Skip to content

Studying at the University of Adelaide

You may find that studying at a new university is different to your experience from home, your previous university or school.

Academic Life

Click the image below to load the video, and click again to play it.

Academic Life Video

  • Your Study

    Lectures and tutorials can give you a good indication of what will be in the final exam, and how to approach assignments. Students in research programs are more independent and have a less-structured program.


    University lectures are instructive: it is a formal session where a lecturer instructs a large group of students in the outline, expansion and debate of a premise. It is very important to prepare for lectures by looking through what will be covered and doing any required reading before the lecture. You need to listen and take notes in lectures, writing down the main points covered for later reference. You should then review and rewrite your notes within 2–3 days after the lecture.

    Lectures are held weekly and you are required to attend them. The numbers of students attending decreases as the semester progresses. In first year there can be up to several hundred students attending each lecture. In second and third year the numbers decrease, and there may be 20–100 students in lectures.

    Lectures are designed to give you a starting point on a specific area of knowledge and identify the most important areas of the course. You do not offer your opinions in the lecture: discussion is allowed in tutorials.


    Tutorials are weekly classes (called ‘tutes’) at which you are expected to discuss topics and concepts related to the previous lecture.

    Your lecturer, or a tutor, may lead your tutorial. You can contact either one for help and further information about your course.

    Don’t feel embarrassed about asking questions in your tutorial. It is one of the best ways to learn.
    The size of a tutorial group varies. There may be between 15–30 students and attendance is usually compulsory.

    In tutorials you discuss key topics and ideas related to your course. Tutorials provide a good opportunity to clarify points from the lecture and readings, and you are expected to develop skills in discussion, argument, problem solving and in articulating an opinion.

    You will normally be required to prepare for each tutorial. Preparation may include reading a set text, answering set questions, doing calculations, or preparing a presentation that you will give to the class.


    Practicals—or ‘pracs’—are small classes of 10–30 students. They are occasions where you are required to undertake an experiment (often in a laboratory), or some form of clinical placement. Attendance is usually compulsory and you will often be required to ‘write up’ your ‘results’ as ‘lab notes’.

    Research students

    Research students are expected to be independent and self-motivated. You are expected to plan and direct your study, organise your time, undertake your research and write up your work under time constraints that you largely specify.

    However, this must all be overseen by your Supervisor. You are expected to meet regularly with your Supervisor. At these meetings you will discuss your study progress: what you have been doing, what you will do next, and how this current research fits in with the broader aims of your project.

    You may also discuss professional training, (such as publication and conference opportunities), as well as any problems you have encountered or any worries you have. You will negotiate with your Supervisor how often to meet, and how often you need to submit work to your Supervisor. Since your Supervisor may be quite busy you will need to be proactive in contacting them and arranging meetings. The work you discuss shows them what you are doing (this may take the form of a chapter, report, paper or experiment result).

    You are also expected to take part in your Department’s seminar program.

    Useful Links For Research Students:

    List of University Policies
    A to Z Policies and forms associated with research activities
    Research Student Handbook

  • Assessment

    As well as attending lectures, tutes and pracs, you are required to submit several forms of assessment. These include: tests, oral presentations, projects, essays and examinations. These tasks are marked, and they all contribute to your final grade for the course.

    If you have concerns about your written English, sign up for an Academic Skills workshop during Orientation. During semester time, the Writing Centre runs courses on Academic Writing Skills—visit their website to find out session times. The Writing Centre can help you improve your editing and English skills.

    Admission, enrolment, assessment and progress: coursework students

    If a student’s progress in an academic program is consistently unsatisfactory, conditions may be placed on the student’s continued enrolment or the student may be excluded from continuing their studies. Refer to the ‘Unsatisfactory Academic Progress by Coursework Students’ policy for more information. Please visit the ISC for advice and assistance if you have any questions about these issues, or if you receive any written or electronic communication from the University about your academic progress.

  • Asking Questions and Getting Help

    Most lecturers and tutors have set consultation times for students. Each week there will be a time when they are in their office and available to see students. These consultation times should be listed in the course outline or posted on to the lecturer’s office door; if not, you can ask at the Faculty/ School office.

    When you meet with a lecturer or tutor, it is important that you clearly identify what you want help with. Be specific: before the meeting, decide on the exact questions you are going to ask. For example, saying ‘I don’t understand anything so far’ is too vague—it does not give the lecturer an indication of what you can do, and makes it difficult for the lecturer to know what issues you need addressed. It would be better to try something like, ‘I am having trouble with the concept of X. I think it leads to Z, but I feel like I’m missing something in between’. This gives the lecturer more specific information, and makes it easier for him or her to assist you. It also demonstrates that you are making an effort to try and understand.

