination? Will this stay the same throughout your study period? If you make a timetable, remember to review it regularly to keep it accurate and effective.

Be creative: look for blocks of time when you could work intensively for short periods (around 30 minutes). Plan to get up earlier, use commuting time, lunch breaks, and even time on the treadmill as concentrated study time.

Get agreement: ask others in your life for help and support, if needed. This could be negotiating with work for some time off for project work or asking family for time and space when required.

Have a look at our resources for managing your time:

Advice for part-time students

Pace yourself: many of us tend to be as ambitious as possible, and think we want to finish our programmes as early as we can. However, over-committing could impact negatively upon your studies. Doing slightly fewer modules per academic year may help you balance your time.

Employer negotiations: if you are working, have you discussed with your employer options regarding study time? Check internal policies to see if you can access paid or unpaid leave for relevant study, and/or work flexibly (e.g. changing work hours, working at home, etc.)

Pre-arrival work

It is important to not to lose time at the beginning of your programme trying to get up to speed with any training or reading that could be done before your programme starts. If you are changing subjects, it is useful to identify and start to fill any gaps in your knowledge.

Be prepared: is there any mandatory pre-course reading or other tasks? If so, make sure you complete it. You will be expected to complete any compulsory work, and once your programme starts, there probably won’t be time to catch up.

Take initiative: if nothing is mandatory, you could check with your postgraduate programme director if they would recommend anything to best prepare for the programme. For example, is there a core textbook or information on the key concepts that would be useful to understand early on? Is there any software that you need to be familiar with?

If you are changing subject, you may need do to more initial background reading than classmates with a more relevant undergraduate degree or work experience. You could ask your peers if they can recommend a good book for background reading or if they can give you a quick 5 minute tutorial on a topic. You can learn lots from your fellow students and they can learn lots from you.