Disclaimer: the following info is true for the Aerospace Engineering programme. Some of it could be slightly different for other programmes.
At Surrey, undergraduate studying is split into two 15-week semesters. Of the 15 weeks, the first 11 are teaching weeks and week 12 is revision week. The last 3 weeks depend on the semester. In semester 1, weeks 13-14 are exam weeks and week 15 is a reading week; in semester 2, weeks 13-15 are exam weeks. The 3-week Christmas break takes place after week 11 of semester 1 i.e. after all the teaching is done. The 4-week Easter break takes place after either week 7 or week 8 in semester 2.
Each semester, you usually take a total of 60 credits, and one module is normally 15 credits so you take 4 modules per semester. There are 30- and 45-credit modules but these are less common. For every module you take, you are assessed by a combination of class-tests, coursework and exams. You could have only one of these or all 3 in a module. For example, a module could have a class test worth 20% and an exam worth 80%, whereas another module could have two pieces of coursework worth 50% each and no exam. In Aerospace engineering, the number of exams you get per year decreases as you go from first year to final year. In first year I had 7 exams, whereas now, in my fourth and final year, I have only 3 exams. This is mainly because you start doing group projects from 2nd year; these are worth 30 credits. And in your final year you get an individual project which is worth 30 credits if it’s a BEng (third year) project or 45 credits if it’s an MEng (fourth year) project.
Now, since I just finished exams a week ago, I thought I would tell you a little about them. Exams can be worth anywhere between 50% and 100% and for engineering. The vast majority of them are two hours long. In this semester, I had two exams, both worth 70%. They were Fracture Mechanics & Finite Element Analysis, and Turbulence. The first was on a Monday and the second on a Friday.
Every person has unique study techniques so unfortunately I can’t tell you the one thing you can do to always do well. I can just tell you what I do and give you some tips. For engineering, most modules will have some ‘maths’ so it is very important to practice solving problems. For this, your best friend is past exam papers. These will show you what level of difficulty to expect. Tutorials (which are problem sets you get during the course of the semester) can be useful as well but their difficulty can vary a lot from that of exam problems. For me, I have always found that it is best to first go through the lectures (or read one of the recommended books if the lectures aren’t enough for you) to understand the topic, then practice, first using the tutorials, then past exam papers. Basically what you want to do is solve as much as you can but of course, if there’s not much time and you have to choose one thing to practice, always go for past exam papers.
During exam time, the library can get very busy – and noisy – so studying there could become tricky. Having all your friends there as well can create more distractions. So if you’re the type of person who’s distracted easily, it might be best to stay away from the library during exam time. The university opens lots of spaces for studying during the exam period to make sure you can always find a spot if the library’s too busy or if you just want to go somewhere else. Personally, I like it to be quiet when I study, so for my difficult exam, I stopped going to the library and went to a quiet building with computers where I could concentrate. I ended up doing very well so it worked for me.
If I can leave you with one piece of advice only, it is this: make a plan. Try to come up with a study plan really early to cover everything, but make it flexible at first, so that you can adjust it if you miss a day for example. But do your best to stick to it. If you do that, you can make sure you cover everything and get enough time to practice, so you will end up doing really well.