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About this book

This easy-to-follow guide is packed with advice for students of English as a second language who are studying, or planning to study, a degree taught in English, either in their home country or abroad. It provides practical advice on academic topics, including listening to lectures, group work and academic writing, and also helpful guidance for coping with language issues, making friends and dealing with culture shock. Packed with insights from real students and engaging activities, it will help them to develop the strategies and skills that they need to thrive in a new academic environment.

This is an essential resource for non-native English speakers who are studying in English at degree level. It is also ideal for students who are preparing for university-level studies and for use on pre-sessional courses for international students.

Table of Contents

1. What’s New about Studying in English?

Abstract
Everyone’s experience of learning English is different. Below you will read about the language learning experiences of three students and compare their stories with your own. This will help you to find out what you like about studying English and other subjects in English, and how best to use this book.We are starting this book with three language learning stories that will help you to write your own. The three learners had very different experiences, at different times and in different places. But there are many similarities, too. As you read the stories, compare your experiences with theirs – there are some questions to help you do this at the end of each story. When you have read the three examples, we encourage you to write your own story. My name is Mohammed. I came to the US to learn English in 2012. I used to learn English in Saudi Arabia, but it was not effective because I did not use English often. I faced many challenges in learning English, yet I found different ways to overcome them. When I first came to the US, I would talk for an hour with a native speaker, and at the end of the conversation they would ask me, ‘What are you talking about?’ As you can imagine, it was difficult to find a native speaker who was willing to spend time talking with me. It was natural that they were more interested in talking with people they could have a smooth conversation with.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

2. How to Become a Better Language Learner

Abstract
One of the most important steps in becoming successful in your studies is to make sure your English is good. Having a low level of English often means getting lower scores and failing courses. So it is a good idea to invest your time in improving your English as much as you can. In this chapter we will look at some ways to do that. This chapter will help you to: find out which language skills are the most important for you find out your current English level set your English language learning goals find out what kind of learner you are find the best language school get to know about your university’s language support build a language portfolio keep a language journal find excellent ways to learn English while having fun! Improving your English starts with knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are. The better you know what to focus on, the less time you will waste and the better you will know where to look for help.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

3. Studying Abroad

Abstract
You have decided you want to study abroad. Good for you! This will be one of the most exciting and rewarding times of your life. To make the most of that time, it is important that you carefully consider what to study and where. Many universities around the world welcome international students to their various programmes and majors. You can apply to a degree programme such as a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctoral degree. A bachelor’s degree is usually called an undergraduate degree. A master’s or a doctoral degree is called a graduate or a postgraduate degree. Apart from these degree programmes, you can apply to an English language programme to study English for one or more terms. One term can be as short as a few weeks or as long as 15 weeks. Many programmes offer multiple start dates throughout the year. If you’re interested in studying in the US, websites such as studyusa.com list hundreds of English language programmes for you to choose from. Even when your main goal is to complete a degree programme, enrolling in an English language programme before you start can be a good opportunity for you to adjust to the new environment.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

4. Academic and Technical Vocabulary

Abstract
Words, words, words – why are there so many in English? No one knows for sure exactly how many words there are and how many of those the average person knows, but we do know that the average person has a working knowledge of about 20,000 word families (for example, words like ‘study’ and ‘student’ are in the same family). Luckily we don’t need that many words to be able to understand and use the English language. The 1000 most common words in English cover over 70% of all words in academic texts, and the estimate for the total number of words we need to understand entry-level academic texts is about 7000. This will give you enough knowledge to be able to understand most of the other words from their context. A good point to realize is that the more words you know, the more you will learn from the context, with little or no effort. So, it pays to increase your vocabulary!
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