  • Exams

    You may have minor examinations throughout the semester, but the major examinations are held at the end of each semester.

    Extra time will not be granted on the basis of language competence, e.g. where English is a second language.

    Getting a good mark in an exam requires more than the memorising of lecture material. As well as demonstrating knowledge of the course, you need to show that you understand it and that you know how to apply this knowledge.

    For help with preparing for and performing well in exams, the Writing Centre and Maths Learning Centre can help.  These are free services offered to all students at the University and we particularly encourage new international students to make the most of the services.

    Most end of semester examinations are not held on the North Terrace campus, and are normally held at the Wayville Showgrounds in Goodwood. Visit their website for information on the Showgrounds and how to get there.

    Further specific information is available closer to exam time.

    For further information on exams, visit the Exams website.

    Topics covered by this website include:

    • exam timetable
    • how to find your results
    • alternative examination
    • arrangements and timetable clashes
    • supplementary examinations.

    Do you feel under pressure?

    Adjusting to university, a new city and a new home can take time, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed now and then. Once you have identified what the issues are that are bothering you, try to do something to actively resolve them. If you want some help to identify issues or think of solutions, come and see an Advisor at the ISC. It is normal to miss your home, family and friends. Remember, though, that this will probably ease as you become more familiar with the customs and culture and get to know your way around the University and Adelaide. Getting to know some other people and making new friends also makes a big difference.

    In the meantime there are people you can talk with. They will listen, clear up misunderstandings, help with housing concerns and offer general counselling and support. They will maintain confidentiality while helping you to cope with how you’re feeling. These people include:

    • international student advisors
    • student counsellors
    • course advisors or academic staff
    • the University chaplains.

    If you take advantage of these resources, you will not have to struggle alone.

    Talking to other students is another good idea. They may be going through the same experiences as you are, and might have some good advice.

    For some people, the differences are too great. Loneliness and depression may set in. Feeling bad for a long time can make your academic performance suffer, which can weaken your pride and self-esteem. Taking some personal steps can help.

    Begin by making sure that you are eating healthy food, getting enough exercise and enough rest to function properly. Working effectively requires you to maintain a balance between your study and your personal life. If you can achieve a balance between these you will often get better results with the least wasted effort.

    Another option is to set yourself some specific and achievable goals, and work out some plans on how to achieve these goals. What obstacles are you likely to encounter, and how can you overcome them?
    Remember that different people learn in different ways, so be prepared to experiment with different learning styles. Guidance is available—remember to ask and we will help.

    Look for ways to meet people. It may be difficult at first, but nothing can be achieved without trying. Meet with other international students, other student groups, a host family, or religious groups; go to parties and social events; or come and talk to the staff at the ISC.

    Above all, relax and take time for yourself, even when you are feeling pressured by a lot of class work. Do things you find enjoyable, things that support your good view of yourself and your abilities.

    Practical things to do

    • Define the problem by writing down your answers to the following questions:
    • How is it affecting you now?
    • How might it affect you in the future?
    • How are you reacting?
    • Are you experiencing any physical sensations?
    • What is your emotional response?
    • What are your thoughts and ideas?
    • Are there any changes in your normal behaviour?
    • What steps have you taken so far to try and deal with the problem/issue?
    • What are your options?
    • What is the best option or solution?
    • What would be an acceptable/solution outcome for you?
    • What support can you draw on to help, either at the University or in your personal life?
    • What do you need to do (now) to reduce or eliminate any stress or discomfort?
  • Academic Progress

    Visa condition 8202 requires that all students make satisfactory academic progress. This does not mean that you can never fail a course. DIAC and the University understand that you may take some time to settle into your studies, may have a difficult semester later in your program, or may not succeed in a particular course or area of study. You will not be penalised for this. However, if you persistently fail a number of courses, you will encounter problems.

    All students at the University will have their academic progress monitored every year. If you have very poor results over a year or more it is possible that you will be precluded from further studies in your program. If this occurs, your student visa will be cancelled.

    Coursework students should check the University Policy website for information on admission, enrolment, assessment and progress.

    Research students should check the Research Student Handbook.

    If you experience any difficulties settling into your studies or with any aspect of your studies throughout your program, you should contact the ISC as soon as possible. There are many support services available to assist you and the sooner you ask for help, the more chance you have of avoiding poor results.


International Student Support (Kenneth Wills Building)

Call us +61 8 8313 4828
Opening Hours: Monday 10am-5pm, Tuesday to Friday 9am-5pm
Contact us
Life in Adelaide News