What Skills Do I Have?

I have skills. Do I need to learn more for Uni?

Whether you're a new, returning, or current university student, certain essential skills are crucial for your success.

Academic skills are essential for efficient learning, serving as valuable life skills. 

Academic skills are the tools you need to have to do well in university. These include skills such as  knowing how to find relevant information or material to answer your assignments, thinking critically, and being able to explain your thoughts in a clear way. These skills aren't just useful in university, they'll help you in your future employment.

The main difference between university and previous forms of study is the need to organise and motivate yourself to study during non-contact time. As a university student, you must take control of your learning. Being an independent learner involves being proactive, managing your workload, and meeting commitments and deadlines.

Since only about 20% of your course involves 'contact time' in lectures, seminars, or tutorials, you should use the remaining 80% to develop your studies independently. This includes reading, preparing for classes, organising notes, writing assignments, and following up on tuition.

Mastering these skills is key to success in your studies.

What is independent learning?

At the university level, it is crucial for students to take control of their education and adopt the role of independent learners.

This involves taking responsibility for their learning activities, having the confidence to make informed decisions, staying motivated, and understanding the importance of reflecting on their learning process to ensure its effectiveness. The following guidelines offer recommendations for successfully transitioning to independent learning.

What is an independent learner?

An independent learner takes responsibility for their education and proactively seeks out information, rather than relying solely on lecturers, textbooks, or other resources. Independent learners should not require continuous instruction, expect all knowledge to be provided, or need constant monitoring of their work. Independent learning—also known as 'self-directed learning' or 'autonomous learning'—is essential for employability, postgraduate study, and lifelong learning.

Being an independent learner entails taking charge of your research, carefully choosing and assessing your resources, and forming your own conclusions based on what you learn, whether from your readings or interactions with tutors.

It's crucial to clarify that independent learning doesn't imply working on your own. It involves discovering the methods that suit you best and applying that understanding. This might involve setting aside quiet, personal time, but it can also mean seeking support from fellow students in your course or accommodation when facing challenges.

What does it mean to learn at University?

You will be expected to develop your independent learning skills from the beginning of your studies and take every opportunity to practice and enhance these skills.

In-class learning, such as lectures, tutorials, or labs, only constitutes a portion of your university education. You will need to engage in extensive independent study, which includes note-taking, reading, completing assessments, and preparing for exams.

Independent learning can include:

  • Completing tasks and reading ahead of your next lecture
  • Reviewing lecture content and ensuring you have clear notes
  • Working on individual or group assignments outside of lecture times

Developing independent learning

When you're trying to figure things out on your own, it can be a bit daunting at first. Some reasons for this might include:

  • worrying about making mistakes or not understanding instructions
  • feeling anxious about missing important information in your readings
  • struggling to sift through a lot of information
  • feeling overwhelmed by everything new you're learning

But don't worry, with a little perseverance and initiative, you can tackle these challenges:

  • Ask specific questions to clear up any confusion
  • Give yourself plenty of time to read and understand key concepts
  • Find a way to organise all the information
  • Manage your time effectively by breaking down assignments into smaller tasks
  • Reflect on feedback, learn from things, and adjust your approach
  • Improve your academic skills by checking out guides like this one, arrange 1:1 appointments, go to drop-ins, or attend skills workshops.

Skills for independent learning

To become an independent learner, you should develop the following skills:

  • Get organised and manage your time well
  • Improve your reading and note-taking skills
  • Take time for self-reflection and planning for personal growth

As a student, this involves mastering how to:

  • Establish your own goals
  • Identify and evaluate appropriate resources
  • Take responsibility for attending all aspects of your studies and catching up when necessary
  • Monitor and manage your time and progress honestly and effectively
  • Complete assignments that meet assessment criteria within deadlines

Skills for independent learning

Checklist: What academic skills do I have?

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What skills do I have?

During your time at University, you will develop valuable, transferable academic, study and professional skills that will support your learning and future career.

Academic skills are the skills you use on a daily basis as a student. So, if you’re wondering about what skills you already have or what you should focus on, check out our list and tips on how to improve them.

