HD: an acronym you will spend most of your university degree striving for. HD stands for ‘High Distinction’ and it’s the highest grade category that you can achieve. This grading system may be unfamiliar, but it’s one of the many differences between school and uni.

These differences are important to understand when it comes to ensuring that you are adequately prepared for you first uni assessments. Keep these tips in mind to start your degree off on the right foot.

Read the unit outline religiously

Unlike high school and college, you’re given instructions for all your assignments from the first day. This may seem daunting, but it actually makes it easier for you to be prepared for what’s ahead.

The unit outline for all your classes will be available online through the UC website and it’s extremely important that you’re familiar with it from the outset of the semester. The unit outline contains a variety of important information regarding your class, but the section that is most important for your grade is the ‘Assessment Item Details’.

This lays out the marking criteria, expectations, and guidelines for your individual assessment pieces. By knowing what’s ahead of you from the get-go, you’ll be able to listen to lectures, attend classes and read unit materials with an assessment-focussed mind frame.

Attendance isn’t compulsory, but attend everything anyway

Just when you started celebrating the fact that you can get a degree without showing up to classes, we’re here to tell you that absence could affect your grades. Uni is supposed to be flexible and you normally won’t have teachers nagging you about attendance, but this means that the onus is on you to ensure you’re all over the course material.

This means listening to lectures (in person or online), attending classes where possible, and doing as much of the unit material (e.g. readings) as possible. The more you do these things, the higher chance you will understand what’s expected of you for assessments.

Understand that most of your assessments are done independently, so make sure you’re on track

A lot of class time in school is dedicated to planning and working on assessments, particularly if they’re essays. But you won’t normally have this class time at uni and your teachers don’t always indicate when you should start an assignment or how to prepare for the exam, so it’s important that you ensure that you’re on top of things.

To help you get in the zone, here are some helpful apps to help you with your studies:

  • GoConqr: allows you to create online mind-maps, flashcards, notes, and quizzes, to improve your learning and to prepare for assessments.
  • Focus: an app that blocks distracting websites like Facebook for study periods to ensure that you’re not tempted to log back into your social media.
  • iStudiez Pro: one place for your class schedule, assessment deadlines, to do list, grades, and other helpful functions, to have a fully organised university life.

Know the UC referencing guide

School is pretty relaxed on referencing essays and other assignments, but at uni a significant portion of your grade is dependent on extent and relevance of your research and a perfect referencing style. So, behold the University of Canberra Referencing Guide. The unit convenor of each class will typically state in the unit outline what referencing style they prefer, so make sure you look up how to properly present your references to avoid losing marks.

It’s also important to know what makes a good quality, peer-reviewed reference. Referencing sites such as Wikipedia is frowned upon for lacking credibility, so stick to papers found on reliable search sites such as Google Scholar and the UC library online portal. Note, going through the UC library will allow you access to papers that you would otherwise have to pay for!

Find a peer from class and review each other’s essays or to study for exams

School teachers are great for allowing students to submit drafts to know how to improve before the final submission. At uni, however, you’d be hard-pressed to find a teacher who would do this as it’s not a common part of the assessment process.

Instead, find a peer who will help you go through the course content together to ensure you’re on the right track and haven’t missed any important points.

When all else fails, go to the library

The ultimate student saviour is also the most old-school – the UC library. Here you will find ASK advisors (the ones wearing purple t-shirts, hard to miss) who are there to help with all of your questions and guide you in the right direction.