How to survive your Literature degree

Today’s blog post looks back at advice from the Little Bird Book Blog, written by Surrey SLL graduate Rosie. With so much going on in the first term at university, she looks at her five top tips to help study for your English Literature degree.  

“As it is September I can’t help but be nostalgic for my time at university, so as a way to indulge in this nostalgia I decided to focus my additional monthly posts on university advice and reflections! 

Although the start of this academic year is not like the others, with more long distance learning than ever before, there are still things you must know before starting your English Literature degree! You may think some of these are obvious but as starting university can be overwhelming, it is incredibly easy to overlook the basics! So here are my top five tips for getting through your Literature degree!

1.      Spend your time wisely!

When you first receive your timetable you may think you have more free time than you actually do. In my first year I had a total of eight hours of class time a week. However, this was to accommodate all of the time that I would need to spend reading and preparing for classes. 

Try and plan your weeks as best as you can, not only with the work you’re expected to do but also so you can fit in your uni work around chores.

2.      Read, read and READ

Okay, this should go without saying but try to read as many of your set texts as possible. Not only does this help when it comes to seminar discussions but, it also helps give you an idea of what you would want to write about for your essay. If you’re struggling to keep up with all of the reading, try listening to an audiobook whilst you’re doing chores. 

It’s important to remember that lecturers aren’t the uncaring, scary, people that school teachers make them out to be. They want you to do well and understand that university is overwhelming at times. If you have a lot of long books due to be read all for the same week, let your lecturers know. Some will then tell you specific chapters to read to be able to contribute in the seminars. By letting them know as much in advance you can show that you’re trying to plan and manage your time, instead of discovering at the last minute that you won’t finish the book on time. 

3.      Avoid buying new books

You’re going to get a lot of reading lists throughout your degree, which means a lot of books, which means a lot of money. Student loans only stretch so far! It’s relatively easy to pick up cheap fiction books, either through second hand websites (like AbeBooks or World of Books). When it comes to classics, you’ll be able to find a lot of them for free on Kindle. 

If you do prefer a physical copy, though, Wordsworth Classics is your best option. Not only are they cheap but they also still include all the notes you need. There will be the odd occasion when your lecturer puts an obscure novel on your reading list and it’s best to get those from your university library. But be quick! As there will unlikely be enough copies for everyone in your class if you all have the same idea!

However, if you would prefer to buy new books or are able to (which is great!), Blackwell’s have a student price match guarantee and offer free shipping so click on one of the banners on this post to find out more!

4.      Research around the texts

Naturally, you will be researching texts to write your essays and to prepare you for exams, however I also recommend that you read around the texts to prepare you for seminars. Everyone dreads the ‘seminar silence’ where no one wants to share their ideas, however if you do a bit of research around the book beforehand you will be more confident in speaking up in class. 

Not only will this score you some serious brownie points with your lecturer, but you will also be seen as the saviour amongst the rest of the students! Additionally, this will open a dialogue with your lecturer and your class resulting in more thoughts and arguments coming across which is a great help when it comes to assignments. 

5.      Up your note taking game

Although many lecturers use powerpoint for their lectures, which then gets uploaded to a learning platform for students to access outside of lectures, it is still important to take as many notes as possible during the lectures. Some lecturers will have in-depth slides, and some will have the basic points, regardless of their approach there will always be things that come up through discussions that won’t be on the slides and you will most likely want to reference or research later. 

If you prefer the pen and paper approach to note taking, I recommend typing up and restructuring the notes digitally, either through Google Docs, OneNote or Evernote. Not only does typing up the notes help go over material from the classes but having digital copies of the notes makes them easily searchable for when you come to do assignments or exam revision later. 

BONUS – Have fun!

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the work, and the reading, and the chores that come with uni. But, you need to remember that university isn’t all work. In your classes you’re surrounded by fellow bookworms and fundamentally you’re just expected to read and write for your classes (no more maths, no more P.E.!).”

Rosie’s original blog can be found at: