Critically reflect on and evaluate the academic skills you need to develop in order to succeed on your degree course

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There are many different learning techniques and studying skills needed to succeed in various spheres of education. Any of the chosen professions requires its own individual approach to learning. For example, to be a good musician, you need to develop your musical skills, such as a musical ear, understanding musical notes and etc., but to be a good cook you do not need those skills at all. However, no one is born with all the skills he needs for his future profession, so during the time that student spends at university, he should discover his weaknesses and turn them into his strengths in order to be well qualified specialist and open up wide career opportunities in the future. This essay will explore and reflect on the academic skills needed to develop to succeed in Business Economics and Finance undergraduate degree course, which I have chosen to pursue my future career in Economics.

Business Economics and Finance is a course related to careers in business, management and economics. Thus in order to achieve the goal of becoming a professional economist, manager or financier, student should analyse his current personal skills and find out weaknesses which he is going to get rid of in those three years spent at University.

Firstly, student has to learn how to manage his time. Author Robert Half (1997 p. 79) claims that the skill of time management is becoming very important in order to function in today’s busy world, “which calls on us to accomplish more — with, of course, less time”. Therefore it is advised to find out all the deadlines to submit given assignments and dates of upcoming examinations. However, most students do not think about a given task immediately and postpone all at the last moment. The result of that is last minute behaviour, which affects the outcome of the assignment. I do not have that kind of experience, since I always plan my time from day to week and can anticipate all the important dates and events in the near future.

Much harder for me is doing research. It is one of the most important and probably the most complicated skills, I have ever known. Many students have problems with that, because they start doing research from the end; they are looking for information before analysing the questions they need to answer. I used to do it in the same way until I realized that it is very hard to look for information when you have no idea what the question was about and what it stands for. To do research well, is not enough to look for key words through Google search or copy the words of an unknown author from Wikipedia website. Research skills involve everything from understanding the issue and finding relevant information to using that information avoiding plagiarism. Stella Cottrell suggests that identifying the task, marking criteria and information sources helps to do research easier and faster (2003 p.115). To develop academic skills it is advised to find out what technique of research is the best for researcher and remember using various sources of information.

Next no less important and complicated are written communication skills. For some students it is even harder to express their thoughts on piece of paper than do research. In writing it is crucial to maintain proper structure and clearly express your thoughts, keeping in mind the variety of audience that is going to read the text. I have never had problems with that; vice versa, sometimes I find it easier to express myself clearly in written communication than in oral. However, it is hard for me to avoid grammar, punctuation and proper referencing mistakes, because in Russian language, which is my mother tongue and Lithuanian, which I used to study at Secondary School it is completely different from English language. To develop my written communication skills I am going to write more academic writings, analyze mistakes I did and try to avoid them in the future.

Finally, the last academic skill I am going to describe is oral presentation. It can be divided into many small parts, such as a verbal communication, body language, appearance and ability to make eye contact with an audience, which are needed to be developed in order to make a good presentation. According to The Student Skills guide, “oral presentation can be useful in assessment as they demonstrate abilities in a way, which does not require written skills” (2001, 327p.). However, not many students can feel confident speaking in front of crowd of people, especially if all men in this audience are strangers for the speaker. Most speakers feel uncomfortable when, raising eyes, they see hundreds of eyes looking at them. In consequences of that, at the very beginning of the presentation, it is becoming a noticeable shake in the presenters’ voice, what clearly indicates that they feel uncomfortable and nervous in front of this public. Ability to speak in front of big audience is a very rare gift, which I do not have. I do not have problems with speaking to an audience, but the only word of presentation makes me shiver. When studied in Secondary school in Lithuania, I used to be a presenter for many school’s occasions and I liked to do it. However, official presentations are much harder for me, because I start thinking about the marks I’m going to get for the presentation and the notes teacher is making. I look a little pessimistic at it and worry, that all the notes teacher makes are about my mistakes, because good expression usually leaves in the mind.

In order to help students develop those skills, many Universities require making group or individual oral presentations and London Metropolitan University is not an exception. The presentation about the global warming was the first group presentation I made since I get to University. As English for professional communications website asserts “making a good oral presentation is an art that involves attention to the needs of your audience, careful planning, and attention to delivery” what we tried to do with the group (English for professional communications).

The first skill that I strengthened was the time management. As I mentioned above, ability to manage time is extremely important and necessary for every student. Therefore I paid a big attention to participation in organizing group meetings and to do all work on time. The study skills handbook (2003 p. 74-75) helped me to do it well, using effective diary and days to do list, giving priorities to the most important things. Despite the fact that I have never had any problems with the time management, I have strengthened it more and become more responsible and organized.

The second, but no less important skill I expanded was research. Upon preparing for the presentation, I learnt how to do research correctly, how to start researching and avoid plagiarism. Analysing the topic and dividing it into small parts for each member of the group had very helped me to know what information should I look for and do my research better. In time of collecting information for the presentation I had improved my weak academic research skills, which I am going to develop more in the near future.

Next I developed my IT and writing skills. Doing slides by using Power Point helped me to improve both of mentioned skills at the same time. It is important not to leave any grammar and punctuation mistakes or plagiarism on the slides and to avoid it I was using “The student’s guide to writing” (2005), “Advanced grammar in use” (2002), and “Presentation skills for students” (2005) books.

And finally, I had an opportunity to develop my oral presentation skills. Despite the fact that I did not make it well, I had a chance to see, how it is going and understood how difficult is to speak foreign language in front of audience. This experience will help me to prepare better for the next presentation.

To conclude, doing any course at University requires many academic skills, such as time management, research, IT, oral presentation skills and etc., which are needed to succeed in the chosen degree course. All students have possibility to develop those skills during the years spent at University and rid of weaknesses they might have. In order to help students to develop attainments, tutors give them various activities, such as a coursework, group work, presentation and etc.

During the first term at university, I had an opportunity to develop many of my academic skills, due to oral group presentation.

Doing the presentation was a little hard for my group, because of the use of English language, which is not the mother tongue for most of us. However, all members of group invested in it very much effort and work. And although it was not very well organized, I got a lot of useful skills, which I am going to develop in foreseeable future.

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