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Tips for Success at UVM
International and Multilingual Students

Tips to Help With:


How can I improve my reading of class assignments?

  1. Recognize that it often takes up to twice as long to read in your second language, so it is extremely important to plan ahead and set aside enough time to complete your reading assignments.
  2. Understand why your instructor has asked you to do each reading. Should you learn specific knowledge about vocabulary keywords? Will you need to paraphrase the author’s points and respond to them?
  3. Practice setting clear time goals for yourself. For example, estimate 5 minutes per page. When that time is up, stop reading and assess what you have understood. Set a new time limit and return to your reading if necessary.
  4. Always annotate while you read. Use a pen to mark keywords and ideas, highlight questions, and summarize your own understanding of the main points.

Listening in Class

What can I do to make listening in class easier?

  1. Practice active listening by paying attention and taking notes. Information and ideas shared in class lectures and discussions often appear on exams and are a very important part of the learning experience.
  2. Don’t worry about understanding every word. Identify the main points by using what you already know about the subject and topics highlighted in the lesson plan or PowerPoint. Speakers often non-verbally indicate the most important information with sound and body-language cues such as holding a word longer, saying it louder, repeating it, nodding, or making a hand gesture.
  3. If you are having trouble keeping up with the professor, you can ask for permission to record the class lectures. Be sure also to take advantage of learning resources such as review sessions and professor’s office hours.
  4. If you have trouble understanding classmates during group work or discussions, take advantage of study groups, clubs, or volunteer activities to get practice talking informally with your peers.
  5. Listening to spoken English in other contexts can be a powerful learning tool. Spend your time outside of class listening to news reports, movies, comedians, debates, etc.

Taking Notes

How can I take better notes?

  1. Just like with listening comprehension, don't attempt to try to write down everything your professor or classmates say. Focus on identifying the main points.
  2. Use abbreviations and symbols to help you write more quickly.
  3. Develop a note-taking style you're comfortable with to help structure your notes and make them useful for review.
  4. Take a few minutes after class to look through your notes and add any other important points you remember from class but did not have time to write down at the time.
  5. If you don’t understand something that you think is important, indicate this briefly in your notes so that you can later try to fill in this information by asking your classmates or professor.

Academic Integrity

What do I need to know about plagiarism and cheating?

  1. Rules and attitudes about plagiarism and cheating are not the same in all countries around the world, so it's extremely important to become familiar with the requirements here in the US. Penalties for failing to follow these rules are severe and can include dismissal from the University.
  2. In American culture, people typically place great importance on individual achievements. Therefore, presenting another person’s work as if it was your own (for example, copying, sharing answers, using the words of another writer without credit, etc.) is treated as stealing. Unless your professor specifically states otherwise, always assume that all work that you submit for a grade must be the result of your own, individual effort.
  3. Many times, you will be asked to work with classmates on problem-solving, discussions, or projects. It’s important to remember that you are expected to share ideas, but not answers. That is, although you will collaborate on the process, you are responsible for creating and submitting your own final product.
  4. For your reference, this is the UVM Code of Academic Integrity [PDF]

Understanding Expectations

In the U.S. university classroom, expectations are outlined in the “syllabus,” a document that every professor should give to you on the first day of class. The syllabus usually includes the following:

  • the professor’s email address and office location
  • the professor’s office hours (the days and times they wait for you in their office to answer your questions or help you)
  • the goals of the course
  • what books or other materials are required
  • deadlines for reading and writing assignments and class projects
  • dates for exams
  • rules on attendance
  • how you will be graded

Read the syllabus for each of your classes carefully, and read it several times. If there is anything you do not understand, ask another student or ask the professor by email or during office hours.

There are sometimes unwritten expectations, too. And those expectations may be different in each class or with a different professor. For example, is it OK to use a dictionary on a test? Is it OK to use your laptop or your smart phone during class? If you do not know whether something might be against the rules, and it isn’t in the syllabus, ask the professor.

Participating in Class

I know that I am expected to actively participate in group work and class discussions. How can I feel less nervous about speaking up in class?

  1. Come prepared to ask questions. Don’t just keep them in your head. Write them out in full sentences in English and practice saying them out loud.
  2. Be the first to speak. If you're worried that you don’t have anything important to say, try asking a question. The longer you wait, the harder it may feel to join the conversation.
  3. Try to add your own cultural perspective. Share specific examples that your classmates may not have experience with.

