29th September 2000 at 01:00
Sara Bubb offers advice to students and NQTs I've just started a PGCE and feel utterly overwhelmed by the amount of reading and writing we are expected to do. I haven't studiedfor years and was never much good at essays. Any tips?

You need to get organised. Read a book on study skills. Buy files and stationery and ideally get hold of a computer (an old one will do for word-processing). Make a wall-planner so you can see deadlines and then draw up a timetable of what needs to be done and by when. Use your time efficiently by thinking about when you work best and what use you can make of "dead" time, such as bus or train journeys.

Try to read the recommended texts rather than everything on the library shelf. Don't read every word - take time to find the most relevant sections through judicious use of the index. Skim read to gt a feel for the main message, then home in on the most useful bits.

Don't take masses of notes or write lots of quotations, but list key points and summarise ideas, referring carefully to page numbers so you can return to a point if necessary. Make a list of references for everything you read, in the required format.

Look carefully at essay titles and assessment criteria. What exactly will the person marking them be looking for? What most people find difficult is relating what they've read to classroom practice, so constantly making this link will help enormously. Plan your essays using headings logically and stick to the word limit. Constantly bear the title and assessment criteria in mind. Good luck.

E-mail your questions to: Bubb regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence

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