So Semester 1 of your university life is done! If you’re currently in the break between semesters, and you want to improve next semester, this article is for you.


Reflection is not wasted time

When you finally get through your first semester of classes, assessments, and exams, probably the last thing you want to do is spend even more time thinking about uni - and that’s totally fair. But before Semester 2 kicks off, sitting down for 20-30 minutes to think deeply about the semester just gone can be a very wise investment.

If you don’t actively think about what you did well and what you could improve on in your first semester, the chances are that nothing will change at all. You’ll probably go again with the same routines and strategies, and you’ll probably get similar results. And that’s fine - but what if you really want to improve your performance?

"If you don't actively think about what you did well and what you could improve on in your first semester, the chances are that nothing will change at all."


Identify potential weaknesses

The first logical step is to try to work out why you lost marks. For each of your units, consider thinking about potential reasons such as:

  • not attending class;

  • not committing to the class material, such as readings;

  • misinterpreting assessment details;

  • not performing as well as you had hoped in exam settings;

  • not managing your time well effectively;

  • neglecting important assessment details; and

  • not asking questions when you didn’t understand course content.


This is by no means an exhaustive list, but could be used as a starting point to better understand why you are losing marks. You will probably realise one of two things: that issues are subject-specific (for example, you didn’t attend classes for one specific unit, and results suffered accordingly), or subject-agnostic (for example, you identified an issue with time management across all subjects).

"This is by no means an exhaustive list, but could be used as a starting point to better understand why you are losing marks."

Once you have thought about and identified some possible reasons, you can start to plan for action.


Actively work toward addressing those concerns

Let’s be honest: once the new semester starts, you’ll probably feel too busy or tied down with uni to make big changes to your study techniques, so now is the perfect time to make an impact. And equipped with your thinking from above, you now know which areas on which to focus your energy.


  • Think you fell down with academic referencing? Your university will have resources to help you - find them!

  • Struggling to understand class content? Take it upon yourself to ask more questions when you don’t know the answers - that’s what uni is for!


This advice - work out what you’re struggling with, and then take steps to improve that area in future - will probably seem straightforward. But each and every semester, heaps of students don’t do this type of basic reflection, and the loss is theirs!

"... each and every semester, heaps of students don't do this type of reflection, and the loss is theirs!"


Set some goals for Semester 2

Setting good goals can really help you stay on track in the new semester, particularly if the goals are specifically related to the potential weakness areas you have identified.

Setting goals is more than just writing “improve in my subjects” on a post-it note, though. To get started, and for more structure with your goal setting, check out this article.


Give yourself the best chance to succeed

If you’ve tried to work out why you’re losing marks and you just can’t put your finger on it, perhaps a change of study environment may help. No matter where you’re studying, it’s important to try to make that environment as conducive as possible for effective learning.

What that means is that distractions will be limited, the environment will be consistent with your preferences (perhaps you prefer silence, perhaps you prefer ambient background noise), and that your setup is as ergonomic as possible. Each of these factors will help you study more productively, and probably for longer periods.

On a more day-to-day level, there are things you can work on to give yourself the best chance of success. If you’re spending heaps of time at uni ‘studying’ with your friends but not getting anything done, you might consider moving to a more secluded area from time to time. If you’re trying to study at home, but are having no luck, make a conscious effort to avoid opening Instagram for a certain time period (you could even set an alarm!). You might surprise yourself with how productive you can be in the right environment.


And try to rest!

Above all, it’s important to have a little bit of a break from study between semesters. Semester 1 probably took a bit out of you, and, if it was your first ever semester at university, there were probably a lot of adjustments to be made.

Now that Semester 2 is on the horizon, taking a little bit of time to re-energise will be useful to ensure you’re fresh and ready to go on day one.

Best of luck for Semester 2!

Click here for university subject reviews.