Speaking Clearly

I’m worried that my professor or classmates won’t understand me. What are some tips for speaking clearly?

  1. Before speaking, take a moment to think about what you want to say.
  2. You will hear some of your classmates speaking very quickly and may feel pressure to do the same. Especially when you know you have difficulty pronouncing a certain sound, you may try to just say those words quicker. However, to speak clearly, it's important for you to take your time and not rush.
  3. Use your voice to emphasize the important nouns and verbs in your statement. Pause for a moment after each of those keywords and repeat the idea using a synonym.
  4. Take advantage of opportunities to use hand gestures that help communicate meaning.

Writing Assignments

How can I be successful with writing assignments?

  1. Just like with reading, recognize that it takes longer to write clearly and effectively in a second language, so it is extremely important for you to plan for extra time to finish writing assignments.
  2. Be sure you clearly understand the professor’s expectations regarding the focus and format of the assignment. Send an email or visit office hours if you have any doubts.
  3. Write an outline of your main points and how you will structure them. Use clear sentence structure and vocabulary to say what you want to say.
  4. Write a draft early and make an appointment at the writing center (see more info under "Student Support Services" below) for help clarifying your ideas.
  5. If you need to include outside sources, consult with a librarian to find appropriate articles.
  6. As you revise for the final draft, read your writing out loud to yourself. You are better able to hear errors and parts that might be unclear when you read out loud, rather than read silently.

Group Projects

What are some tips for success in group projects?

  1. Be sure you understand the professor’s expectations and how the project will be graded. Not all group projects are designed the same way.
  2. In a group project, everyone is expected to contribute equally to the project’s success. Each group member should therefore have a clear role and clear set of responsibilities. Sign up for a role that interests you and where you feel you can contribute effectively. Don’t wait to be assigned a role by your classmates!
  3. In many cases, you may not initially know the other group members, but don’t let this stop you from participating! Speak up for yourself and be an active member of the group. The longer you wait, the harder it may be to take part in the conversation.
  4. In any group project, there can be challenges in balancing the workload among group members or other components of the project. Your TA or professor can often be a good resource in these cases.

Taking Tests

How do I best prepare for tests?

  1. As you study, paraphrase information in your own words. Don’t just repeat what is in your notes or the readings. Many students make the mistake of simply reading over their study materials and confirming that they understand the information presented. However, unless you practice writing out answers yourself, you may struggle to find the words you need during the exam.
  2. Interact with the material in several modes: Say your answers out loud, write them down, and draw or use your hands to show a process.
  3. Make memory associations between new vocabulary and information you already know. For example, a new word may sound like a word in your native language. Even if the meaning is not related, connecting those words in your brain can be a helpful memory trick.
  4. When you sit down to take the test, if you have memorized specific information (dates, formulas, rules, etc.), find a white space on the test and write it down immediately. Then you do not need to try to hold all that information in your head as you try to read and understand the test questions.


Academic Help

Tutoring Center
Free study skill workshops and peer tutoring for specific courses.

Undergraduate Writing Center
Make appointments with trained peer tutors and find other resources.

Graduate Writing Center

Student Accessibility Services (SAS)
If you have a documented disability, SAS offers exam accommodations and advice on disability-related matters, ebooks, deaf and hard of hearing services, notetaking and adaptive technology.

Undergraduate Colleges at UVM

The Student Services Offices in each college are dedicated to supporting students and helping them meet their academic goals. Student Services Advisors assist students in a variety of ways including connecting students with other campus resources, course scheduling help, and general academic support.

Agriculture and Life Sciences
Morrill Hall
146 University Place
Phone: (802) 656-2980

Arts and Sciences
Lattie F. Coor House
438 College Street
Phone: (802) 656-3344

Grossman School of Business
101 Kalkin Hall
55 Colchester Ave
Phone: (802) 656-4015

Education and Social Services
528 Waterman Building
85 South Prospect Street
Phone: (802) 656-3468

Engineering and Mathematical Sciences
301 Votey Hall
33 Colchester Avenue
Phone: (802) 656-3392

Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
Aiken Center
81 Carrigan Drive
Phone: (802) 656-2911

Nursing and Health Sciences
002 Rowell Building
106 Carrigan Drive
Phone: (802) 656-3858

Honors College:
50 University Heights,
Phone: (802) 656-9100

Additional Student Support Resources

Office of International Education (OIE)
OIE advises on immigration matters and adjusting to life and study in the U.S. through orientation, buddy programs, student groups and monthly events.