Clearly, different students can do different amounts of work in any given time. The information here is meant to be a guide to apportioning this time between activities, and to scheduling activities, so that a balanced collection of work can be conducted over the year. However, it should be stressed that, in general, students have the final say in deciding how to organise their time effectively. Indeed, learning time-management skills is one of the goals for students during third and fourth years.
Lecture-based courses usually have 20 lectures (and possibly some tutorials). For a 10 point course, this leaves about 80 hours for coursework, recommended reading and exam revision and the exam itself. Lecturers should take these estimates into account when assigning work. Students who feel that their workload is excessive for the time available should discuss this with the course lecturer, course representative or contact the course organiser.
Students often report spending large amounts of time on coursework. In many cases this can be traced, not to an excessive workload, but to the student's work practices. Coursework should always be planned in advance. For instance, programming should not be attempted until a specification is planned of the program to be written. Idle hacking in the hope that something will turn up is both wasteful of time and leads to poorly structured and buggy programs.
Another frequent complaint is that an excessive number of deadlines fall at the same time. This only causes a problem if all the work is left to the last minute. If work is staggered throughout the year, with some being finished well before the deadline, then no problem should arise. Lecturers can help students stagger their work by leaving plenty of time between the assignment of work and the deadline for submission. They can also help by announcing the work schedule well in advance. Information about the work required for each course can be found in the online course descriptions.
It is your responsibility to organise your time so that everything gets done. Here are some strategies that may help you to do this:
- Put together the information about what has to be handed in, and when, for all the courses you are taking. This may reveal in advance times where, without adequate preparation, you will have too much to do.
- If you have legitimate reasons for late submission (e.g., illness) then make sure that you approach the course lecturer in advance of the deadline to ask for an extension (he/she will then contact the course organiser to discuss the request, this is done in order to ensure consistency across courses). Extensions are usually granted provided: the application is made in advance; the student is at an unavoidable disadvantage compared to his/her peers; and it will not cause any additional problems, e.g. with the timetable. If you have problems of this kind for multiple submissions, you should see the Course Organiser to negotiate a whole new timetable for them.
- Plan when you intend to start on each exercise. Often you can start on a piece of work early, leaving more time for other things later when deadlines coincide.
- Pay special attention to what weight the mark of each exercise is given in the overall assessment. Make sure that you don't spend too much time on insignificant exercises and that you give significant ones the time they deserve. For instance, the project is worth the same as several courses.
- The law of diminishing returns operates in coursework. A basic performance earns a large part of the available mark. Generally, extra work earns extra marks in only logarithmic proportion. Thus it is preferable to submit two basic items rather than one exceptional one. Incidently, similar remarks apply to exam questions.
- Leave yourself time for going to lectures and tutorials (if any). Remember that the material covered in these will be tested in the exams and that these account for a significant proportion of your degree mark. Make sure that you get value from these - if there are things that you don't understand or which need explaining in different ways, make sure that you use the opportunity to ask questions and initiate discussions. If you miss lectures and/ or tutorials, you will have to work much harder later to make sense of the material from (often incomplete) accounts in lecture notes and textbooks.