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Academic Work

Academic work should take up a large chunk of your time in Oxford. Many people have concerns about the Oxford workload when they arrive, but don’t worry – there are several ways you can cope with the work while also having a great university experience. Here are a few of our tips:

  • Get a diary and use it! Don’t rely solely on your memory to keep track of everything you have to do; having a written record or to-do list is a key method of keeping on top of your workload. A calendar can also be useful so that you can remind yourself of upcoming events in one glance.
  • Learn how to use all the library and digital resources for your course as soon as possible. They might just save your neck.
  • Watch the lectures! Really. It’s worth it in the long run.
  • Remember that your course mates are also an invaluable resource. Sharing notes is often a lifesaver when you’re running out of time before a deadline or an exam. Talking through essays and other assignments together is often a useful way to better understand what you’re being asked to do. (On the other hand, plagiarism never pays off!)
  • If you’re really struggling to keep up, talk to your tutors. If you’ve been ill, have suffered a bereavement, or anything else has affected your ability to work, tell them. They know you’re only human, and they will want the best for you.
  • Most important of all: look after yourself. Make use of the welfare resources on offer (for example, the Peer Supporters or Welfare Officers in college, or the welfare events put on) if it’s all feeling too much. Alternatively, prevention is better than cure, so remember to eat enough, sleep enough, and socialise enough before you knock a hole through the nearest brick wall. Do something you find fun – join societies you’re interested in, read for pleasure, use the TV room, and/or exercise – it’s worth it.

Getting the balance right between academics and the rest of life is a challenge that will likely take you at least your first year to solve. Remember: no one’s perfect, and everyone is in the same boat.

The University has created some great pages on study skills which can be a useful resource if you need some direction with your work style!

Students’ Views

I definitely worried that everyone would be a lot smarter than me and I would just feel out of my depth. As soon as I got here I realised basically everyone is in that same position – Joe, Biomedical Sciences

Joint SchoolsYou are likely to progress through your papers at a different pace and at different times to your sole-subject peers, but this is where the dissimilarities end. My advice: take it as it comes – Alessandro, History and French

In the first year of Biochemistry, the workload consists of lectures, classes, labs and tutorials. With that in mind it’s not a surprise that the amount of work set in a week can seem impossible to complete but, if you stay organised and prioritise what work to do, you should be fine – Nia, Biochemistry

It seems to me that essay writing at Oxford is rewarding, but definitely an acquired skill. Your first few essays will probably miss the mark in ways that you don’t even understand. This is totally fine and normal! There are many ways to improve, and I generally found the feedback extremely helpful – Leo, Geography

Before arriving at St John’s, the prospect of long reading lists and essay deadlines seemed beyond me. However, after the first term I realised that, though the work is challenging, there is plenty of support from your tutors who are extremely giving with their time and want you to thrive! – Ankit, English

History tends to be just made up of lectures and tutorials. For ‘Approaches to History’, you may be in a class, but last year, it was only made up of three of us at most – Sofia, History

As a subject with quite a lot of contact hours, normally 17 hours per week, it just means there is already a lot of structure to work with. Every week I have 2 problem sheets that can take between 5-15 hours each. The tutors appreciate that normally you won’t understand the content, and are very willing to help as long as you’ve had a go and come with some questions – Zara, Engineering