5. Listening to Lectures

Abstract
We have called this chapter listening to lectures, but if listening was all you had to do then the problem would not be so big. In lectures students have to do many things, which we could summarize as listening, looking, writing and (we hope) understanding. In this chapter we make suggestions for these four skills. Let’s start with some of the problems that students report about listening to lectures. In order to see which parts of this chapter you need to look at, tick the things that are difficult for you. Then turn to that part of the chapter. Respond to each of these statements according to your ideas of whether this is probably or probably not a reason for having lectures. Then check the answers at the end of the book. Why do you think lectures are useful? Write down five ideas here and compare your ideas with ours. Lectures are useful because listening can make the content memorable. The lectures often extend the content covered in the reading. Lecturers may also give important handouts or carry out interesting demonstrations. Sometimes lecturers show how the topic of the lecture is linked to an upcoming exam. Lectures are also a good place to meet other students.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

6. Academic Presentations

Abstract
Giving oral presentations in a second language can be quite scary, yet this might be an important part of your study. Giving a presentation is a common form of assignment in many courses in higher education. As with a writing assignment, your lecturer wants to see whether you understand the materials in the course and are able to analyse, interpret and evaluate what you have learned. He or she probably also wants to evaluate whether you can communicate ideas clearly to an audience. The first step is for you to understand the instructions for your presentation. What do you have to do exactly? What are the lecturer’s expectations? How is your lecturer going to grade your presentation? You can only answer these questions by carefully examining the lecturer’s instructions and asking questions if necessary. You may have listened to many lectures and academic presentations and developed your own understanding of the qualities of an effective presentation. Below, list some of the features that make a presentation great.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

7. Academic Reading

Abstract
Whatever course you do, you must read plenty. This takes time and in a second language can take over your life. Be smart about what and how you read. This chapter will help you to: plan and keep track of your university reading find suitable texts read purposefully read a range of types of text efficiently learn about smart online reading become a critical reader. We interviewed many students to see what they had learnt about reading. For each reply underline the key problem. In the right-hand column make notes about these problems. See the first example. Check your answers at the end of the book. At the start of most of my courses, the lecturer gives out a list of the topics of each lecture and a reading list. They usually have required reading, which is really important, and some suggested extra reading. I find it really helps me understand the lecture if I have done at least the required reading. The lecturer expects us to have read the required reading and so if I haven’t, I can’t understand the lecture. Often I don’t have time to read the extra reading before the lecture.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

8. Principles of Academic Writing

Abstract
Many students who study in English have said that academic writing is one of the most difficult parts of their study. They say it is because lecturers usually expect more from a paper than, for example, an oral presentation. There are many types of academic writing, and this chapter and the next one will deal mostly with one of them, the argumentative essay (a type of writing in which the author tries to convince the reader to agree with his or her viewpoint). We also cover some general principles and processes that apply to all forms of academic writing. In many cases, the audience of your writing in college is your own lecturers, who probably have more knowledge than you do about the topic. Therefore, you are not writing to inform them. Usually, you write to show them that you understand the materials taught in class and have the ability to analyse, interpret and evaluate what you have read and learned. Knowing this, what strategies should you use? The strategies really depend on the specific writing assignment, but consider the principles introduced below.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

9. Essay Writing Processes

Abstract
Chapter 8 helps you to understand general principles of academic writing as well as specific skills such as interpreting essay questions and collecting ideas for your essay. Many students have said that writing an introduction is one of the most difficult parts of an essay, but, once written, it will make drafting the rest much easier. The introduction of an essay introduces the topic and states the author’s main point in what is usually called a thesis statement. The introduction often follows the general-to-specific pattern. Let’s look at one introduction to an essay on whether schooling should be compulsory. Notice how the sentences move from more general ideas to more specific ideas. The underlined sentence is the thesis statement of the essay. You’ve seen two examples of thesis statements in the previous section. The thesis statement is probably the most important sentence in your essay. It states the main point of the essay as well as your critical stance towards the topic.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

10. Small Group Learning

Abstract
When you start attending lectures you will probably be given the outline of the course for the semester. In the outline you may notice that there are also some tutorials (also called seminars) listed. What are tutorials? What happens in them? Let’s find out. Tutorials or seminars are a really important part of university life. They are different from lectures in that the class size is much smaller (usually no more than 20 students) and students have different roles. In lectures, students are relatively passive. They listen and take notes. In tutorials students learn by talking about ideas, asking questions and doing tasks in small groups. So in tutorials, lecturers expect students to be more active and contribute much more than they do in lectures. Students are often unsure about their role in tutorials. This section looks at the reasons why tutorials are a good idea. If you have already taken a tutorial, think about your experiences. To what extent do you agree with these ideas about tutorials? Add up your score and see what this says about your attitude to tutorials.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

