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Studying in the UK as an International Student

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By Hannah Kagawala 

As an international student in the UK, I had my fair share of academic surprises in the first term. From the system of studying to the importance placed on student development, everything was new here. However, Northumbria provides a lot of advice, support, and guidance to students like me, when we want it. 

Having successfully survived the assessment period in the first term, below are some of my tips on how to study in Northumbria and the UK in general. Please note that since my course is marked using assessments and not examinations, this article is slightly skewed to my experiences with assessments. However, I’m sure everyone will find something useful below.  

1.Understand the marking system 

In the UK, the marking system is usually defined as: 

  • 70%+ : Distinction
  • 60% - 69% : Merit
  • 50% - 59% : Pass
  • 0 - 49% : Fail 

The same system is followed in Northumbria, but it is a good idea to confirm it with your Programme Leader or at Ask4Help. Northumbria has a lot of policies and guidelines for how assessments and examinations are set and marked. A summary about them are provided here. 

four students sit around a table in a white classroom. an open laptop and notebooks can be seen on the table, the students are talking

2.Speak to second and third year students for advice 

If you can get in touch with students who are senior to you, whether in the same course or a similar discipline, their experience and knowledge can help you a lot in terms of how to approach your assessments and what are the best tactics for success. You can meet people in social events, in societies, or through LinkedIn. Speaking to a student from Northumbria’s Unibuddy service before you apply for a course can also give you insights on how the learning is structured and if it fits your learning interests. 

3.Make note of the submission dates 

Whether you prefer to use a planner, app, or cloud software, make sure all your assessment submission dates are in one easily accessible place. Return to it regularly to ensure that you are going according to your study plan. 

4.Read the assessment brief carefully 

Assessments are set against programme goals and objectives and have certain learning outcomes. These outcomes are highlighted on the assessment brief along with the marking rubric. The more you revisit the brief, the clearer you will be on how to write your assessment. I cannot stress enough how important it is to read your assessment brief multiple times before submitting your final report! 

Two students sit in a booth in the university library across the table from each other. a coffee cup, open laptop and notepads can be seen on the table. the students are smiling

5.Ask your module tutor if you face any difficulty

The staff at Northumbria are very helpful and approachable. You can speak to them after class, drop into their office, or send them a quick e-mail. Your tutor will be more than happy to help you with any problem - small or big. 

6.Start working as early as you can 

If you truly want to perform well in your assessments, you need to start working on them as early as possible especially if they are all due within days of each other. Writing assessments is not easy at all and submission week can drive students crazy so it helps if you are on top of things right since the beginning! 

7.Make use of the library 

The Northumbria University library achieves some of the highest levels of student satisfaction in the UK and has about 500,000 print books, 843,000 e-books, and 110,000 print and e-journal collection. The digital commons library provides free access to about 120 specialist apps and the libraries in city campus are available 24x7 to students with collaborative and silent study spaces. This place may well become your second home here in Newcastle so get acquainted with it quickly and make good use of the fantastic facilities! 

An image of the university library showing shelves with books, some comfortable chairs with floor lamps, desks and computers to the left and a wall sign saying Floor 3

8.Learn the art of referencing 

I have never cited or referenced my work before so this aspect of my studies in UK really made me anxious. The best thing to do is to read library resources on how to reference or go for a drop-in session on it. You can also refer to citing and referencing books such as Cite Them Right by Richard Pears & Graham Shields (available in the library), RIS software such as EndNote (available on every PC in the university), or websites such as  

While writing your report, make sure that all your references are neatly noted in a separate document or as comments next to where they are cited. This really saves time when writing up the references in the end as you are not hunting for the articles once again! 

9.Form study groups  

Study with your friends so you can exchange ideas, collaborate together, and read and comment on each other’s work. Even if you are not a ‘group studying’ kind of person, try to find friends who will discuss the assessment with you and who can critically appraise your work when you need it. 

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