1.  Writing skills

Effective academic writing is more than just putting your thoughts on paper; it requires you to be precise, think critically, and use an academic style. You need to be able to communicate clearly, arrange information in a logical way, and back up your points with evidence. It's important to be clear, analyse things carefully, and have a structured approach.

2.  Reading skills

Critical reading involves analysing and evaluating written materials like textbooks, articles and other academic resources. This includes assessing author goals, identifying biases, and evaluating the credibility of the provided evidence. The aim is to enhance your understanding and knowledge rather than simply memorising information. Take effective notes to organise and easily locate relevant information.

3.  Critical thinking skills

In order to really understand and make sense of information, you have to work on your critical thinking skills. This involves questioning, examining evidence, and forming independent opinions and conclusions rather than accepting information at face value. Being critical involves more than just recounting information from lectures or literature. You will make judgements about evidence to form your own views and to present your views clearly.

4.  Notetaking skills

Taking notes has no absolute correct or incorrect approach. Nevertheless, it is advisable to maintain concise and to-the-point notes. Attempting to transcribe every detail offers no advantage; instead, your notes should capture the key concepts and significant points you've recognised.

5.  Digital skills

Proficiency in using technology is essential for accessing information, collaborating with peers, and completing coursework. You can develop your digital skills with LinkedIn Learning courses, 1:1s appointments and weekly drop-ins with the Digital Skills Team.

6.  Referencing skills

You need to acknowledge other people's work in your own writing through referencing. Referencing is a skill you will develop the more you do it! Take some time reading the Referencing and Plagiarism Awareness LibGuide and follow your departmental referencing style guidance. 

7.  Numeracy skills

Maths, stats and numeracy skills are relevant to many subject areas, not just maths and science courses. Numeracy skills are essential in most careers and are highly sought after by employers. Maths drop-ins and 1:1 appointments can help you to refresh and develop the skills required for your current course and beyond.

8.  Presentation skills

Presentations are a common form of assessment, as an individual or group activity. Delivering ideas with clarity and confidence helps boost confidence and deepens understanding of the subject. These skills are valuable for effectively communicating thoughts and when working in professional settings.

9.  Communication skills

Good communication skills involve clear and concise expression in speaking and writing, as well as listening actively and working together with others. Group projects and working with others are common, so good communication plays a key role.

10. Active listening skills

Active listening involves really focusing on what the speaker is saying and asking questions to make sure you understand clearly. Some helpful tips to keep in mind include taking notes, making connections, putting information together, and drawing conclusions.

11. Research skills

From finding relevant sources and analysing them critically to putting all the information together, having strong research skills is key. And let's not forget about being able to navigate various databases, search engines, and citation styles - that's all part of having good research skills.

12. Study skills

Effective studying varies for each person. It's crucial to discover your optimal time and method, whether it's last-minute cramming or scheduled sessions. Develop study skills by setting goals, creating a schedule, and utilising strategies like note-taking and self-testing. Find what suits you best.

13. Time management skills

Managing your time is important at University. With different courses, assignments, and activities, staying on top of everything can be a bit of a challenge. Stay organised by setting priorities, creating a schedule, and breaking tasks into smaller chunks. This approach makes it easier to handle your workload.

I want to improve these skills. Where can I find support?

Go to AberSkills!

AberSkills can help you identify, develop and refine your skills with:

  • skills workshops
  • 1:1 appointments
  • drop-in sessions
  • useful advice, guidance and information
  • support material and much more!

More information: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/aberskills/

How can I improve my academic skills?

Discover information to help, direct and guide you to improve your academic skills on AberSkills!

This platform offers a one-stop-shop of guidance on personalised 1:1 appointments, individualised advice, customised resources, skills workshops aimed at assisting you to develop the essential academic skills you need...and much more!

The teams involved in AberSkills are dedicated to aiding you in comprehending university-level learning and assessment. They are committed to providing support to help you achieve your full potential within your academic studies and beyond.

With AberSkills, you will find support, guidance and advice in enhancing your information, academic, and study skills throughout all stages of your academic journey.

These include: