Preparing to Study

How are classes structured in the UK?


Lectures are large classes, often lasting around one to two hours, directed by a lecturer. This lecturer discusses the topic, often accompanied by powerpoint slides, while students take notes. Lectures usually take place at least once a week and are the main way to introduce a new topic.


With smaller classes, and often a longer time frame, seminars are a more engaging way to discuss topics. Students are often required to present short presentations that lead to class discussions. This debate style is designed to make you critique the topic with the aim of greater understanding.


Generally the smallest of all classes, tutorials are led by a tutor and focus on the work required during that period. These classes are ideal for asking questions and making sure that you are up to date with assignment pieces. Participating in discussions, and asking questions, is really valued – participation often forms a part of your subject’s marking.

You will therefore have to participate in discussion during tutorials more than you would most other sessions.

Depending on your course you may be expected to also attend practicals. These classes, for example in science or law courses, are designed to apply the practical skills to the theoretical/academic skills developed in other types of classes.

How will I be assessed?

Written Assignments

Essays, projects and reports are a common form of assessment across many courses. The basis of this will generally be independent research but some courses (including engineering and mathematics) may use use questions but require you to demonstrate your use of formulas.

Group Assignments

Working with other students allows you develop a range of skills and prepares you for working in diverse working environments. Group assignments, particularly those with joint grades, can present challenges for many students but are a key component of many courses in the UK. For more information on how to succeed in group assignments, take a look at our guide.


Exams are generally conducted at the end of courses and test your knowledge of the coursework. There are two main types of exams: ‘closed’ and ‘open’. In ‘closed’ examinations you are not allowed to bring books in with you to refer to. They are conducted in controlled environments with a set time limit for completion. ‘Open’ examinations may be conducted in the same setting but allow you to bring textbooks and notes, or may even allow you to take the paper away and return it within a certain time period. Be aware that at some UK institutions, subjects can be marked by a 100% weighted exam. Read course descriptions carefully if you feel you do better in other forms of assessment!

Oral Assignments

A presentation can often form part of the assessments you need to do to complete a course. This usually means preparing a visual aid as well (e.g. PowerPoint) and rehearsing your material. It’s important to time yourself and practice ahead of time. Knowing a little extra around your talking point is also important, as there may also be questions from your audience. For more information on oral presentations, take a look at our guide.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is essentially copying someone else’s work and presenting it as your own. This may be literally taking an entire essay written by someone else or including the words of an author without referencing them. If you use someone else’s idea, even if you write it in your own words, you will need to indicate the source. Your institution will provide you extensive information of their preferred style of referencing. If you are found guilty of plagiarism there can be serious consequences, including expulsion from your course which would lead to the cancellation of your student visa.