This post was last updated on 31/12/2015.
You're entering the University of Auckland and you're curious what it's like. You don't know what to ask so here we've compiled a brief introduction on what University is like!
There are 2 main semesters in one academic year: Semester 1 and Semester 2. These semesters are usually 12 weeks long each with a mid-semester break of 2 weeks between weeks 6 and 7. Semester 1 usually starts in the first Monday of March whereas Semester 2 usually starts on the penultimate Monday of July. The semesters finish whenever your last exam finishes.
You usually do 4 papers per semester. Note that certain papers are only offered in certain semesters (e.g. MEDSCI 142 is only offered in Semester 2) so if you fail a certain paper, you may have to wait an entire year before being able to attempt the paper again.
In order to graduate, you simply need to finish all the papers as required by your degree. Some people want to finish earlier by doing 5 papers per semester and/or doing Summer School. Summer School if a 6 week semester with only a few courses available. The lectures are twice as frequent in order to cram everything in.
A 'paper' otherwise known as a 'course' or 'subject' in the medical sciences usually has 3-4 hours of lectures per week along with a 3 hour lab every 2 weeks. Thus with 12 academic weeks per semester, you can expect 36-48 lectures + 6 labs per paper. You're given your timetable on Student Services Online (SSO) and you're expected to show up to these lectures and labs by yourself.
At University, it is quite a different experience than high school in that you're much more independent when it comes to learning. You're in charge of your education - you're essentially working a full time job... except you're paying someone else, not earning money! The University recommends spending 10 hours a week per paper - (lectures and labs are included in these 10 hours) - so studying full time at 4 papers per semester means you should be 'working', on average, 40 hours a week. However, skill level varies from person to person and in order to achieve the top grade, different people may have to study different amounts to achieve that top grade.
But how exactly do you 'study'? I think you'll understand more clearly once University has started, but just to give you an idea for now. At University, you will need to know whatever the lecturer lectures on - and if you want to achieve the top grade, you'll need to know whatever the lecturer lectures on very well - that is, potentially memorising all bits of information. It sounds daunting, but you'll probably get used to it; especially in science, everything naturally follows on from one another so understanding one concept makes understanding the next concept easier, sort of. So, studying is basically knowing everything the lecturer teaches so when (s)he sets your test or exam, you'll be able to answer those questions with exactly the information the lecturer taught you during the lectures.
During lectures, how do you take notes - surely, lecturers will be speaking too fast for you to be able to write everything down! This is where it gets a bit more complicated. Remember, you (should) have the course guide filled with notes the lecturer wanted you to have before you came to the lecture. This may include text, pictures, incomplete text, incomplete pictures (stuff for you to fill in during lectures) etc. Every lecturer teaches differently and thus, your note-taking during lectures will vary depending on lecturer. Some lecturers have everything on the slides, with not much in the course guide - in which case, note-taking in lectures simply involves either taking down key points and copying out specific, important notes from the lecture slides into your notes after the lecture (lecture slides are released onto CECIL after the lecture) or just typing them out. Sometimes, especially for POPLHLTH 111, the lecture slides are uploaded before the lecture; so you can print them off and annotate them during the lecture. Other lecturers have most of their teaching content already in the course guide with extra information in the lecture slides. This simply involves taking down whatever is extra from the lecture slides into your course guide. (If you miss something during lectures, you can just catch up later and fill it in). Other lecturers have pictures in the course guide which are not filled out; or can be drawn upon. This is especially evident from lecturers who teach anatomy-related fields, they like to use lots of different colours to write on pictures that you have in your course guide. You'll probably be spending your time copying whatever they draw or write since they have a 'document camera', something which projects whatever they're drawing at the lectern onto the projector. There are quite a few different styles, as you can see already, but like I said, each lecturer is unique and we will delve into this further in each individual link for each paper.
Studying. How do you study and how much should you study - this is probably for you to discover. Each person does it differently and you probably shouldn't let other people influence you (e.g. "I heard this other guy studied 6 hours per weekday and 10 hours per day in the weekend, and he got an A+ with that so I should probably do the same"). Everyone takes in lecture content and concepts at a different rate. The most important thing to do is to sit down, go through the material - read it, possibly listen to the lecture recording again if you have to, understand it and think about it. This is the most crucial thing to do. No amount of watching 'useful videos' or attending revision classes will help you more than just simply going through the material. You've got a lot of resources already and trying to add other resources (such as going to non-University-affiliated companies) into the mix may simply be a distraction. (Read more about the Faculty of Medical and Health Science's stance on said organisations here). Getting feedback from internal assessments should help gauge how well your study is going and thus you can respond to it in a similar fashion - if you feel you're not happy with your grades, you can put extra work into it. Your goal basically should be to be able to understand and recall all the knowledge imparted by the lecturer during his or her lecture.
Study tips: just some things that might help you - but everyone learns differently - so experiment and find your own balance. Writing up your own notes - this is an active form of resummarising what you learnt; actively reconstructing knowledge thus is beneficial. Writing up cue cards and testing yourself - this again forces you to actively recall information; which is extremely useful in the learning process. Other techniques such as drawing mind maps, pictures, graphs or diagrams to aid your kinesthetic or visual learning side may help as well. Reading just by itself is quite limited in its usefulness - so just rereading your notes might not be that helpful; when you see familiar words, you trick yourself thinking that you 'know' the content but when in an exam, you have to recall it, you might not be able to. Last tip: pre-read what you will learn in a lecture before the lecture starts. Just spending 5-10 minutes reading whatever is in the course guide already, thinking about it, raising questions about what it means, how it applies to other stuff etc. can really help consolidate your learning during lectures.
Regarding the laboratory component, they are an interactive part of the course where you are in a smaller student-to-tutor ratio. It's a great opportunity to talk, ask and joke with the lab demonstrators and tutors! They're (usually) very friendly and more than happy to help - so be sure to extract as much information out of them as possible. During a lab, it usually presents a particular activity which you have to complete and through doing that activity (be it an experiment, dissection, observation), you have to answer a few questions which underlie the whole 'science' behind it all. This will then (hopefully) develop your understanding of the topic (which is usually related to lecture content). Labs are held fortnightly so there are usually 6 labs (since there are 12 weeks of University per semester).