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The Skills to Study

When you are trying to fit study in around your full or part-time job it’s essential that you find the most efficient way of learning. It may be that you are already aware of what works for you and, if that’s the case, great! However, for some of you it may have been years since you studied and you are perhaps not really sure how to go about it. If this is you, read on to find out the skills you’ll need to brush up on and some techniques to get you started.


Reading is one of the most important skills needed for any kind of study, but it is particularly important when you are studying a distance learning course – you’ll have lots and lots of reading to do. Luckily, reading is a skill that improves with practice. And, if you find you are struggling, there are plenty of resources, including student services, to help you. The following is what we recommend you do to read and learn the information in your modules.

Read each module through at least three times:

First read – this should be a quick read through. It’s aimed at familiarising yourself with the content in the module so you get an idea of the main points. Do not be concerned about fully understanding the content or making notes at this stage.

Second read – this time read the module more thoroughly. Note down anything you are unsure of – see note taking techniques for more help with this.

Third read – the final read through is to check that you’ve understood the content and to fix the ideas in your mind.

This is only a guide so, if you find you’ve understood the module on the second read through, don’t feel obliged to read it the final time. Likewise, if you need to read it another two times, or as many as you need, do it. The course works on a cumulative learning process so, it’s best not to move onto the next module until you’ve completely understood the previous one.


Writing, or in this case note taking, forms a vital part of any learning process. The process of reading and transforming information into your own words helps you understand and remember it. There’s even research to back this up. In 2002 a study by J. Hartley discovered that ‘note taking is an effective information-processing tool that is commonly used both in daily life and in many professions’. So, it’s worth taking a little time finding the best method for you.

A Note Taking Technique

As mentioned above, we advise that you take notes on the second read through of the course modules. You should read the information on the three main note taking techniques – outlining, mind mapping and the Cornell method – and decide which one you’d like to use. Feel free to change your mind if you find the technique you’ve chosen doesn’t work for you. Make notes as you read through the module, paying attention to the main points and highlight anything you are unsure of. Once you’ve done this you should compare what you’ve written to the original text to ensure it’s an accurate reflection of the information you’ve read.


This is a vital part of learning and is necessary for you to move forward through your course. It’s an ongoing process that occurs as you read through the modules and make notes on them. Re-reading your notes regularly and asking yourself questions about what you’ve learnt helps you to retain the information and highlights areas that may need further study.

Hartley, J. (2002). Note taking in non academic settings: a review. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 16, 559-574.


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Theresa Gooda Writers Bureau's Student of the Year 2021

“I began my first Writers Bureau course (Comprehensive Creative Writing) in 2007. Having more than covered the course fees from published pieces I have never looked back. Initially my ambitions were to get going. I knew I wanted to be a writer, I just didn’t know how to go about it, or, if I’m honest, quite what I wanted to write. Since, I have gradually blended a teaching career with writing, first with articles and short stories, then increasing the writing commitment dramatically when I secured an agent in 2016 to ghostwrite a series of memoirs. This year I have undertaken The Art of Writing Poetry course to really hone my skills in what I now realise is a genre I love - and have already had my first poems published.”

Theresa Gooda - Writers Bureau Student of the Year 2021

Read Theresa's full story


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