11. Assessment

Abstract
You may have been a very successful student in your own country and have passed all your examinations. Maybe you used to think that not getting an A grade was ‘shameful’. The truth is, it is quite common for international students to fail some assessments, especially early on in a course. If it’s any comfort, so do some local students!) This chapter answers the question: ‘How can I do well in assessments?’ Difficulties with language and adjusting to a new country, as well as to new ways of teaching and learning, are a few reasons why it is difficult to know what the university means by ‘assessment’. One way to help yourself is by understanding as much as you can about how your course results are assessed. The answers to these questions will be written in a policy document (maybe on the department website or in your department’s handbook). Information about assessments (also called the ‘study guide’ or ‘course guide’) can also be found on the syllabus handed to you at the beginning of each course. If you are not clear about assessments, ask your lecturer. Lecturers assess you to see if you are learning what they teach. There are many ways in which you can be assessed on university courses and some of these may be very different from how you have been assessed in the past. You can find out how you will be assessed when you choose a course or you may find out in the first lecture.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

12. Communicating with Lecturers

Abstract
There will be times when you need to communicate with lecturers and other staff members to ask for information or make a request. This communication may take place through email, over the telephone, or face to face. This chapter reviews some of the reasons why you contact lecturers, tutors and staff members, and helps you think strategically about the best way to approach them to get what you want. Why do students want to talk with their lecturer or other staff members? Look at the following list of common reasons why students make contact with academic staff and decide which of these purposes you would find hardest or easiest to face? You can look up some comments in the answers at the end of the book. Now you have thought about WHY you might want to contact a lecturer or staff member. From here on you will think about HOW to make that contact. In the next section, we will look at the three main ways of contacting staff – using electronic communication, face to face and on the phone. In this age of advanced communication technology, instead of making phone calls and talking face to face, you may interact with your lecturers and other university employees through other means of communication. In a course, you may need to post your questions in a discussion forum on the course management system at your university. You may even ask questions on Facebook.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

13. Dealing with Problems

Abstract
As a student, expect to face problems and new challenges every day, especially when you study in another country, you live away from home, and you’re cut off from old friends and family, in an unfamiliar country, dealing with an unfamiliar culture, speaking a second language and trying to pass a university course at the same time. It’s not all bad, though. Coming up with innovative solutions can be fun, and experiences that are difficult at the time make great stories to tell people back home about later. How successful you are as a student will depend on how well you deal with these problems. One factor that stops students from doing well at university is their own negative feelings, in other words, anxiety. As teachers, we have seen examples like these: clever students who do well all through the semester, but become so anxious about examinations that they don’t get the results they want students who are anxious because they are not studying, but can’t make themselves start A+ grade students who are anxious in case they get a lower grade for their next assignment normally calm students who let themselves be infected by other people’s worries failing students who feel no anxiety at all.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis

14. Life beyond the Classroom

Abstract
So far this book has been mainly about your studies. This final chapter is about other things you need to know when you start university, especially when you study abroad. This chapter discusses aspects of university culture, including student–lecturer roles and expectations, activities, student organizations and clubs. There are also suggestions for contacting other students and making new friends. This section starts by talking about culture in general. We then discuss ways that universities are different from other places of study, such as schools. In the English-speaking world, universities have many traditions which are the same from one country to another. However, detailed answers to the questions listed above change from one university to another and even from one part of the university to another. For example, lectures and tutorials could have different forms in science, architecture, English literature or language, law, medicine and so on. In one department students may take plenty of notes during lectures, while in another the lecturer might give full notes at the end. In one department the custom may be that students prepare for tutorials, but in another the discussion topic might not be given until the tutorial starts.
Hayo Reinders, Linh Phung, Marilyn Lewis
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